In order to understand the mustache of The King of Horror or The Merchant of Menace we must first take a look at his early acting career.
It all started with the theater, as was the way with most actors of the time, and it was a very successful start to his career so naturally he wanted to amp up his resume a bit. In 1938 he went to Hollywood and landed his first role in the movie “Service de Luxe”. Not a notable movie by any means, Vincent even thought the movie to be a complete failure upon release, it was not the start he wanted on screen.
Apparently going from the stage to screen is a tricky move as it renders differently, Vincent understood this concept and went to take acting lessons. A very valuable venture on his part even though he temporarily put his acting on hold.
He came back to Hollywood a new man on a mission. He knew that he needed to take hold of his own career and what better way to do so than to emulate the ones who influence you the most. It was John Barrymore (grandfather to Drew Barrymore) and Ronald Coleman who were Price’s film idols and coincidentally (or not), the men both sported the pencil thin moustache.
Price took their looks as a cue on how to create your own character within the actor that stood him apart from other actors to give him an edge. He grew his now famous moustache, headed into Hollywood with his head held high and by some miraculous miracle it worked.
Although the moustache is quintessential Vincent Price, he did not always have it once he grew it for the first time. It was an on-again off-again love affair that did not stick until 1950s when we are hard pressed to find an image of Vincent without a moustache at all. I’m not saying it’s impossible, just not a common look for Vincent at that point in his life. The staying power of the moustache coincides with his career turning primarily toward horror, while his earlier career was a mixed bag of genres, even playing Sir Walter Raleigh in “The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex”, as well as the Duke of Clarence in “Tower of London” for all you Tudor lovers.
So, was it the man or the moustache that created The King of Horror? We shall never truly know but the man is surely something less without his signature moustache that gave him his notable fame.
His last full-length feature film was Tim Burton’s “Edward Scissorhands” where the moustache was still ever-present in its natural greying glory, no wonder considering Price was 79 years old while filming. The filming for his role in the movie was cut short as Price was suffering from Parkinson’s Disease along with lung cancer which led to his eventual death on October 25, 1993 after years of suffering.