Vincent Price died 20 years ago today. Read his biography to find out what a fascinating person the world lost…

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There are few celebrities who deserve a tell-all biography more than Vincent Price.  The man was full of life; he lived big, surrounded himself with wonder and tried to experience everything he could.  Vincent Price- A Daughter’s Biography (released in 1999) was written by Victoria Price, who called upon not only her own memories of her father, but also dug through tons of his writings and memoirs and interviewed many of his friends and co-workers.
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Price’s life was fascinating, and I’ve read this book several times.  Most people know him as Vincent Price, the creepy horror movie villain, but as Victoria points out in her introduction, “…fewer than a third of the more than one hundred pictures he made in his fifty-five year career as an actor were horror movies”.  He was so much more than just a horror movie star- an artist, a father, a lecturer, a wordsmith and master letter writer, a fountain of knowledge on all kinds of subjects, a book writer, and a true renaissance man, always trying new things and wanting to learn, experience, and meet new people.  In this book we see the highs and lows of his life (and tho she is his daughter, Victoria does not ignore the darker points, including admitting that he could be a ‘mean drunk’, and going over the split between him and her mother and his affair with the woman who would become her step-mother, who she did not get along that well with).
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It starts off with Price’s birth on May 27, 1911 in St Louis, after giving a little history on his father who had become fairly wealthy in the candy business (and his grandfather as well, who had experienced financial ruin, which in turn fueled some of Vincent’s depression and continuing fear of his own financial failings).
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Vincent was a world traveler and an art collector.  He set up his own little art shop in California, and collected art and reveled in it until his death.  In the early ’60s Sears, Roebuck and Co approached him to open his own line of art for them to sell in their stores, the Vincent Price Collection.  He also became an avid chef, and co-wrote a cookbook with his wife (as well as several books on art).
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The biography goes over all of this in detail, as well as his Broadway plays, lecture circuits, and radio show appearances (and monologue on Michael Jackson’s Thriller).  All of his television guest spots (including a lot of game shows and eight years hosting Mystery!), and joy of life.  Vincent Price loved life.  He was a strong animal rights advocate, and loved to eat hot dogs and drink root beer floats and ride roller coasters and have Christmas parties.  He lived his life to the fullest, but still was always afraid of losing his popularity and not being able to find work.
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But of course that never happened, because along with all of the above, he made movies.  A lot of them.  Victoria talks about most of them to some extent, telling the stories we want to hear, such as how a camel fell in love with him on the set of one movie, and how he burned his eye lighting a match on another and after it healed had to keep squinting in a certain way for the rest of the movie (for which critics lauded him).  About how he didn’t get along with Michael Reeves when they filmed Witchfinder General (aka The Conqueror Worm), what he thought of his fellow horror legends like Boris Karloff and Peter Lorre, and how Roger Corman talked AIP into making a movie based on Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher, and furthermore somehow talked them into spending twice as much time and money on it as they usually spent on their movies, and getting Vincent to be in it.
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She goes through his college days, and the dark times of the Red Scare, where Joe McCarthy was attacking Hollywood and destroying careers.  His damaged first marriage and both of his divorces, his battle with Parkinson’s disease, even his unflattering later years (including his joy at working with Tim Burton and Johnny Depp), and his dislike of riding horses (“The horse and I just don’t see eye to eye.  In the first place, the top of a horse and my bottom don’t fit.  My legs are too long, and my torso too short- in short, I look ridiculous on top of a horse and I suspect it feels ridiculous under me.  Maybe the situations should be reversed.”).
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Reading this book makes you want to lead a more full life yourself, which I’m sure would delight Vincent.  Fascinating and inspiring are the two words which best describe his life, and anyone even mildly interested in horror movie history, Hollywood history, or people who lead interesting lives should check it out.  It’s a great read and his daughter writes it in a way that keeps your interest throughout (some biographies can get tedious and boring; not this one).  And as a master of horror, reading about him is perfect for this time of year.
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