Priceless: The Master of Menace

Born in 1911, Vincent Leonard Price Jr. left his mark on cinema as the ghoulishly-good Gothic villain with that distinct voice that could always slide into a cackle, if need be.

Yet while he was often type-cast on screen, off-screen his dynamic personal life had the joy of adventure, family, theater, and more.

1. He was nicknamed “the Candy Kid.”

Price’s father was the president of the National Candy Company in Missouri. Vincent’s nickname – a family joke – came from an award given to his father by the National Confectioner Association around the time of his birth.

2. He was a teacher.

The job only lasted about one year before Price decided to pursue a master’s degree. Among his duties were teaching art, coaching drama, and driving a bus. He later jokingly called it “wet-nursing” rich delinquents.

3. His first play was at the age of four.

In a neighborhood play, Price debuted as a water sprite. His love for the theater continued to grow, but the acting bug really bit him in London, where he performed at the Gate Theatre.

4. Price was an “unknown” when he starred opposite Helen Hayes.

He was well-received in London for his performance in Victoria Regina, and later, the play was brought to America as a vehicle for Ms. Hayes with Price reprising his role. Vincent said, “It was Helen who taught me just how hard I had to work to learn the business after my beginner’s luck.”

5. Price tested for Gone with the Wind.

The American production of Victoria Regina brought Price to the attention of the Hollywood big whigs. In 1936, he was the guest of honor at Joan Crawford’s house, offered a million-dollar contract, and tested for the role of Ashley Wilkes.

6. Price enjoyed playing villains.

He credited his lasting career to being typecast as the bad guy, as the fame helped him get his next job. “I want to assure you that though I may play villains, in real life I’m kind of a pussycat,” he said.

7. Price was a renaissance man.

He was a dog-lover, poet, cookbook author, columnist, collector, baseball fan, and art historian. “I have a kind of self-appointed mission to try and interest the public in American art.” And despite his star status, he still did his own grocery shopping.