He Was Legend

NOTE: This was originally posted in 2007 right before the remake of  I Am Legend was released.  I am dusting it off and re-posting it in honor of what would be Mr. Price's 100th Birthday:

This weekend the fan-boys and girls will be flocking to their local cineplex to bask in the latest bastardization of a classic story; I Am Legend, re-imagined, and reworked for the MTV generation - complete with a tacked on happy ending (or so I hear).

If you've ever read Richard Matheson's chilling novella about a scientist who inexplicably survives a plague that leaves the rest of humanity either dead or turned into vampire-like creatures, you know what a powerful but ultimately, depressing tale Legend truly is.

The story was adapted twice before it's current incarnation as Will Smith's latest blockbuster - in 1971 it was presented as, The Omega Man ( a dreadful adaptation that stared Charlton Heston), and prior to that it was released as The Last Man on Earth in 1964 and stared the quintessential sci-fi/horror thespian of all time, Mr. Vincent Price.

Born into a wealthy family from St. Louis Missouri in 1911, Price began his acting career in the late 1930s and was celebrated for his rather urbane style. He made several films with screen beauty, Gene Tierney including the melodrama, Laura, and the forerunner to Fatal Attraction; Leave Her To Heaven.

But for most of us, Vincent Price will always be remembered for his numerous roles in horror and science fiction. From The Fly to Dr. Phibes, Price seemed at home in morbid cinematic offerings, whether he was playing the villain or the victim.

So what are we doing celebrating Mr. Price on a "queer horror film blog"? Because, rumors concerning his sexuality were rampant thorough out his life. And though he married three times (not that means anything at all - Hello, Tom Cruise); there are stories that many in the business assumed he was gay.

Of course it might be all circumstantial; but what circumstances. For instance:

* Price's former gardener was none other than gay porn star, Fred Halstead.

* His third wife, Coral Brown, was said to have been an infamous 'fag hag', and was rumored to be a lesbian as well.

* Price's daughter, Victoria, (an out lesbian) has acknowledged that her father's sexuality was often discussed in Hollywood, though she indicates that she has never met anyone who could concretely answer the question concerning the subject.

* According to Victoria, when Price got older, a group of mostly gay men became his care-givers.

The world will probably never know the real story about this genteel man who collected art, was an accomplished cook (he published several cook books), and, from all accounts,  was a genuinely nice guy.

What we are left with is an impressive body of film work that ranges from the sublime to the ridiculous, several recordings (including voice overs for pop songs from both Alice Cooper and Michael Jackson) , and countless television appearances.

The last time America saw Vincent Price on the silver screen was in Edward Scissorhands where he played the kindly old inventor who was about to give Edward a heart made from a cookie, but before he could do this, his character died. - An appropriate final act from a man who gave so much of his own heart.

Gay or straight, Vincent Price was one of a kind. He Was Legend.


Unknown said...

Gay, straight, bi, it matters not at all. He was legend indeed!
It's sad how many times people think they have to hide their sexual orientation. And it's really sad that it's still seen as a "problem" in any way, shape, or form.

Prospero said...

Loved this post, Pax. He was (and still is) a favorite of mine.

Fred Anderson said...

Victoria Price also mentions in her book about Vincent that he made some hints that he was - at least - bisexual.

As a teenager and also a big fan of Vincent I always felt he was gay, and that meant a lot to me. Made me feel stronger and happier.

Great text!

Will Errickson said...

It's distressing to learn how Michael Jackson completely ripped off Price and paid him no royalties on his little rap in "Thriller." Price had some choice things to say about him, according to both John Landis and Price's own daughter in her bio of Price.