Missouri Passages: Vincentennial:The Legacy of Vincent Price

Vincentennial:The Legacy of Vincent Price


St. Louisans celebrated their connections between one of horror’s most iconic actors, Vincent Price, with Cinema St. Louis’ Vincentennial, a celebration of Price’s life and movie career on the 100th anniversary of his birth.

  Price, best known for his legendary horror films in the 1960s and 70s, was born in St. Louis on May 27, 1911. His family, who earned their fortune in the candy industry, moved to St. Louis to market their candy for the 1904 World’s Fair. Price graduated from St. Louis Country Day School (now Mary Institute and St. Louis County Day School) in 1928. He then went on to Yale University, graduating in 1933, and spent a year as a schoolteacher before pursuing his master’s degree in fine arts at the University of London. While in London, he first appeared on stage in 1934 in a London production of “Chicago.”

 Price always maintained a fondness for his hometown, and the people of St. Louis and his fans across the world reciprocated their feelings toward him with Vincentennial.

 “Vincent Price is the most important figure to emerge from St. Louis in the world of film and television, and he has an international fan base to this day,” said Cliff Froehlich, Executive Director of Cinema St. Louis. “He had a renaissance quality to his life. He wasn’t just an actor. He had many interests, and according to his daughter, Victoria, was a terrific parent. It’s because of the many different things he did in his life that he touched a lot of different people. People maintain an ongoing interest in his work that I don’t think is going to fade anytime soon.”

 Held at multiple venues across St. Louis including Washington University, Missouri History Museum, Hi-Pointe Theatre, the Muny in Forest Park, Sheldon Concert Hall and Art Galleries, and Star Clipper on the Loop, the 10-day Vincentennial celebration included screenings of nearly 20 of Price’s major works. The event also drew together filmmakers, actors, critics, and academics who conducted interviews, discussed his films and presented lectures and special events. Two exhibits of Price related articles, artwork and memorabilia at the Sheldon Concert Hall and Art Galleries and Price related comic art at Star Clipper, provided additional opportunities for visitors and St. Louisans to gain insight into Price’s life.

 “There was extraordinary attendance throughout the festival,” Froehlich said. “We had more than 3,500 people attend the films and lectures. We knew going in that we had strong interest on the local, national and international levels. We had a lot of people from across the country come in, as well as a few from Germany and England. Both of the exhibits are still going on, and they’re definitely getting strong attendance. I expect our total attendance will top 5,000 by the time the exhibits close in August.”

 Film screenings included The Fly, The Last Man on Earth, The Tingler, Theatre of Blood, The Pit and the Pendulum, The Tomb of Ligeia, The Raven, The Abominable Dr. Phibes, House of Usher, The Masque of Red Death, Laura, Dragonwyck, Champagne for Caesar,  The Whales of August, Witchfinder General and Vincent Price: The Sinister Image. The series concluded with an outdoor showing of Edward Scissorhands, Price’s last film; Vincent, a short stop-motion animation by Tim Burton narrated by Price; and Thriller, Michael Jackson’s music video featuring Price at the Bank of America Pavilion at the Muny. To add to the excitement, the event was introduced by Vincent Price’s daughter, Victoria Price, and included a small flash mob dancing along to music.

 The Missouri Humanities Council was able to support the event by awarding Cinema St. Louis a grant, which helped them bring in speakers and Price experts.

 “It was our hope to not only show Price’s movies, but also provide context, and the support we received from the Council helped allow us to do this,” Froehlich said.

 Experts included legendary director and producer Roger Corman who was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award; Tim Lucas, editor of Video Watchdog, the preeminent journal in horror science fiction; Jonathan Malcolm Lampley, author of “Women in the Horror Films of Vincent Price;” Richard Squires, creator of the website the Vincent Price Exhibit; John Contini, actor; Gaylyn Studlar, Washington University film and media professor; Hunter Vaughan, Washington University film and media lecturer; Joe Williams, film critic for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch; David Del Valle, film historian and Vincent Price: The Sinister Image creator; Bruce Goldstein, Film Forum;  and Victoria Price.

 “Victoria talked for more than two hours and showed several film clips and family photos. It gave people a rare insight into Price not only as an actor but also a person,” Froehlich said. “She also spent an hour signing autographs and talking with attendees. The capacity for the event was 350 and we had to turn nearly 50 people away. Almost without fail everyone thanked me for event. It was a real highlight.”

 Even if you missed out on the screenings and presentations you can still take part in Vincentennial. Both the exhibit at the Sheldon and Star Clipper will continue to be open until August 6.  Visit our website for additional information, http://www.cinemastlouis.org/vincentennial-exhibits-special-events.

 Want to see and learn more about the film industry in St. Louis? Come out to Cinema St. Louis’ upcoming events:

 Vincentennial sponsors, partners and in-kind sponsors: Missouri Humanities Council, Whitaker Foundation, Regional Arts Commission of St. Louis, Missouri Arts Council, Mary Strauss, FRONTYARD features, Missouri History Museum, The Sheldon, Star Clipper, Washington University’s Film and Media Studies program, The Muny, Evil Prints, Hilton St. Louis at the Ballpark, MetLife, Pirate Pictures, Sight & Sound Production Services, Inc., Stella Artois and Bad Dog Pictures.

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