Vincent Leonard Price Jr. was born on 27 May, 1911, in St. Louis, Missouri, the son of the National Candy Company’s president, and the youngest of four children. He was educated and spent his childhood in the city, going, for many years, to a school that his own mother had helped found.
Unlike his other contemporaries, he was not immediately smitten with the idea of becoming an actor. Far from it; his original goal was to be an artist; however, he quickly learned that he had little talent in such a field, and concentrated then on becoming an art historian.
A loner for much of his childhood, he often visited the St. Louis Museum and stared at the various works of art, inspiring him to hoard money, and he eventually built up a small private collection of minor sketches by the time he was a teenager.
It was the beginning of a life-long love of the “world of man’s creation – art”. During these formative years, young Price also developed interests in everything from cooking to Native American culture. As he so aptly put it, “A man who limits his interests, limits his life.”
Since many of his family members at had either attended the prestigious university of Yale, or had married into Yale families, it was not surprising that the young Vincent Price ended up there as well. Graduating in 1933, he took a minor job teaching art appreciation, coaching dramatics, and, believe it or not, occasionally driving a bus at the Riverdale School in New York.
There, while playing one of the leads in a three-act production of “H.M.S. Pinafore”, he realized that his true calling in life would be the stage. Besides that, the teaching experience had taught him that – surprise – college had taught him very little!
With a $900 tuition check from his parents, Price finally received a Masters Degree from the Cortauld Institute in London, slightly furthering his education.
In 1935 he made his first professional appearance at the Gate Theatre in London, playing a policeman and judge in the play “Chicago”. His acting work was making him much happier than teaching anyways, now.
Soon after, he was cast in the role of Prince Albert in Laurence Houseman’s “Victoria Regina”. Positive reviews ensued, and Price was even mistaken for a European! The role soon brought him to the attention of his fellow citizens back home, when he was asked to re-create the role of Albert in New York in an American version starring actress Helen Hayes.
It made Price an instant star. “Victoria Regina” ran for several years, and he spent his spare time during the play’s “recesses” on other stage work, and occasionally screen tests.
He then briefly joined Orson Wells’ Mercury Theatre, although left the company soon after. Price also found time to romance actress Barbara O’Neill.
However, it was not to be; O’Neill wouldn’t commit, so Vincent ended up marrying actress Edith Barrett in a large ceremony on April 23, 1938, who would turn out to be his first of three wives.