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.’

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