Lean, effete, and sinister, Vincent Price was among the movies' greatest villains as well as one of the horror genre's most beloved and enduring stars. Born May 27, 1911, in St. Louis, MO, Price graduated from Yale University, and later studied fine arts at the University of London. He made his theatrical debut in the Gate Theatre's 1935 production of Chicago, followed by work on Broadway, in stock and with Orson Welles' famed Mercury Theater. Under contract to Universal, Price traveled to Hollywood, making his screen debut in 1938's Service de Luxe, before returning to Broadway for a revival of Outward Bound. His tenure at Universal was largely unsuccessful, and the studio kept him confined to supporting roles. Upon completing his contract, Price jumped to 20th Century Fox, starring in a pair of 1940 historical tales, Brigham Young -- Frontiersman and Hudson Bay. Still, fame eluded him, and in 1941 he began a long Broadway run (in Angel Street) that kept him out of films for three years.
Price returned to the West Coast to co-star in 1943's The Song of Bernadette and became a prominent supporting player in a series of acclaimed films, including 1944's Wilson and Laura, and 1946's Leave Her to Heaven. His first starring role was in the low-budget Shock!, portraying a murderous psychiatrist. He next played a sadistic husband opposite Gene Tierney in Dragonwyck. Clearly, Price's niche was as a villain -- everything about him suggested malice, with each line reading dripping with condescension and loathing; he relished these roles, and excelled in them. Still, he was not the star Fox wanted; after 1947's The Web, his contract expired and was not renewed. Price spent the next several years freelancing with a variety of studios and by 1952 had grown so disenchanted with Hollywood that he returned to the stage, performing in a San Francisco production of The Cocktail Party before replacing Charles Laughton in the touring company of Don Juan in Hell.
Price then signed on to star in 1953's House of Wax, Warners' 3-D update of their Mystery of the Wax Museum. The picture was one of the year's biggest hits, and one of the most successful horror films ever produced. Price's crazed performance as a vengeful sculptor brought him offers for any number of similar projects, and he next appeared in another 3-D feature, Dangerous Mission. He also made a triumphant return to the stage to appear in Richard III, followed by Black-Eyed Susan. The latter was Price's last theatrical performance for 14 years, however, as he began a very busy and eclectic motion picture schedule. Though he essayed many different types of characters, his forays into horror remained by far his most popular, and in 1958 he co-starred in the hit The Fly as well as William Castle's House on Haunted Hill.
By the 1960s, Price was working almost exclusively in the horror genre. For producer Roger Corman, he starred in a series of cult classic adaptations of Edgar Allen Poe stories including 1960's The Fall of the House of Usher, 1963's The Raven, 1964's The Masque of the Red Death, and 1968's The Conqueror Worm. He also appeared in a number of teen movies like 1963's Beach Party, 1965's Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine, and the 1969 Elvis Presley vehicle The Trouble With Girls. Price began to cut back on his film activities during the 1970s despite hits like 1971's The Abominable Dr. Phibes and its follow-up Dr. Phibes Rises Again. Instead he frequently lectured on art, and even published several books. For disciple Tim Burton, Price co-starred in the 1990 fantasy Edward Scissorhands; apart from voice-over work, it was his last screen appearance. He died in Los Angeles on October 25, 1993. ~ Jason Ankeny, Rovi