Thursday, May 27, 2010
Vincent Leonard Price II (May 27, 1911 – October 25, 1993) was an American actor, well known for his distinctive voice and serio-comic attitude in a series of horror films made in the latter part of his career.
He made his film debut in 1938 with Service de Luxe and established himself in the film Laura (1944), opposite Gene Tierney, directed by Otto Preminger. He also played Joseph Smith, Jr. in the movie Brigham Young (1940), as well as a pretentious priest in The Keys of the Kingdom (1944).
Price's first venture into the horror genre was in the 1939 Boris Karloff film Tower of London. The following year he portrayed the title character in the film The Invisible Man Returns (a role he reprised in a vocal cameo at the end of the 1948 horror-comedy spoof Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein).
In 1946 Price reunited with Tierney in two notable films, Dragonwyck and Leave Her to Heaven. There were also many villainous roles in film noir thrillers like The Web (1947), The Long Night (1947), Rogues' Regiment (1948) and The Bribe (1949) with Robert Taylor, Ava Gardner and Charles Laughton. His first starring role was as conman James Addison Reavis in the 1950 biopic The Baron of Arizona. He also did a comedic turn as the tycoon Burnbridge Waters, co-starring with Ronald Colman in "Champagne for Caesar". He was very active in radio, portraying the Robin Hood-inspired crime-fighter Simon Templar in a series that ran from 1943 to 1951.
In the 1950s, he moved into horror films, with a role in House of Wax (1953), the first 3-D film to land in the year's top ten at the North American box office, and then the monster movie The Fly (1958). Price also starred in the original House on Haunted Hill (1959) as the eccentric millionaire Fredrick Loren. In between these horror films, Price played Baka (the master builder) in The Ten Commandments. In the 1955-1956 television season he appeared three times as Rabbi Gershom Seixos in the ABC anthology series, Crossroads, a study of clergymen from different denominations.
In the 1960s, Price had a number of low-budget successes with Roger Corman and American International Pictures (AIP) including the Edgar Allan Poe adaptations House of Usher (1960), The Pit and the Pendulum (1961), Tales of Terror (1962), The Comedy of Terrors (1963) The Raven (1963), The Masque of the Red Death (1964), and The Tomb of Ligeia (1965). He also starred in The Last Man on Earth (1964), a film based on the Richard Matheson novel I Am Legend. In 1968 Price portrayed witchhunter Matthew Hopkins in Witchfinder General, which is also known as The Conqueror Worm.
He also starred in comedy films, notably Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine (1965). In 1968 he played the part of an eccentric artist in the musical Darling of the Day opposite Patricia Routledge.
He often spoke of his pleasure at playing Egghead in the Batman television series. One of his co-stars, Yvonne Craig (Batgirl), said Price was her favorite villain in the series. In an often-repeated anecdote from the set of Batman, Price, after a take was printed, started throwing eggs at series stars Adam West and Burt Ward, and when asked to stop replied, "With a full artillery? Not a chance!", causing an eggfight to erupt on the soundstage. This incident is reenacted in the behind-the-scenes telefilm Return to the Batcave: The Misadventures of Adam and Burt.
In the 1960s, he began his role as a guest on the game show Hollywood Squares, even becoming a semi-regular in the 1970s, including being one of the guest panelists on the finale in 1980. He was known for usually making fun of Rose Marie's age, and using his famous voice to answer maliciously to questions.