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Vincent Price Beyond Horror

Published: 10/25/2013
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Vincent Price (AP Photo)

When actor Vincent Price died Oct. 25, 1993, many obituaries honoring him began like this one in The New York Times: "Vincent Price, the suavely menacing star of countless low-budget but often stylish Gothic horror films …"

But Price was much more than a horror movie star, as the paper of record in his adopted hometown noted.

"Vincent Price, art historian and collector, gourmet cook, author, raconteur and multifaceted 'Merchant of Menace' best known for his blood-curdling roles in horror films, died Monday night at his home in the Hollywood Hills," The Los Angeles Times wrote.

The obituary noted that "Although something of a 20th-Century Renaissance man, Price was remembered best by mass audiences as a slimy, horrifying ghoul."

And the guy who did the voiceover in Michael Jackson's "Thriller."

Take the Kings and Queens of Horror Quiz ... if you dare ...

Price was born in St. Louis and studied at Yale and the University of London, where he was bit by the theater bug. He went on to have an incredible acting career in every medium in existence at the time. He voiced Simon Templar in The Saint on radio. He appeared on stage in London and on Broadway. His television career included a stint as a villain on Batman. He hosted the PBS show Mystery! throughout the 1980s and made guest appearances on The Brady Bunch, Get Smart and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. He even did a voiceover on the Scooby-Doo cartoon.

And, of course, there was Price's legendary film career. He appeared in more than 90 movies. His collaborations with Roger Corman –– The Pit and the Pendulum and Masque of Red Death –– were low-budget but highly profitable. His other well-known horror films include The Fly and House of Wax. One of his last movies was Tim Burton's Edward Scissorhands, starring Johnny Depp, in 1990.

Some things you might not know about Price:

1) He loved to cook, having learned from his mother, and wrote multiple cookbooks. He co-authored A Treasury of Great Recipes with his wife Mary in the 1960s. A 1998 article on Slate.com subtitled "The creepy joy of cooking with Vincent Price" noted that "Everyone who owns this volume swears by it for one reason above all others: The Treasury is a shockingly (terrifyingly?) good example of 1960s cuisine." Price also hosted the television cooking program, Cooking Pricewise.

2) Gourmet leanings aside, Price once sat in Johnny Carson's guest chair and told the Tonight show host and viewers how to prepare fish in a dishwasher: Wrap trout tightly in foil with lemon, wine, parsley, salt and pepper. Run through complete cycle. Do not add soap.

3) Price loved art. He was 12 when he "bought his first piece, a Rembrandt etching, for $37.50 –– paying '$5 down and 50 cents a month for the rest of my natural life,'" according to The Los Angeles Times. He co-owned an art gallery during World War II that drew stars such as Katharine Hepburn and Greta Garbo. The Vincent Price Art Museum at East Los Angeles College displays some of Price's collection. He also served on multiple arts boards and once wrote an art column that was syndicated to more than 80 newspapers.

4) Price put that art background to good use in 1956 when he went head-to-head against jockey Bill Pearson on The $64,000 Question. The topic was "Great Art and Artists." The men tied and split the prize. A partial clip on YouTube is worth watching –– if only to compare Price's height to Pearson's and to see the jolly cigarette commercial.

5) Price appeared on more than 300 episodes of Hollywood Squares. In one 1972 episode on which he appeared with Burt Reynolds and Dom DeLuise, Price snarls at the camera during his introduction. When asked to answer a true or false question –– "Do some parts of the body never feel pain?" –– Price joked that two puncture wounds on his neck only bled on alternate Wednesdays.

6) Price's daughter, Victoria, published Vincent Price: A Daughter's Biography in 1999. Her account "paints a beautifully rich portrait of a man with personal grace, intellectual fire, and a kind heart," according to an Amazon.com review.

Celebrating the 100th anniversary of Price's birth in 2011, Victoria told the website DreadCentral.com that "I was always aware that my dad was a public figure so I think I just learned to be OK with that over the years. It can be hard to share your parents, but with having a father like Vincent, how could you not share someone that special with the world?"

Natalie Pompilio is a freelance writer based in Philadelphia. Her lifelong love of obituaries raised eyebrows when she was younger, but she's now able to explain that this interest goes beyond morbid curiosity. Says Pompilio, "Obituaries are mini life stories, allowing a glimpse into someone's world that we're often denied. I just wish we could share them with each other when we're alive."

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