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A Collection of Unexpected Cookbook Authors: Vincent Price

Vincent-PriceIf you’re a horror movie buff, you’ve undoubtedly heard of Vincent Leonard Price, Jr, an American actor with roles in a number of iconic horror films. What you may not know is that Price and his second wife Mary Grant Price authored a delightful cookbook together.

Treasury-Great-Recipes-Vincent-Mary-PriceA Treasury of Great Recipes (1978) presents us a copious collection of recipes, menus, and recollections from the Prices’ travels around the world. The couple traveled extensively, and their cookbook brings us specialties from fine restaurants all over the world, adapted for the “American kitchen.” Our edition is inlaid, with a large signed black-and-white photograph of Vincent Price. Full-page color photography and lovely illustrated endpapers make the book more like a work of art. It features the original copper padded leatherette, with illustrations and title in gilt. Whether you collect Vincent Price memorabilia, artful cookbooks, or modern firsts, this volume would make a lovely little addition to your personal library. 

Dr-Prices-Excellent-Recipes-Delicious-DessertsThough Price made own name on the silver screen, he came from two generations of foodies. His father, Vincent Leonard Price, Sr. was president of the National Candy Company. And his grandfather, Vincent Clarence Price, invented Dr. Price’s Baking Powder, the first cream of tartar baking powder. His company, Price Flavoring Extract Co, would also publish its own dessert cookbook. Dr. Price’s Excellent Recipes for Delicious Desserts includes over 100 recipes for cookies, cakes, and confections.

With such an ancestry, it may come as no surprise that Price eventually chose to write a cookbook. But his career began quite differently. Price majored in Art History at Yale and intended to get a masters in Fine Arts. But he discovered that he truly loved the theatre. Price made his first professional stage appearance in 1934, and the following year he began performing with Orson Welles’ Mercury Theatre. In 1936, Price played the role of Prince Albert Victor in the American production of Laurence Housman’s Victoria Regina.

Soon Price made the transition from stage to screen. His film debut came in 1938 with Service De Luxe. In 1940 he played Joseph Smith in Brigham Young. Price did multiple other films as a character actor, but it’s as a horror actor that we know him best. His first horror film was Boris Karloff’s Tower of London. The following year, he played the title character in The Invisible Man Returns. Price also had roles in some of the best known horror films of the era, including House of Wax (1953); The Fly (1958); and The House on Haunted Hill (1959).

The 1960’s found Price acting in a series of Edgar Allan Poe adaptations, the first of which made about $2 million at the box office–a surprise given that it was a low-budget film. He also played Egghead in the Batman television series. Price was a frequent guest on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, where he once demonstrated how to poach fish in a dishwasher. In 1971, Price began hosting Cooking Price-Wise

Always interested in politics, Price wasn’t afraid to use his fame or the resulting opportunities to share his political views. He once closed an episode of NBC radio program The Saint with an admonishment against racial and religious prejudice, which he likened to poison. He charged the audience with fighting against these prejudices.

Meanwhile Price also established himself as a patron of the arts. From 1962 to 1971, Sears-Roebuck offered the “Vincent Price Collection of Fine Art.” Price selected and commissioned works for the collection from artists like Rembrandt, Picasso, and Dali. Over 50,000 pieces of art were sold. Price and wife Mary also donated hundreds of works of art, along with a large sum of money, to East Los Angeles College as an endowment to start the Vincent Price Art Museum there.

Given Price’s progressive views and love of art, it made sense for Dwight D. Eisenhower’s administration to name Price to the Indian Arts and Crafts Board. According to Price, the appointment was “kind of a surprise since I am a democrat.” Thus Price leaves us quite the varied legacy that spans the works of cooking, politics, and popular culture…quite the feat, indeed!

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One comment on “A Collection of Unexpected Cookbook Authors: Vincent Price

  1. Jean B.
    December 13, 2013

    I never knew that Vincent Price’s lineage included the famed Dr. Price–or that his father was also in the food field. How interesting! I am thrilled to find that I have the dessert booklet that is pictured, along with another dessert booklet plus an 80-page book that was published in 1887. I also have several copies of “Treasury…”. That came out in the mid-60s, and it was one of the first cookbooks that I owned. Actually THAT copy is among my books that disappeared, and the multiple copies result from my overzealous attempts to replace it.

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This entry was posted on December 13, 2013 by in Baking and Confectionery Books, Food and Literature and tagged , , .
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