Beyond question, Vincent Price is one the horror genre's most recognizable icons. His daughter, Victoria, has recently completed a memoir of her famous father in which we learn (among other things) that one of filmdom's leading fiends was a big kid at heart. The following interview reveals much about Victoria's mischievous father and the relationship they shared.

LEONARD HUGHES: What is your full name? (Are you named for anyone in your family or for any prominent celebrities in the world?)

VICTORIA PRICE: My full name is Mary Victoria Price. My mother, my brother, and I all go by our middle names. So my first name is the same as my mother's middle name. And Victoria was chosen because my father's first big hit was Victoria Regina with Helen Hayes, and my mother spent her teenage years growing up in Victoria, British Columbia.

Q: Many folks prefer to give a flip answer for this one, but ... how old are you?

VICTORIA: I am 37. I was born on April 27.

Q: Where do you live now and what occupies most of your time?

VICTORIA: I live in Santa Fe, New Mexico. I write for television -- A&E Biography and AMC, etc. I also write for magazines. And I am working on two books, one of which is for an interesting series that will be coming out at the beginning of 2001 called Hollywood Legends. I also teach writing, literature, and languages. (I have finished everything but my dissertation for my PhD.) My avocation is horses. I compete in reining, which will be the first Western riding discipline to become an Olympic sport. I compete all over the West.

Q: How did your father affect your current choice of activities in your life? (For instance, did he inspire you in some way to write your forthcoming book?)

VICTORIA: My father always encouraged me to write. I wrote a one-woman show while I was in college about Lillian Hellman, Dorothy Parker, and Edna St. Vincent Millay. He loved it and encouraged me to write from then on. At the end of his life we worked on a book about art together, which was the genesis for this biography.

Q: Who are you most close to in your life now?

VICTORIA: I am very close to my brother (he's my half-brother really), who lives 60 miles away in Albuquerque. Even though we're 22 years apart in age, we are very good friends.

Q: Would you share some of your personal memories of your father?

VICTORIA: My favorite memories of my father have to do with the ocean. When I was a little girl, we had a beach house where we spent every weekend that he was home. He loved the ocean, and we would spend hours beachcombing -- walking up and down the sand looking for moonstone, great pieces of driftwood and perfectly flat stones that we could skip. He also loved to deep-sea fish, so from time to time we would go out on the boat and spend the day together. On those days he looked weathered and scruffy and perfectly at peace with the world.

Q: Most of us know Vincent Price as an actor with a great deal of class and a well-tuned sense of humor. And many of us recall being terrifically frightened by his classic films. What was he like as a father? (Specifically, what things did he do that made him a typical father; and what are the things about him that made him unique as a father?)

VICTORIA: The best thing about him as a father was his unending sense of fun. He was infinitely curious about the world around him, which was great for a kid. Kids are full of wonder and to have that wonder mirrored in an adult made me feel like the world was a place full of limitless possibilities. My friends all remember him taking us trick or treating. There was one street in Beverly Hills that had the most elaborate houses, and we would take our motor home and park it at the top of that street and then my dad would walk us all from door to door. He was a great dad, although he wasn't around as much as I would have wished. On the other hand, that was some of what made time with him so special.

Q: What were some of the activities that you participated in with your father?

VICTORIA: We went deep-sea fishing together and we went to amusement parks to ride roller coasters and play games of chance. He was a big kid at heart. He would drive 50 miles to find some dumpy restaurant that he had heard about where they made great taquitos. He had a great sense of adventure. And we loved going to baseball games to watch the Dodgers and listen to Vin Scully.

Q: Did he take you to the movies? What were some of them? What is your most vivid recollection of that?

VICTORIA: I remember going to a double feature of Fiddler on the Roof and Man of La Mancha. We thought they would never end. I also remember going to see Earthquake at Graumann's Chinese. I was scared to death, and he thought that was the silliest thing in the world, to be scared of a movie.

Q: What are your childhood memories of his film work? Did his movies scare you? Can you remember an incident?

VICTORIA: I was terrified of his movies. Because I had a vivid imagination, I had a hard time distinguishing film from reality, and I was very distressed that he was always being killed. And bludgeoned, immolated, riddled with bullets etc. -- not a pretty Camille-like demise in any of his films. So I rarely watched his movies. The first time I saw him in a play, it was Peter Pan, and he was Captain Hook. I had a fit and my mother had to bring me backstage during intermission. I thought something had happened to my father's hand, and he had to take the hook on and off to show that his hand was still there.

Q: Did you ever visit the sets? Can you recall any anecdotes or images from being in the wings of a Vincent Price movie?

VICTORIA: My father loved to play little jokes. So when we were in England while he was doing Theater of Blood, we went out to the old theatre where many of the scenes were being filmed. As we got out of the car, all these bums and tramps and scary-looking people started harassing us, asking us for money, pawing at our clothes. I was terrified, but my father calmly gave them each a little money. I can't remember when I finally figured out that they were actors.

Q: What other celebrities did you meet as you were growing up? Who hung around the house or came over for dinner?

VICTORIA: Among the celebrities that I knew best were Roddy McDowall, Hans Conried, Red Skelton, Eddie Albert, Dorothy McGuire, Mary Wickes, Helen Hayes. I met Lucille Ball, Joan Crawford, Boris Karloff, Robert Wagner, Joseph Cotten.

Q: Did your father ever bring his work home? Did he scare kids in the neighborhood, rehearse lines late into the night, put on any special performances around holidays?

VICTORIA: Once when we were staying at a hotel in New York, I lost my tooth. So I put it under my pillow, hoping for a nickel the next morning. What I found was some disgusting corroded old denture. He thought that was hysterical.

Q: What were you father's favorite pastimes?

VICTORIA: Going to museums and galleries. Buying art. Looking at art books. Cooking. Gardening -- growing his incredible cymbidium orchid collection. Deep-sea fishing. Eating anything and everything. Listening to opera.

Q: I recall his TV appearances in shows such as The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and Columbo.Did he watch TV? What were his favorite shows?

VICTORIA: He loved watching Jeopardy. He religiously watched Crossfire and screamed at the conservatives. He loved PBS -- Mystery, Civilization, almost anything on PBS.

Q: Did he go to the movies? Do recall his favorite films? Who were his favorite performers?

VICTORIA: His favorite performer was Ronald Colman. He thought Ava Gardner was fabulous.

Q: What films did he especially not like?

VICTORIA: He hated modern slasher horror movies.

Q: What films of his own do you think he enjoyed most? Can you name any of his own movies that he complained about?

VICTORIA: I think his three favorites would have been Laura, Champagne for Caesar, and Theater of Blood. He hated quite a few of the crappy AIP movies in the mid-60s. He had a really good sense of humor about the BAD movies like Green Hell and Son of Sinbad.

Q: An amazing feature of your father's career is the extremely wide range of his subject matter. He did some downright silly films such as Dr. Goldfoot and some timeless classics including Laura. In his more recent films, Edward Scissorhands and Whales of August, he turned in highly acclaimed performances. Did he ever talk about the different directions he was always capable of taking in his career?

VICTORIA: Yes, I think it frustrated him sometimes that people did not know he was capable of such a wide range. Whales of August was a real gift, because Lindsay Anderson gave him a chance to play a part that was so much against type. He did an incredible one-man show about Oscar Wilde that was one of the best things he ever did. He regretted that more people did not know about that. At the same time, he was very grateful for the identification that the horror films had afforded him.


Leonard Hughes, a leading authority on the works of Walker Percy, is an editor and theater critic for The Washington Post.

Vincent Price: A Daughter's Biography by Victoria Price is available from St. Martin's Press and online through

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