France | 24 August 1928

DATE August 24th
PLACE Paris
Our last whole day in Paris I spent as usual in the shops trying to get some few presents for more people. Went back to the junks shops after lunch & saw 3 small etching for which I played 6c [ed.note: six centimes] & then some other small ones. Tonight we went to the Casino de Paris I am bound to see Paris even if it breaks me. This was a great show very clever. Then we went to Pigalle a good club where you dance on numbers & win dolls maybe. Next to the hotel to get some addresses & then we saw Paris.

casino_de_paris_1928We went to a place called ‘Paradis’ & there lay before you Paris. Smoke as thick you could hardly see, an acordian wailing some wild tunes & Nigros dancing with whites both ways. Girls try to pick you up, but you say “J’ai une femm” & then they go saying “Quelle dommage!” buts its Paris. After this we went to a place called ‘Florencés’ entirely run by Nigros & now all Americans & Florence [1] her-self came & sang to us ‘Just Bill’oh Boy such dancing. That’s good by Paris night life, Cab 6am.

Vincent Price Travel Journal 1928 24_August

Vincent Price Travel Journal 1928 (reproduced courtesy of Peter Fuller)

EDITOR’S NOTES
florence_jones_1928[1] Florence Emery (Embry) Jones (1892-1932) was the first African-American woman to rule the Paris jazz world in the 1920s, captivating audiences at Eugene Bullard’s Le Grand Duc and at Louis Mitchell’s club in Rue Pigalle. Mitchell renamed his club, Chez Florence in 1924. To read a 1927 article from The Times click here. For more about about the importance of black jazz performers in Paris, check out Harlem in Montmartre: A Paris jazz story between the Great Wars by William A. Shack.

[sic] Although Vincent misspells words in his journal, we have kept them as he wrote them.

Vincent Price on Paris, the Louvre and Ethel Barrymore

I Like What I Know (1959)In 1959, Vincent Price recounted his life-long passion for the art world in I Like What I Know. In these final extracts from his visual autobiography, Vincent reflects back on his first time visiting Paris during a hot August in 1928…

‘For my money, the most exciting thing about Paris was the boat ride across the channel. I hated Paris then, though I’ve learned to love it. I’m sure it’s not a city for the very young. At sixteen (even at six feet one) you’re too young to night club and too hungry too enjoy the paradise of French cuisine.’

‘At sixteen I resented the French for having torn down the Bastille, for burying Napoleon in a sarcophagus which gave you no idea of his size; for killing King Louis and Marie Antoinette; for having perfected champagne, which gave me my first hang-over; and for their language, which even the children could speak and which had me so confused that no matter what I ordered on any menu, it turned out brains.’

‘I’ll admit the Louvre was impressive, but I missed the clutter of the British Museum and I missed the kings. I would have forgone its treasures gladly, if those golden sovereigns still held sway. And after the Elgin Marbles, the “Winged Victory” looked much too fussy – as if she were in a hurry to get out to lunch – or like those chiffony leading ladies who always come on stage, no matter where they have just exited, by floating down the stairs. She reminded me of Ethel Barrymore, without her head (which was the best part of Ethel, because that’s where her voice lived), making an entrance in the play, The Constant Wife.’

‘I’ve had to eat my opinions, which always taste worse than words, but I hated Paris. The whole effect was a forced laugh, and I only learned to appreciate it years later when my own laugh was a little forced too, and hers seemed more familiar.’

France | 22-23 August 1928

folies_bergere_1928DATE August 22nd
PLACE Paris
Free day to Layfette Gallerie to buy some more presents. Then home for lunch. Afterwoods I took in all the junk shops along the Seine. Tonight we went to the Follies Bergere [1] which were ruder than Moulin Rouge, and not nearly as well put on. Then to the Cafe that has all the walls fixed up like hell [2]. To a place the taxi driver suggested to us the Gyptsie [3] which was tough as heck real Paris life. Next to a cafe in Montmatre that had two orchestra’s a Spanish & American (L’Abbaye). This place broke us so we came home.

Cafe_L'Enfer_ParisTHE FIREMAN OF THE FOLIES-BERGERE (1928)
This 8-minute short film starring Josephine Baker was filmed the same year that an impressionable teenage Vincent encountered the raunchy Folies-Bergère. Baker – who like Price hailed from St Louis Missouri but was five years older than him – had become a hit on the Paris club scene with her infamous banana dance in 1925. One could only imagine what would have happened had the two St Louisans met on 22 August 1928? Ooh! la! la!

rivoli_postcard_1928DATE August 23rd
PLACE Paris
Another free day. Went walking down to the old junk boxes again & along the rue de Rivoli where a group of good shops are. In the afternoon we went around doing nothing in particular. Tonight we went to the Paris Opera house a thrill of a life time. Thaïs playing and with that marvellous opera house staging in it was wond-erful beyond description. Met the mother of our conductor & his wife refined people & very charming.

Here is a YouTube video featuring a piece from Jules Massenet’s 1894 opera Thaïs, based on the 1890 Anatole France novel of the same name.

Vincent Price Travel Journal 1928 22_August

Vincent Price Travel Journal 1928 (reproduced courtesy of Peter Fuller)

EDITOR’S NOTES
folies_bergere_thumb[1] The iconic Folies-Bergère building in Paris got a big makeover when Vincent Price visited the infamous revue show in 1928. The 1869 building’s original 1872 façade was replaced with a magnificent art deco fresco by the sculptor Pico, while seat capacity was expanded from 930 to 1679. The show started life as the Folies Trévise until 1918 when manager Paul Derval put revealing costumes on his mainly English chorus girls and added outlandish decorations. It was such a success it changed musical theatre forever.

Cafe L'Enfer[2] Le Café de L’Enfer was a Hell-themed café located at 53 Boulevard de Clichy in Pigalle, Paris. One of the premier themed nightclubs of the Belle Époque era – the others being Café du Bagne (Café of the Penitentiary) and Cabaret du Néant, where guests would be served drinks in imitation skulls and dine amongst coffins – L’Enfer operated next door to Le Ciel (Heaven) from the 1890s until 1952.

[3] Gypsy

[sic] Although Vincent misspells words in his journal, we have kept them as he wrote them.

Vincent Price on Reims Cathedral

I Like What I Know (1959)In 1959, Vincent Price recounted his life-long passion for the art world in I Like What I Know. Here is an extract from his visual autobiography in which he recalls his visit Reims Cathedral in August 1928…

ON REIMS CATHEDRAL
‘I loved the Rheims Cathedral, mainly because it had been bombed. Only the first dollars of the Rockefeller money had been spent to start to restore it, and it was still a shambles. But somehow you could see how it had been when those legions of artisans, so many centuries before, had worked on it to pile it there. There is always something really religious about a church being built. Of most churches, I feel that when people have finished working on them, they often have finished worshipping in them as well. They seem to sit and contemplate what has been done and thought before. We were told how long and how much love it had taken to build it, originally, and I was pleased to see that loving going on again. I remember a stonecutter, copying a postcard of a figure, which had been destroyed, and inside, in the great nave, the sky came in. The sun was bright without that sieve of roses to strain through. It was a skeleton of faith, something essential and historical, but still new. I loved Rheims, too, because it was the only French city I saw that wasn’t half hysterical with hurry. The smiles seemed genuine… and I found a menu without brains.’

Reims Cathedral WW1

France | 20-21 August 1928

reims_1920s_postcardDATE August 20th
PLACE Paris & Rheims
Today we got up at 5:16 breakfast at 5:45 leave at 6:15 to Rheims & the battle fields [1]. We drove thru Meaux, Dormans the famous ? Woods [2], to the American cemetary where 4000 boys are buried then to Chateau Thierry [3] and Rheims we saw the Cathedral [4] & the reconstructed parts of the town. Much devastation still visible. Then onto 108 Hill where 5000 French were instantly killed, past the Hindenburg line & Back to Paris. Grave yards all along the way. Saw Richtofen’s plane in a heap in an old field [5].

Again from the Oklahoma Historical Society, this home movie footage from 1928 covers much of the same ground as Vincent’s tour group. From 14:44, you can see the same battlefields that Vincent visited the same year. Turn down the sound down while viewing.

paris_1928_postcards

louvre_1928_postcardDATE August 21th
PLACE Paris
Tour of the city today went to the chapel of St Louis & it was very beautiful. Then to Notre Dame which is historical as well as beautifully interesting. Saw Eiffel Tower & Trocadero. The Tomb of the unknown soldiers. After lunch we went to the Louvre* where we saw Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo, Winged Victory & The Gleaners. There, too, were millions of paintings by every artists. Tonight we went to Moulin Rouge & I have seen such a beautifully costumed show. The scenery was just as gorgeous as the girls not at all risqué.

Vincent Price Travel Journal 1928 (reproduced courtesy of Peter Fuller)

Vincent Price Travel Journal 1928 (reproduced courtesy of Peter Fuller)

EDITOR’S NOTE
1925_Reims_Field[1] The battlefields between Reims and Verdun were much visited in the 1920s and 1930s with wrecks of tanks like these ones close to Fort La Pompelle becoming tourist attractions post-war, remaining littered in fields until they were scrapped by the Germans during their occupation in the Second World War. This 1925 photo comes from Paul Reed’s WW1 Photos Centenary Website.  Read more here.
[2] The Belleau Woods Monument (read more on the American Battle Monuments Commission website).
[3] You can read more about the 1918 Battle of Chateau-Thierry here or from the Wikipedia page here.
[4] You can read about the reconstruction of Notre-Dame of Reims from the official website.
[5] Read more about Manfred von Richtofen aka The Red Baron here

COLORSLIDE TOUR OF THE LOUVRE
* In 1962, Vincent narrated an audio tour of the Louvre for Colorslide Tours, a collection of recordings about European travel and art. You can view it here in two parts.

[sic] Although Vincent misspells words in his journal, we have kept them as he wrote them.

France | 18-19 August 1928

paris_opera_1928DATE August 18th
PLACE Avignon to Paris
The longest Ride yet 12 hours. Cool and pleasant so bearable. Staying at good hotel at Paris except that its on an awfully dark stretch. We came along the Rhone valley passing through Lyons.

Malmaison postcard 1928

Malmaison postcard 1928

1928 postcards of Versailles

1928 postcards of Versailles

DATE August 19th
PLACE Paris
Rise up early & go to Malmaison & Versaille. Malmaison was very interesting & so was the latter. Marvelous ceilings & murals by Le Brun & beautiful Gobelin tapestries. Fountains not in play but gardens magnificient. To the Hamlet where Marie A had her private home. Back to the Litre [1] in Paris. We went to a circus that night, but Lucy & I stayed in Luna Park & did all the slides [2].

Luna Park in Paris (1923)

Luna Park in Paris (192o’s)

This home movie footage from 1928 shows scenes from Malmaison, Versailles and Paris. Courtesy of the Oklahoma Historical Society. Turn the sound off or down before watching.

Vincent Price Travel Journal 1928 (reproduced courtesy of Peter Fuller)

Vincent Price Travel Journal 1928 (reproduced courtesy of Peter Fuller)

EDITOR’S NOTE
[1] The 4-star hotel Littré opened in 1924. Picasso, Matisse and Scott Fitzgerald have also stayed at the hotel, which is located between Saint Germain des Prés and Montparnasse. In 1952, soldiers from the US Air Force took over the place following diplomatic instructions, and introduced jazz and Rhythm ´n´ Blues into the place. In 1967, the hotel opened up to the public again.

[2] Vincent had a lifelong love for amusement parks and rides, especially rollercoasters. In the 1970s, he also narrated the documentary America Screams about the country’s fascination with coasters.

[sic] Although Vincent misspells words in his journal, we have kept them as he wrote them.

Vincent Price on Pisa’s Leaning Tower, artless Monaco, and romance in Nice

I Like What I Know (1959)In 1959, Vincent Price recounted his life-long passion for the art world in I Like What I Know. Here are some passaged from Price’s visual autobiography in which he looks back on leaving Italy for Monaco and Nice in August 1928…

‘We were nearing the end of Tour 22. The train sped through Pisa, where we could see the Leaving Tower lean, and through Genoa, where we could see boats that reminded us that before long, we’d be on one and on our way back home. And pleasantly enough, the tour gave us the seventh country in the form of that minute monarchy, Monaco. It represented the complete escape from the world of art. There’s none there… only the amazing ingenuity of man’s triumph over a hill, rising out of the sea. He had covered it completely with as mad an assortment of houses of pleasure and peace to be found anywhere on earth.’

‘Finally, two days in Nice, and then to Paris, the boat, and home. I spent those two days in Nice not in the pursuit of the beautiful (though she was very pretty), but in the study and exploration of the human body. Since I had dedicated myself to the world of art, I could hardly do better than to study seriously art’s greatest course of inspiration – the female form.’

France | 16-17 August 1928

monte_carlo_1928DATE August 16th
PLACE Nice
Morning free. Went swimming & had lots of fun. Then to Monte Carlo after lunch & I won 100 francs. More fun. Had a date with Helen Ruth Loll and went dancing again. Monte Carlo was marvelous though it was very much out of season.

avignon_postcard_1928DATE August 17th
PLACE Nice to Avignon
Dull ride from here to there & arrived at Avignon at 3:00. We were rushed into a rubber neck bus & went to the Pope’s palace. Interesting, but tame to Rome. Rotten hotel & rotten dinner. Too tired to move afterwards. Saw the famous bridge of Avignon across the Rhone. Went through Marseillaise [1] going along the coast of the blue Mediterranean.

marseilles_1928

Vincent Price Travel Journal 1928 (reproduced courtesy of Peter Fuller)

Vincent Price Travel Journal 1928 (reproduced courtesy of Peter Fuller)

EDITOR’S NOTES
[1] Marseille not Marseillaise, which is of course the national anthem of France.

[sic] Although Vincent misspells words in his journal, we have kept them as he wrote them.

Italy to France | 13-15 August 1928

The Holy Stairs 1928DATE August 13th
PLACE Rome
Free day so I went with a bunch to the Holy stairs in the afternoon (morning just loafing) and we all kneeled up them and kissed the place where Christ’s blood dropped. Then to St. Peter’s to kiss the foot, then to the hotel.

Pisa and Genoa 1928Columbus in GenoaDATE August 14th
PLACE Rome to Genoa via Pisa
Dull ride from Rome to Pisa & Genoa. Saw the Tower [•] & then went to Nice. where we stayed at the Ruhl a very good hotel. Marie & I went to Maxims club to dance & had lots of fund. Another day ended perfectly by steady dancing from 8 to 3.

[• Vincent added this later in his journal] Then to Genoa. August 15th The next morning we went to Columbus’ birth place [2] & a general tour of the city then left after lunch for Nice.

Hotel Ruhl, Nice 1928 PostcardThis 1928 home movie footage from the Oklahoma Historical Society, sections of which have been shown in previous posts, includes scenes of Genoa.

Vincent Price Travel Journal 1928 13_August

Vincent Price Travel Journal 1928 (reproduced courtesy of Peter Fuller)

EDITOR’S NOTES
Pisa_1928[1] It was only in 1911 (the year of Vincent’s birth) that precise measurements of the Leaning Tower of Pisa’s inclination commenced using a theodolite. In 1928, the year that Vincent and Tour 22 visited the site in Italy, four level stations were being added around the tower’s plinth level to help monitor changes in the inclination of the structure.

COLUMBUS IN GENOA
Columbus birthplace in Genoa[2] Underneath the two towers on the Via Porta in Genoa is the alleged home of Christopher Columbus, although there is much speculation about the validity of this claim. The house was destroyed in 1684 by the French, but was later rebuilt.

 

[sic] Although Vincent misspells words in his journal, we have kept them as he wrote them.

 

Vincent Price on the Eternal City and the glories of Renaissance Christendom

I Like What I Know (1959)In 1959, Vincent Price recounted his life-long passion for the art world in I Like What I Know. Here are some extracts from Price’s visual autobiography in which Price reflects on the city that became the ultimate highlight of his Seven Capitals Tour of Europe in 1928: Rome…

ON THE ETERNAL CITY AND THE GLORIES OF RENAISSANCE CHRISTENDOM
‘After Florence almost anything would have been an anticlimax. But anyone who doesn’t fall in love with Rome should have his heart examined. The names with which people label cities sometimes stretch the imagination, but Rome really does seem “eternal”. You can’t help feeling that it has always been there… and always will be.’

‘Tour 22 and our leaders leaned rather heavily on two aspects of Rome to take care of our curiosity about it – the Forum, those few remaining monument to its ancient glory, and the Church. By “the Church” I mean the glories of Renaissance Christendom… the churches of Rome. There are enough of them to satisfy anyone of any faith, and, indeed, they house greatly some of the greatest art.’

ON WHAT ART TEACHES US
‘The love of art may not be the surest way to become a millionaire, but one thing it teaches you is worth more than anything in life: tolerance. And more than tolerance… understanding.’

High Altar VaticanON THE ST PETER’S CANDLE STORY TOLD BY MOTHER
‘Mother had told me her favourite story about a little Protestant lady who, on being told that the candle at the high altar in St Peter’s had not been out for a thousand years, pursed her lips and extinguished it, saying “Well, it’s out now”. I had thought this very amusing, but when I walked through the doors of that Great Temple, the impact of its importance dispelled any kind of humor spiritually, if temporarily. There has never been anything so perfect as the scale of this church and of everything in it. The cupids holding the holy water, who seem so tiny when you enter, are my size when you reach them, face to face; the soaring canopy and twisted columns of Bernini’s great altar; the dome of Michelangelo; the tombs; the chapels and the chandeliers… perfection of proportion. It was many minutes of awed silence that it occurred to me: here I was, before the candle that hadn’t been out for a thousand years. Mother’s story crossed my mind, and I sincerely hoped that little lady (if she did exist) was safely home in Iowa, happy there, and that nothing on earth could ever bring her back to Rome to repeat that sacrilegious act.’

ON THE CHURCH OF ROME AND KEEPING AN OPEN MIND
‘Rome is the Church. Wonderful, gay, living city that it is, the wonder and majesty around which it throbs is the Church. It was the only place in Europe that to me, at that age, had not been deprived of its nobility by the passage of time, or social or political change. The kingdom of the Catholic Church remains, in all the world, the only realm that has the possibility of permanence. Other faiths will last as long, but none will ever again be able to house its monarch in such magnificence. I never would have believed it, but Rome turned out to be the high point of the whole trip. And besides the above lessons it taught me never again to go anywhere with a mind at half-mast. You’re only celebrating your own death if you do. Man has created so much beauty for so many different reasons – for everyone to enjoy and be a part of – that to shut yourself off from any section or second of it is a waste of time that hurts no one but yourself.’

Michelangelo's Pietà in St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican.

Michelangelo’s Pietà in St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican.

ON MICHELANGELO’S PIETA, THE SISTINE CHAPEL, AND MOSES
‘I was so moved by Michelangelo’s “Pietà”, I wondered how any work of his could top it. Even the “David” in Florence, heroic and masculine as it is, was pushed aside by the femininity and strength of this young Virgin and her dead son. When I was told that he had done it at the age of twenty-one, I realized that I had only five years until I reached that age, and I had no talent toward it at all. Somewhere (and it may have been there, standing before the statue that summer) it came to me that I was not going to be blessed with creative genius, and it may also have been at this moment that I made up my mind that, as long as this was true, I had darn well better compensate for it by becoming the most receptive human being I could become. I knew for sure that I liked art, and I’d better know everything I could about what I liked. I became an audience, then and there, for the drama of the eye. And once you accept that fact, it is almost impossible ever again to be bored with life. You have a built-in recipe for the cure of that most dread disease: boredom… the living death. All you gave to do is open your eyes.’

Sistine Chapel‘When you’re young, there are lots of dreams of “doors”… at least there were for me. Being the time when things are opening and shutting with more vigor than ever again, youth has the door as a symbol. But there’s one door that, once you’ve entered it, undreaming, you will dream about all your life… the little insignificant door through which you enter the Sistine Chapel.’

‘Was it done on purpose? Did the architect plan it that way – that you should leave the ordinary world through a little door as you enter the heaven of Michelangelo’s creation?… I don’t know, but nothing is made of it in the tour of the Vatican. No guard suddenly stops and says: “Through this little door is another world” or “Don’t let the size of this door fool you… you are about to be hit over the head by a giant on the other side.”

‘But that’s just what happens. Open it, and there you are, an immediate witness at the “Creation of Man”. There you are, being judged by Christ in all His glory. There you are, a midget, standing at the toes of a titan. If you entered the world of art, alone, by the back door, as I did – this is the front door, and once you open it you’re in for keeps in the greatest company you can have.’

The Creation of Adam by Michelangelo“There’s no point trying the describe it. Everyone knows how long it took him to paint it – the incredible difficulty of working directly on the moist plaster, put on daily, just enough for the day’s work; how he held the composition in his mind all those years: the thousands of sketches, cartoons, that must have gone into the preparation; the incredible story he had to tell – the Sibyls, the Prophets, the Nude Youths, the Ancestors of Christ, the Miracles of Jerusalem – the accidents and personal torments that beset him…’

Last Judgment_2‘There’s no point in anyone’s saying that this is the greatest, or the second-of-ninetieth-greatest work of art… work of man… Nothing can describe it. But when you’ve seen it, your eyes never forget it. It may slip your mind for years, but one day something great will cross your vision, and immediately your eye will compare it to this ultimate experience of art. Then there’s the “Last Judgment.” Again, no words to tell its writhing, suffering, ecstatic story… There it is!

And the “Moses”, in another church, that eternal visualization of the lawgiver. One almost suspects there was an eleventh commandment: “Let no man see Moses as he was until Michelangelo is born to see him as he will be forever, in the eyes of man”.’

‘There is, however, some solace in the “Moses” that is only a fraction of a greater plan. Michelangelo was human, after all. The great tomb he planned, of which the “Moses” was only a small part, with the “Slaves”, was never finished. He couldn’t quite people the world by himself. But he did leave something for others to do, and the second great sculptor of the Renaissance did the rest… Bernini.’

Michelangelo_Moses

Michelangelo’s Moses, Church of San Pietro, Vincoli, Rome

ON ROME WITHOUT BERNINI
–’At sixteen the fountains of Rome seemed very frivolous, compared with the Sistine Chapel. I keep referring to those sixteen years, but after so many have been piled on top of them, I have to keep reminding myself that, in these chapters, I’m writing about those reactions, and not my older – much older – ones. What it boils down to is another proof of the living quality of all art. It is never static. What surprised you yesterday, you take in your stride tomorrow. What seemed frivolous at sixteen is very profound at forty-five. And that was the case with Bernini’s sculpture. But I know now that Rome is not complete without either of these masters. Rome without Bernini would be as empty as Rome with Michelangelo.’