July 25, 2014 Interview – Victoria Price – Reflections on Vincent Price
Vincent Price is a name which echoes in the glorious history of horror cinema. Known for his impeccable ability to bring a character to life with distinctive articulated speech, Price starred in a long list of films beginning in the late 1930’s and continuing through 1990. Often associated with legendary films such as House of Wax (1953), The Fly (1958), House on Haunted Hill (1959),among others, Price’s influence runs deep in the fabric of modern horror creators and fans. While many know of the man and his films, not many know the man off the big screen. Recently we sat down with his daughter Victoria Price to talk about her father’s legacy, his love for art, his kind heart, and much more.
CrypticRock.com – Your father, Vincent Price, is perhaps one of the most iconic figures in horror cinema history. He portrayed countless characters over the course of his career in such a distinct fashion. Tell me, why do you think his legacy still holds strong after all these years transcending generations?
Victoria Price – I think it is because he did what he did with love and passion, and that is rare in our society. I think that we have been taught to live with a lot of shoulds. We have been taught to put money, celebrity, and public acknowledgement up on a platform, often to the detriment of doing things from our heart. I think everything my dad did, he did it from his heart. He did them with great joy, generosity of spirit; he always tried to give back everywhere he was. His sense of fun, in terms of how he moved through the world, was infectious. At the end of the day I think that still shines through in everything he did, and it inspires people.
CrypticRock.com – That is very true. That is a very rare quality, especially in modern society. As you said, many of us are driven by the wrong things rather than our hearts. You were born a few years after your father’s enormous success with such films as The Fly (1958), House On Haunted Hill (1959), The Pit and the Pendulum (1961), and what would be the start of a lengthy career in horror films. As you grew and became aware of who your dad was and what he meant to so many people, what was your reaction as a child initially?
Victoria Price – The first time I ever saw him do something that was scary was in Peter Pan. I was very young and he played Captain Hook. That scared me so much that my parents really prevented me from seeing anything scary after that. I, of course, knew he made scary movies because I watched him spoof himself in things like The Brady Bunch and Batman. I never saw the scary movies until I was much older. I always found it hard to believe that this person that was so full of life , joy, and fun, could scare anyone (laughs). Everyone always says, “was your dad as scary in person as he was in his movies?” My answer, no, not at all.
CrypticRock.com – That is very interesting that you did not watch your father’s movies until later on in life. You wrote a book about your father which was published back in 1999 titled Vincent Price: A Daughter’s Biography. The book is very honest and revealing. What was it like recollecting your growing up with your dad and transcribing it into a book like that?
Victoria Price – The interest for that was my dad was ill. My stepmother died so he and I had open-ended time to spend together. He and I shared a mutual passion for art. A friend suggested he and I work on a book together about art. I thought he would say no because he had already turned down many other retrospectives on his life, because he really did not want to be the subject of a biography. I think the idea of talking art with me, and he always encouraged me to keep writing, was too good of a temptation. He and I had worked on another book about art many years earlier. So, I spent nine months, three afternoons a week, turned on the tape recorder, and we would talk about art for two or three hours at a stretch. It was incredibly fun and that was the book I wanted to do, then he died and everyone wanted a biography. I thought to myself, well if I do not do this biography then all the stuff about art and the things he told me would never really see the light of day. I recognized two things, first of all, I do not really think kids should write their parents biographies, we are not really objective. My dad was 51 when I was born so I at least had the objectivity of not being around for the first 51 years of his life. I also thought that the thing that mattered to him most was art and it was important that be captured. Lucy Chase Williams had just written her wonderful book about my dad’s films, so that existed. I thought people have that to refer to, as far as the films themselves, so I could focus more on his life.
CrypticRock.com – You grew up around the art with your father being an avid art collector. It is obvious his love for art left a lasting impression on you as you are in interior designer, you are an art dealer, and you are an art historian now. What did he teach you about art and what were some of the key aspects that drew him to a particular piece?
Victoria Price – He loved drawings very much, because he felt they were a glimpse into an artist’s process and into their souls, that was something he really loved. He loved the stories behind pieces of art. The main thing for him was that seeing art gave him faith in humanity. It gave him faith that we would overcome all the qualities in human nature that he made horror movies about and still give voice and create from a place of something other than class, financial interest, and doing something simply for making a buck. For him art gave him faith that the planet would survive; art saved his life. Talking about art to people; he lectured on the visual arts every year, 60 cities in 65 days for 30 years, that is the second most popular lecturer in America after Eleanor Roosevelt. That really affected and changed people. I grew up feeling his passion for art. I learned how to see from both of my parents; my mother was a designer, and my dad the art collector and historian. For me it was his infectious love of it. His belief that art collectors are only caretakers, so there was this sense of history involved. He felt we do not own art, we care take art, it survives long past us. He was also a wonderful storyteller, and sometimes he would just hook me with the stories.
CrypticRock.com – That is really special that you were able to take such things from him. Art is beautiful whether it be music, movies, or a painting.
Victoria Price – Yes, even things that are difficult to look such as Goya’s Los Desastres de la Guerra, which really he felt completely captured the horrors of war. That was something very important for art to do, it does not all have to be beautiful, as long as it comes from the heart and expresses something. That is very important.
CrypticRock.com – Yes that is extremely true. As you said he spoke a lot. A few of the many aspects which found Vincent so captivating was his impeccable speaking voice and delivery as well as his good looks. The voice he possessed is not something you hear too often in cinema now a days. How strong of an emphasis did he place on his dialect and articulation?
Victoria Price – I think it was very important to him. Many of the actors he admired were people like Ronald Colman who had a beautiful voice. He studied with Ronald Colman’s elocution coach; that is who he was told to study with when he came to Hollywood to learn how to make movies and not articulate for the theater, but to be able to speak for a movie. That was something he learned and he valued it tremendously. He knew he was not a modern actor in the style of James Dean or Marlon Brando, his elocution was very important to him. He was a beautiful speaker of verse.
CrypticRock.com – He certainly was. You do not hear that type of dialogue too often in films now a days. It was the type of dialogue that flowed so beautifully and eloquently that you could just enjoy listening to him speak. Many consider the era in which your father made films to be the golden age of horror. Did your father ever speak of what he thought of the change in the horror genre to more graphic aspects brought forth in the 70’s and 80’s?
Victoria Price – I think he felt it lost something when it became more graphic. He often would like to say that romance was much more romantic in the movies during the period when the code dictated what was being shown. You had to imagine what happened after they kissed and cut away. The same was true with horror when you think about it. When you see the blood sputtering out of someone’s neck you kind of know what happens and it is more just gross whereas imagining what happens, as Alfred Hitchcock proved in Psycho (1960), is way scarier.
CrypticRock.com – That is extremely true, it does make it scarier. It left the element of imagination opposed to someone spelling it out for you and shoving it in your face. What do you think he would say today with visual effects, which can be done tastefully, and the overwhelming amount of it in film?
Victoria Price – I think that he might have been flattered they were remaking his films. I am not necessarily sure he would have liked all of them. On the other hand, if you really think about it, some of the movies made were really campy. The fact that they lasted in the way that they have lasted is sometimes surprising in the sense that, they weren’t necessarily the greatest films ever made. What it really proves is that there is a certain element in terms of film making that has nothing to do with anything other than the people that were in it and the way we respond to them. That was something my dad had in spades. He had charisma and the ability to connect with an audience, which a lot of people do not have.
CrypticRock.com – It is a special characteristic. It is flattering that they remade a lot of films such as House on Haunted Hill and House of Wax (1953). It is extremely flattering.
Victoria Price – Right, it is. In terms of the computer generation, he used to say, “I do not even understand how TV works”, and he had been doing it for years (laughs). I think he was always interested. He chose to do House of Wax because of the new technology. At the end of the day I think he would have felt it all comes down to people and story.
CrypticRock.com – That still resonates today, the story is the most important aspect of film. That is something our films have gotten away from but it seems to be coming back. Now in recent years you have launched vincentprice.com to preserve the legacy of your father’s work. It is really a great site with a lot of content. It shockingly has been two decades since his passing. It is truly wonderful that you have developed this website. Was this something you had in the works for years?
Victoria Price – It was something I always wanted to do but some business partners came and they were kind of appalled that I had not done more for my dad. I said well I have a full-time job and these things cost a lot of money, so they came in as business partners with me which was incredible and a gift. That really allowed me to do it. The fact that they came in, have supported me in doing this, and we developed some new parts of it as a business venture. For example, we have Vincent Price wines coming down the pike. There are all sorts of exciting things we are doing and looking forward to doing.
CrypticRock.com – That is great. The content is great and some of the articles of clothing you are producing has some great designs.
Victoria Price – Thank you. We are having fun with it. I am working with a lot of different artists. I have a wonderful project coming down the pike that seems like it is going to be really exciting. It feels like, to me, there is a lot of potential to continue to preserve and promote my dad’s legacy and I am really excited about it.
CrypticRock.com – Your father’s last film was Edward Scissorhands (1990)and you do in fact have a role in that film. What was it liking being part of that last film with your father?
Victoria Price – I am grateful that I had a chance to be part of that film which really was his swan song. It was really fun to experience being on the set of one of Tim Burton’s movies. One of the big excitements for me was to work with some of those amazing women like Dianne Wiest, who I have always admired. Even though it was brief, it was really a lot of fun for me.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, the film has become a modern classic now. His character in that film is amazing as a sweet old man, which is so enduring.
Victoria Price – I am so grateful to Tim for writing that part for him. How many actors just sort of fade away, and my dad got to have the perfect swan song. What a gift that was. He captured perfectly my dad’s sweetness and I could not love that more. It often makes me cry watching it.
CrypticRock.com – The scenes with him in the film really are beautiful. Tim Burton has done a fine job of paying tribute to your father over the years. He has interjected Vincent Price into many of his films.
Victoria Price – I love it as well. What an extraordinary thing to live on the legacy of artists who are doing so much to keep the classic horror genre alive. I wish only that maybe my dad had a chance to live a little bit longer and get to do some of the cool things Christopher Lee has had a chance to do. Maybe they could have been in them together. They would have had a blast.
CrypticRock.com – That would have really been something to see. My last question for you is regarding horror films. At CrypticRock.com we cover music and horror films. I would like to know what some of your favorite horror films are?
Victoria Price – (laughs). I am not a good one to ask. I am not a big horror film fan, they scare me. I still do not like being scared. I cannot say I have seen that many horror films honestly. In fact, sometimes at the horror conventions, I have to turn to someone I am sitting with and say what is that costume from. I would have to say pretty much the only horror movies I have seen are the classic horror movies. Other than my dad’s movies, I would have to put Frankenstein (1931) with Boris Karloff at the top of my list.
CrypticRock.com – That is a classic film. You mentioned Psycho earlier. Do you enjoy Hitchcock films?
Victoria Price – I am a huge Hitchcock fan. I love suspense, but I am not the person you want to sit next to in a movie theater when I see something suspenseful because you will have bruises on your arm; I am so easily scared. I love suspense movies and I think Hitchcock was a genius. I can watch all of Hitchcock’s movies numerous times. I prefer Rear Window (1954) compared to Psycho. Psycho was a little bit too scary for me, but brilliant.
Check out all the great content on www.vincentprice.com
Pre-order the 2014 edition of Vincent Price: A Daughter’s Biography and received a signed copy here
Catch out Victoria Price’s Unique Interior Design here