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Vincent Price - Star of the Month
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Vincent Price Profile

His aristocratic looks, cultivated manner and silken speaking voice served Vincent Price well through a series of careers as leading man, character actor and, in his best-remembered persona, horror film star.

Price (1911-1993) was born in St. Louis to a wealthy family and, after receiving a bachelor's degree from Yale in art history and English, headed to London for further study and a stage debut with John Gielgud in Chicago in 1935. After playing Prince Albert in the West End production of Victoria Regina, Price repeated the role on Broadway opposite Helen Hayes. He would remain active onstage over the years, scoring a particular success on Broadway as the villainous husband of Angel Street (1941).

Price made his film debut at Universal Studios in Service de Luxe (1938). He then made striking impressions in a series of notable roles including Sir Walter Raleigh in The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939), the Duke of Clarence in Tower of London (1939), Clifford Pyncheon in The House of Seven Gables (1940), Joseph Smith (founder of the Mormon religion) in Brigham Young (1940) and Dutour in The Song of Bernadette (1943).

In the early 1950s Price seemed settled into a career as an elegant featured actor when a whole new arena as horror star was opened by his role as the sinister owner of a wax museum in House of Wax (1953), the most successful 3-D movie of the 1950s. Among his other horror outings of that decade were The Fly (1958), House on Haunted Hill (1959) and The Bat (1959). Meanwhile, he continued to take on character roles including Baka in The Ten Commandments (1956), the Devil in The Story of Mankind (1957) and Omar Khayham in Son of Sinbad (1955).

Beginning in the 1960s, Price starred in a highly successful series of horror chillers for American International Pictures (AIP) that were based on stories of Edgar Allan Poe and directed by Roger Corman. They included House of Usher (1960), The Pit and the Pendulum (1961), The Raven (1963) and The Masque of the Red Death (1964). For United Artists Price made Diary of a Madman (1963), playing a magistrate possessed by the spirit of a man he was forced to kill; it was based on Guy de Maupassant's 1886 short story, "The Horla."

Price's best horror roles in the 1970s were those of the hideously scarred doctor in The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971), the flamboyantly homicidal Edward Lionheart in Theater of Blood (1973) and the possibly homicidal TV star Paul Toombes aka "Dr. Death" in Madhouse (1974).

Price remained active in films and television throughout the 1980s, making his final movie appearances in 1990 in Edward Scissorhands and Backtrack. A man of wide interests, he collected art and antiques, functioned as a gourmet cook and quiz-show champion, co-authored cookbooks, wrote his memoirs and entered the world of rock music by lending his voice to the Michael Jackson video Thriller. Price's three wives were actress Edith Barrett, fashion designer Mary Grant and actress Coral Browne.

by Roger Fristoe

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