It’s a wonderful coincidence… Peter Cushing was born on May 26 and, today, May 27, we celebrate Vincent Price (1911-1993) and Christopher Lee (born in 1922). Three horror icons, contemporaries, sharing birthdays on two consecutive dates. Even better, the three men were good friends.
Vincent Price played literate, highbrow villains and haunted men who wore their doom like penance. He also enjoyed sending up his roles and did so often, with glee. In a Frankenstein register, Price played the patchworked, retrofitted Dr. Phibes, and he was The Inventor who put Johnny Depp’s Edward Scissorhands together.
Of his meeting Christopher Lee in 1968, Price said, “I had heard he was very pompous, and I was really a little worried about meeting him. Well, we took one look at each other and started laughing… We find each other hysterically funny.”
Christopher Lee had a similar experience a dozen years earlier meeting Peter Cushing when he reported to the set of The Curse of Frankenstein. Lee wrote, “Our very first encounter began with me storming into his dressing-room and announcing in petulant tones, ‘I haven’t got any lines!’ He looked up, his mouth twitched and he said dryly, ‘You’re lucky. I’ve read the script.”
With that, the two men were instant and permanent friends.
It was a hard-working but happy set. “I was never so content”, Lee said. He would entertain the crew singing opera while encased in head-to-foot monster bandages. Playing the Frankenstein Monster launched Lee on a superlative career as a movie villain, much like it had done his friend and neighbor, the elderly Boris Karloff. There is no evidence the two men ever discussed the role they shared, but the Frankenstein Monster was certainly good to both of them.
Lee, a robust 86 years old, is still very active and very much in demand. Among the blockbusters he appeared in recently, he played Count Dooku, closing out the Star Wars series that his old friend Peter Cushing had helped launch.
Happy Birthday, Mr. Lee!
Quotes are from Vincent Price, A Daughter’s Biography by Victoria Price, and Christopher Lee’s very entertaining autobiography, Tall, Dark and Gruesome, still available from Midnight Marquee Press. A new, reworked version is available, now called Lord of Misrule: The Autobiography of Christopher Lee.
Christopher Lee sings! One of several clips available on YouTube.