Sunday, July 30, 2017

Old Friends: Vincent Price and Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.

James Whale is a cinema legend. His films as a director include the Karloff FRANKENSTEIN and BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN, THE OLD DARK HOUSE, and THE INVISIBLE MAN.  So, when Vincent Price was signed to work for Whale in GREEN HELL, he must have been pretty excited.  Unfortunately, the film was a failure for Whale, and helped to end his career prematurely.  Many will remember Ian McKellen's vivid portrayal of James Whale in the film GODS AND MONSTERS, and the story of his final days.

Vincent, with a poison arrow in his chest, is watched over by Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. (center)

GREEN HELL, which was released in 1940 by Universal Pictures, featured Vincent as the ill-fated member of an expedition in the South American jungles.  Others along for the trip are Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., Joan Bennett (sister of Vincent's costar in his first Hollywood film, SERVICE DELUXE), George Sanders, and Alan Hale.

Price and Fairbanks remained friends for the rest of their lives, even finding themselves occupying adjacent seats on the HOLLYWOOD SQUARES game show!

Together again at a Hollywood function in the early 1970's

Saturday, July 29, 2017

A Favorite Portrait

For many years, Vincent Price used a black and white version of this late 1960's photo as the one he'd send his fans.  According to his daughter Victoria, it was a favorite of her mother's, too.  I hope you enjoy it!

Friday, July 28, 2017

A Closer Look at Our Logo

Our fantastic logo was created for us by the extraordinarily talented Ben Wickey.  Ben, who is currently a student at CalArts (The California Institute of Arts), has already created some outstanding work, including a short film version of Ray Bradbury's THE HOMECOMING.  His current project is an animated film based on Nathaniel Hawthorne's classic HOUSE OF THE SEVEN GABLES, for which actor David Frankham, Vincent Price's costar in three films (RETURN OF THE FLY, MASTER OF THE WORLD, and TALES OF TERROR) has recorded a voice role.
Ben Wickey's portrait of Vincent Price was a magnificent gift to our website.

Here is Ben's adaptation of Ray Bradbury's The Homecoming.

Vincent Price in Early St. Louis Newspapers

While growing up in his hometown of St. Louis, Missouri, Vincent Price was mentioned several times in the local press, mainly in conjunction with typical, day-to-day events.  It's kind of fun, now, to look at a few of these clippings, knowing the enormous fame and notoriety awaiting him just a few years after.

Vincent Price's boyhood home, on Forsythe Avenue, St. Louis, Missouri.

Here's a REAL treat! Perhaps the first time Vincent Price's name is mentioned as an entertainer, at age 8!  He's one of the many children participating in a tribute play to a long-time St. Louis teacher. His sister Laura Louise is also listed. You may have to download the file after clicking on it to view it adequately.  From the St. Louis Star and Times, May 27 [his birthday!], 1919.

Vincent was 12 years old when his picture appeared in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (December 30, 1923) in relation to an archaeological dig he participated in as a scout.  And how appropriate is it that he's holding a skull?

Six years later, 17 year-old Vincent had, with a friend, opened a 'night club'! From the St. Louis Dispatch, April 11, 1929.

When Vincent's Yale Glee Club toured Europe in 1932, the St. Louis Star and Times reported it (July 21, 1932).

And on June, 1933, the St. Louis Star and Times reported the news that the college graduate, now 22, was returning home.

For an incredible view of the young Vincent Price during this period in his life, be sure to visit Peter Fuller's award-winning blog My First Trip Abroad | Vincent Price, which presents the young man's actual travel journal along with annotations and a wealth of photographs!

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Television Appearances: Part 1

Vincent Price did a LOT of television throughout his career.  Many of us grew up seeing him on all kinds of TV shows, sometimes several times a week.  He did everything, from comedies, dramas, musicals, and talk shows.  Here is a gallery of a few of his television appearances from the 1970s and 80s.  How many do you remember?

In the "Love and the Haunted House" segment of the weekly anthology show Love American Style [1970]

As himself, with the great Jimmy Stewart, in the 1972 episode of The Jimmy Stewart Show titled "The Price is Right."

As horror star/murder suspect Michael Bastion in the "Black Day For Bluebeard" episode of The Snoop Sisters [1974].  This reunited Price with two former costars from very early in his career, Helen Hayes and Mildred Natwick.

Happy at last in the final scene of his two-part appearance as Professor Hubert Whitehead on The Brady Bunch [1972].

Another murder suspect, film director Michael Raynor, in the 1976 episode of Ellery Queen titled "The Adventure of the Sinister Scenario."

Looks like he forgot his reading glasses for this appearance with writer Gwinn Owens on the PBS program Consumer Survival Kit [1975].

As Wendell Mordan, 'The Amazing Alonzo,' on the "Ship of Ghouls" episode of The Love Boat [1978]

With a curly perm on Dinah! with host Dinah Shore and impressionist Rich Little, 1977.

As himself, talking about world hunger, in the documentary TV show The Cry of a Hurting World...I'm Hungry! [1977]

As Professor Humperdoo, with old friend Red Skelton, in the 1981 HBO holiday special Red Skelton's Christmas Dinner.

In the top left panel, with John 'Bowzer' Bauman, in Magic With the Stars, 1982. Orson Welles was the host (center), with others, including Martin Mull.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Portraits From The Twilight Years

These photos, purchased from the photographer himself, were taken sometime after 1990. They show an obviously ill, yet still dashing Vincent Price attending a function with his daughter, Victoria.  He'd be gone in October of 1993, but he lived life to the fullest as long as he could.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The Comedy of Terrors [American-International Pictures, 1964]

Smack dab in the middle of their lucrative Roger Corman/Edgar Allan Poe series, American International Pictures gathered most of its brilliant collection of horror stars to make -- a comedy!  With a screenplay by Richard Matheson (who had penned FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER, PIT AND THE PENDULUM, and TALES OF TERROR for the company), Vincent Price, Peter Lorre, Boris Karloff, and Basil Rathbone made THE COMEDY OF TERRORS. Although Roger Corman is sometimes erroneously credited as director, that job went to Jacques Tourneur, who had given us some genuine, gold-plated classics over the years. His CAT PEOPLE [1942], I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE [1943], and, especially, CURSE OF THE DEMON [1957] continue to inspire new generations of film fans and filmmakers. Musician Les Baxter composed the silent-film-inspired score, and veteran funnyman Joe E. Brown made his final film appearance.  The result is very uneven, but there is so much fun in watching this incredible cast of horror veterans (and good friends) having a wonderful time.  
A German ad for the film

Drunken, unsuccessful undertaker Vincent Price is stopped on the street by his Shakespeare-loving landlord, Basil Rathbone, inquiring about the rent

A behind-the-scenes shot showing comedian Joe E. Brown (as a gravedigger) being throttled by undertakers Peter Lorre and Vincent Price

Price checking for Basil Rathbone's heartbeat 

Rathbone wakes up at the cemetery and startles Joe E. Brown

Vincent wonders why Basil won't stay dead

A great cast! Basil Rathbone, Vincent Price, Peter Lorre, and Boris Karloff

Price questions the maid of a man he's just killed to drum up business for his funeral parlor

Vincent Price was given a chance to really cut loose in this film

Boris Karloff as Vincent's doddering old father-in-law.  He was supposed to have played Rathbone's part, but the physical demands proved to be too much

Comedian Joyce Jameson had played Peter Lorre's wife in TALES OF TERROR.  Here she played Price's beleaguered spouse

Even the cat was a star (and received billing). Rhubarb (or Orangey, as he was more commonly known) had played opposite some of the greats, including Audrey Hepburn in BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY'S.  Here's his Wikipedia biography

The paperback book adaptation

Monday, July 24, 2017

Journey Into Fear [Stirling Gold Productions, 1975]

JOURNEY INTO FEAR was a remake of a 1942 RKO film directed by Norman Foster and an unbilled Orson Welles.  The new film (also based on a novel by Eric Ambler) was directed by Daniel Mann (who four years prior had directed the rat horror film WILLARD), and featured an international cast, including Sam Waterston, Zero Mostel, Yvette Mimieux, Ian McShane, Joseph Wiseman, Shelley Winters, Stanley Holloway, Donald Pleasence, Jackie Cooper, and Vincent Price.  The film received a terrible distribution, and is barely seen anywhere today.  Reviews were generally poor, although the film really was a lot of fun.

The cast

Sam Waterston had appeared the prior year in Francis Ford Coppolla's THE GREAT GATSBY as Nick Carraway

Film veteran Shelley Winters had been seen three years prior in THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE

The film would be Vincent Price's last feature film appearance until 1979. He'd spend the next several years appearing on stage in a series of plays, including DIVERSIONS AND DELIGHTS

Sunday, July 23, 2017

The Mysterious Dottie: A Vincent Price Mystery Solved!

In her father's book, Vincent Price: A Daughter's Biography, Victoria Price refers to a mysterious woman with whom her father was in love during the early 1930's.  Until a few years ago, no one -- including Victoria -- knew who this woman was.  But thanks to St. Louis, MO author and musician, Irene Leland, you're about to learn the identity of the 'mysterious Dottie.'

I was sixteen when I met the man whom my mother could have married. It was January 31, 1964, in St. Louis, Missouri. He was in town for a professional engagement. My parents had invited him over to our house that evening for cocktails before we went to a party. I was so excited to be included! It was the night of my father, Pete Leland's, 57th birthday. It had been twenty-nine years ago that this man had proposed to my mom, Dottie. I thought it was so unique that my dad and he were able to cut through jealousy and engage each other in lighthearted fun - displaying similar assets of respectful manners combined with wit and humor.

This man of 52 years, a year younger than my mother, was tall, elegant and handsome. I was struck by his statuesque, yet graceful presence. I was even more impressed with his warm and gentle demeanor, very unlike the many roles he played as the King of Horror. This man was Vincent Price. And I was a very enchanted young lady! ...finally getting to meet the famous man who had captured my mother's heart (many years before) but not her hand in marriage. He had fallen deeply in love with her, and it was very obvious that his feelings hadn't changed. It was also obvious that she still adored him but felt secure in her decision not to marry him. Even though they both grew up in the very finest cultured environment of St. Louis society and experienced a thrilling romance together, my mother had a strong sense of standards that were passed on down to her from her family.

Marrying into the life of the theatre was considered too unpredictable and unstable. This was definitely a mind-over-heart situation. Knowing my mom and her ways, I was never surprised that she said no. And she definitely made a fantastic choice in my wonderful dad who treated her beautifully and provided for her well in taking over his father's well-established publishing business. But I was always in awe over how she could do it - turn him down and pull it off and still keep up and be friends with him!

At the time that Vince proposed to her in January '35, he had just been cast in a prominent role as Prince Albert in "Victoria Regina" in London. He was very involved in extensive research, studying and preparing for his role. That following May, his premier performance brought raving reviews and launched Vincent Price into stardom. Not long after, he went on to play the role on Broadway opposite Helen Hayes. The stage was set, and "Uncle Vinny", as he let me call him, had his feet solid on it. A solid footing that was to step him into a solid career. Would it have been a solid life for my mother? Who knows? She met Dad, and that was solid enough for her.

I'll never forget that night when I met this marvelous man. Mother had told me all about him and, of course, I'd seen him in the movies. I even made up a fun pun as a slogan to my friends, "Mom ended up marrying Daddy, and that's why I'm so priceless!" I was active in drama at school and was infatuated with acting. So, on that special night, I was not only exhilarated to meet Vincent but also to talk with him about his profession. Which we did. In the letter of March 3rd that he had written Mother from Los Angeles after his trip here, he summed up the event perfectly:

“Dear Dottie:
Many thanks for sending me the clips – and for being the same beautiful, delightful, luscious you! Show that to Pete – good for husbands.
I loved meeting Irene – she’s a dear and I hope she either does it, the theatre, or gets it out of her system – anyway she can only learn from it how better to communicate with her fellow men --
All Love to you all.
Ever, Vince”

I also remember on that eventful evening of meeting Vincent Price that he proudly showed me a picture of his two-year-old daughter, Victoria. She looked just like him! I kept thinking...I wonder who her mother is and what it was like living in their world in California.

In January 2000, a friend and I had our little late Christmas exchange. She brought me the newly released biography, Vincent Price, by his daughter, Victoria. Needless to say, I clutched this biographical treasure with glee! When the timing became just right - I plunged into Vincent Price with excitement and great curiosity! I wondered if Victoria ever knew about my mother. And if she did not, while Vincent was living, I wondered if she had discovered anything about it later during her research for the book.

There I was, sitting on the family room sofa ever intently devouring Victoria's every word with extreme trepidation as my eyes arrived upon page 59 of chapter nine. By golly, there it was! She devoted the whole page to "The Mysterious Dottie"! Well, it's probably a good thing that I was alone in the house at the time because I immediately burst into, not only talking out loud, but jumping up and down and squealing with joy - not to mention dancing around the room! My two sweet dogs looked at me as if to say, "Hey, Mom - have you lost it?"

She writes about what a significant development this was in Vincent's life. She quotes from his letters to his parents talking about his intense feelings for Dottie - "I love her, and more than anyone I've ever met" . . . "She has all those qualities of dignity and poise which my three womenfolk have brought me up to look for - you, Mommy, Hat and Lol . He tells them about the ring he sent her, "a lovely jewel, while not expensive, does have great brilliance." She also mentions about the gag photo she found of Vincent (which is reproduced in the book) and the note attached to it saying that it was for his fiancĂ©e. He agreed to have one photo taken for commercial purposes, thereby saving expense. A month later, the photo appeared three times life size in Piccadilly Circus as an ad for deodorant.

But then, Victoria talks about how nothing else was known regarding the mysterious Dottie, where she came from, who she was, or what happened to her ... or whether or not Dottie accepted or refused the ring. The only hint was in a letter he wrote to his family two months after he proposed in which he states that he was very upset about something.

Needless to mention, I could hardly wait to contact Victoria! When I discovered that her phone in Santa Fe was unpublished, I decided to write to her - care of her publisher. Then, a few days later, I got a lucky break. I was at a ladies' luncheon sharing my fun news about "The Mysterious Dottie". One of the ladies, Anne McAlpin, told me she knew who could give me Victoria's private number! Lo and behold, several months before, during her book tour, Victoria had visited our alma mater, Mary Institute/Country Day (where Vincent and Mother graduated), for a quick lecture/book-signing event while she was here for a major bookstore signing. Anne suggested I contact the administrator who organized the school event. Good heavens! She was here in St. Louis promoting her book and I didn't know?! How did I miss it? My head was in a spin. Then reality returned.

Interestingly enough, at the same time that Victoria Price was here promoting her new book, I was enwrapped in promoting my new book, A-Maze-in' St. Louis. With all of the whirlwind details of the publishing, marketing and interviewing and my own book-signing at another major book store, I was completely focused and somehow didn't get the word.

But after a brief disappointment in not having met her, I realized that maybe it could turn out to be even more intriguing this way. The mystery of "The Mysterious Dottie." And I was about to make a phone call, a call that would unravel a mystery.

On January 28, 2000, I picked up my portable phone to call Vincent's daughter, Victoria. Although I didn't expect her to come on the line, I felt jubilant over the sheer fact that I was making a connection - be it probably on an answering machine. My fingers pushed the buttons with a zing that fired through me. One ring. I thought, "What if?" And then the second ring... and then - pop - "Hello" - I heard a nice, relaxed voice. "Victoria?" I asked. "Yes," she said. "Hi," I chimed, I'm Irene Leland in St. Louis, Missouri." I then explained about how I had received her phone number. "I have some information that I think you might find interesting. Do you have a minute?"..."Yes, I do!" . . . "Oh great, well firstly, I want to say that I think it's wonderful that you wrote this biography about your dad. I started reading it the other day, and ... are you sitting down?" "No," she said, "should I?" An amused lilt in our voices correlated. . . "Well, you might want to" . . .I went on ... "I got to page 59 all about Mysterious Dottie, and I started bouncing up and down! . .I know who the Mysterious Dottie is!" . . . "Oh, my gosh, you do? Who?" she bubbled! I'll never forget that next moment. I proclaimed, "She's my mother."

An electrifying force charged through the rest of the conversation! I told her the main ingredients that I knew. Yes, Vincent was crazy in love with Mom. And Mom simply adored him. They graduated from high school the same year at sister/brother schools. The ring he sent her was an exquisite huge golden sapphire, and it arrived baked inside a cake! He was in London. She was in Paris. Yes, she accepted the ring and she saved it. From what I remember, he insisted that she keep it. She later had the stone reset as a pin and gave it to me when I made my debut. Mother, at some point, said no to marriage due to the mindset at the time that life in the theatre was "shaky". Mom never mentioned details, but it seems that there was a brief "on hold" period of time before she gave him her final answer. But they stayed in touch through the years, and whenever Vinny would come to St.  Louis, Dottie would invite him to come over for cocktails or dinner.

I told Victoria about the fabulous photo of Mom and Vinny that I took of them in 1978 when he and his third wife, Coral, came to dinner at Mom's and her second husband, Bob's house (my father had passed away in 1975). I said I'd make a photocopy to send her along with one of Mom when she made her debut in 1930. This was from an original portrait that truly depicts what a classic beauty my mother was. Both my father and Vinny used to say how much she looked like Carol Lombard, the actress.

At one point, as I was talking with her, I exclaimed that I was in my family room looking up on the cedar wall at a framed painting that Vincent had made and given to Mom. I described it, and she said, "Oh my gosh, that sounds like the cottage in Ontario!"

We chatted a bit about what things we were doing in our own lives. What fun it was that we were both writers. We exchanged addresses and I gave her my phone number. (I, by the way, did go on and pursue acting - not on stage, but in TV and radio commercials and industrial films. The last time I saw Vinny, he was telling me how he had just started doing TV commercials for Creamette pasta and how very different, even difficult, it was from his usual mode of acting. He was pleased that I had discovered a fun career and he admired my doing so.)

The Mysterious Dottie. Well, she's not so mysterious any more. Now Vincent's daughter has an answer to the mystique. And on that special page of her book, Victoria provided information that I had not known. Yet there are still many hidden secrets that we both don't know, many aspects about their friendship and romance that are obscure. But happily, the unfolded mystery brought two women together in a phone call. After that call, I couldn't help but think what is so obviously distinct and yet so eerie. If Dottie had married Vinny, Victoria and I would not be here!

What's even more eerie and symbolic is a fact of the aftermath. On October 9, 1993, Mom, along with my stepfather, Bob, was murdered by the yardman in their home. Besides being a major story here in St. Louis, it really shook up the fine community in which they lived, where there had not been a killing in 40 years. Vincent was contacted by friends here, and I was told that he was absolutely devastated. Sixteen days later, Vincent Price died from cancer.

Backstage at St. Louis's famous Fox Theatre, following a performance of
Diversions and Delights in 1978.  Irene Leland and her former husband are
shown with a casual VP.  Below is a recently-discovered photo from the same evening, with 
Vincent, Dottie, and her second husband, Robert.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Original publicity still negatives from THEATRE OF BLOOD

A couple of years ago, an eBay seller in Canada offered a group of original publicity still negatives for sale.  They seemed to be photos that, for the most part, I'd never seen before. I purchased them and had them scanned so that I could make digital positives.  I think they're stunning.

Dennis Price as Hector Snipe

Coral Browne, post hairdresser appointment, as Chloe Moon

Michael Hordern as first victim George Maxwell

Robert Morley, without poodles, as Meredith Merridew

Ian Hendry as Peregrine Devlin

Milo O'Shea as Inspector Boot

Eric Sykes as Sergeant Dogge

Madeline Smith as Devlin's secretary Rosemary

Harry Andrews as Trevor Dickman

Vincent Price as Edward Lionheart, performing Julius Caesar

Price as the gravedigger at Snipe's funeral

Price as Lionheart, preparing some radical surgery on Arthur Lowe

Vincent as Lionheart as Shylock

Lionheart as Richard III

Best of all, most of the cast assembled on the steps of the chapel at Kensal Green Cemetery in London