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.