In 1959, Vincent Price recounted his life-long passion for the art world in I Like What I Know. Here now are some extracts from Price’s visual autobiography, in which a 48-year-old Price reflects back on heading to Europe in July 1928.
ON TOUR 22
‘Europe at seventeen! How or why my parents ever got up the courage to let me go to Europe alone at seventeen, I’ll never know. One reason might have been that the sight of another travel folder could well have snapped their minds. Secondly, I was six feet one and growing fast. A third possibility was s that my four years of constant curiosity and questions about the rest of the world ha run them out of answers. But the most likely reason was my grandmother. As the youngest of her four grandchildren, I had become delightfully and enrichingly close to her. This frosted beauty lived with us more and more, as the limitations of age gradually prohibited her wandering to warmth in Florida and California – or just taking off for the then more economical countries across the sea, as she had always adored to do on her limited income. In addition to my basic love for her, we had a rapport regarding said countries across the sea, little lopsided, to be sure, since it was comprised of endless queries from me and patiently understanding answers from her. That’s why I say she was a likely reason for my departure.
‘For reasons, which escape me, Father decided to sell our summer home, and from the sale, he put a modest sum aside for each of us to use as we would use it. He might as well have bought the boat passage for me, then and there, and saved a transfer of this generous gift. Mine went, with their immediate permission, toward Tour 22… Seven Capitals of Europe, Tour 22. I studied all the twenty-four in the folder, but it was 22, which covered most. Whoever wrote the propaganda for Tour 22 had written it just for me. The sights, which would be covered where my dreams come true. Where other tours included famous battlefields and natural phenomenon, like rocks which look like ladies fast asleep, Tour 22 was heavy on the churches and museums, with just enough enticing treats to mysteries like the Catacombs outside Rome and castles like Chillon.’
ON THE CROSSING
‘I sailed in mid-June at midnight on an old Cunarder. My cabin mate, also on Tour 22, was a youngish man, with the air of a fugitive from the future. I later discovered this was true. Perhaps Pat Frank knew what life wherever he came from was to be, so he left it to se what he could of the world before the ax of incarcerating responsibility cut him down. I’ve often wondered if this trip turned him into the successful novelist he is today. It was great that night, sailing from New York, and while I knew Tour 22 had other members, I would meet next day, that night I was Columbus, vice versa, Marco Polo, young Leonardo – going to see the wonders of the world. I stood on the upper deck like the seagoing hero in the last scene of a movie, with hair awing, watching the magic city disappear as the long gray valleys of the open ocean took us in. The world was not yet “too much with me, late and soon, getting or spending” to lay waste my powers of imagination. I was fully aware of the opportunities of this adventure – half equipped to meet them perhaps – but certain I would stand on this same deck ten weeks later, better than half equipped to meet the world and introduce myself to it, to live and love it. I slept that night like some enchanted creature, waiting to be awakened by a magic word.’
‘The morning came, a morning made to celebrate the creation of the world, the thrill of a ship, the ecstasy of the sea, along with breakfast and the assemblage of Tour 22, a lovely group… ladies of all ages, accents, costumes, and, with all the world of ladies, one thing in common – that ugliest of headgear, the suffocating cloche; that hat which, in the twenties, turned females into warriors of old, cut the chance of conversation right in half, and leveled noble brows to idiocy. The men were standard, in plus fours, slacks, and caps, if not in age. The ranged from my sixteen to eighty-four. But, male and female, boy and girl, we had a purpose and a goal… Europe.’
‘Our keepers were two divergent characters, a professional tour master and ‘Mademoiselle’, a French schoolteacher with barracuda teeth and the most foreign accent real or otherwise, I’d ever heard. We reviewed the tour, made friends, and settled down to enjoy the balmy crossing.’
‘I loved the ocean, loved the ship, and enjoyed the sense of being on my own. But the moment when my foot touched England’s shore… that, I was positive, was the ultimate – the Moment of Truth!… I had arrived in Europe… and in life!’
DID YOU KNOW?
In 1956, Vincent’s one-time cabin mate Pat Frank had his 1956 Cold War thriller novel Forbidden Area, adapted for the debut episode of the anthology series, Playhouse 90, and Vincent starred in it alongside Charlton Heston and Tab Hunter.