Is there something particularly scary about the Zodiac sign Gemini? I should know, as I am one, but this weekend is the horror festival of birthdays. You see that photograph above? Well all of those frightening men are having their birthdays this weekend, two of them today! Yesterday, May 26th, was the 94th birthday of the late great Peter Cushing (Lower right), with whom I appeared in Frankenstein's Reason For Living. Tuesday, May 29th, is the 92nd birthday of my dear old chum, horror icon Guy Thanatos (Lower left), with whom I appeared in East vs. West and Doctor Scary. (I've never before noticed how much Guy looks like Little Douglas would look if Douglas were talented.) And today, May 27th, is the birthdays of both Vincent Price (Upper right), with whom I appeared in The Haunting of Horrible House, and Christopher Lee (Upper left), with whom I appeared in Bats in My Belfry. (Peter Cushing was in that one also.) Were Vincent still alive, he would be 96, while Christopher, the infant of the group, is alive and happily 85 today.
That amazing picture was taken for the one and only movie when all four of these wonderful horror icons appeared together in the same picture. Rather than describe it to you myself, allow me to insert here a couple paragraphs from Guy's forthcoming autobiography, My Gruesome Life, ghost written by Little Douglas himself.
I made one film that year, Habitation of the Hideous, with Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Vincent Price and I finally all together, not merely in the same movie, but in the same scenes, demonstrating the chemistry that had kept us apart for decades. In the picture, a young couple, played by Steve Guttenberg and Larraine Newman, during a violent rainstorm, stumble into a spooky old house inhabited by the four of us, in what looks to me like a four-way gay marriage, although I don’t think that’s what the writer, if there was one, had in mind. But I’ll be damned if I know why these three old men and mature-but-perky me are sharing a house.
We stalk about, menacing them for seventy-five minutes, and then morning comes and they leave. There was next to no script, plot or story. There was certainly no budget or point, and my check, when it came, bounced.
One critic who shall be nameless complained that: "This elderly quartet is about as menacing as a newborn kitten. Lee has his resonant voice trying in vain to give a swirl to incredibly flat dialogue, Cushing is supremely unconcerned with the lackadaisical goings on and seems to be floating in his own private world, Price chews the scenery apparently from hunger, and Guy Thanatos hasn’t got enough to do to rise even to his usual level of awful, and is merely bad. Was there really a time we were scared by these grandiose grandfathers?" After begging us for years to make a movie together, our fans responded to our granting their fondest wish by staying home and ignoring this picture. Would you care to explain to me why you skipped it?
As it happens, May 29th is also my birthday, more on that on Tuesday's flogging, and --- What's that Douglas? Tuesday is your birthday too? I know that. But you're not a celebrity, so who gives a bat's fart? As I was saying before Little Douglas made his pathetic bid for attention, that one year, Vinnie, Pete, Chris, and I all celebrated together. (Guy was in England at the time, making a tremendously bad movie.) This picture was taken at that party, right before I shagged the three of them, in the most horrifying orgy since the Emperor Caligula died.
How coincidental is it that Vinnie and Chris have the same birthday? The two men are nothing alike, apart from being immensely tall, tremendously talented, and possessed of magnificent voices. I think this picture shows just how utterly dissimilar they are.
I am sometimes asked if Vincent was gay. To quote a famous woman with a name quite similar to mine: "Well, he never sucked my dick." In his later years, the thrice-married, father of two Vincent was known to have admitted to being bisexual, which I'm sure was a huge shock to any fans who had seen his campy performances, observed his fey personal style, listened to him lecture on art, or watched him in a kitchen, brandishing his whisk. All I know is that when he was rehearsing his famous one-man show as Oscar Wilde, the one suggestion his director and every critic gave him was "Butch up!" But to address that question, here's a photograph that was clearly taken just as Vincent was preparing to give Peter Lorre head. And I know Peter was straight!
In addition to movies, Vinnie did a tremendous amount of TV, by which I mean television, not transvestites, though I wouldn't rule them out either. This lovely picture is of Vincent and Patricia Routledge, in the scariest episode of Keeping Up Appearances ever, which is odd, given that that wonderful series started right around the time Vinnie passed away.
Anyway, Vincent was a wonderful, intelligent, sophisticated man, a great actor, a ham who did it with style and class, and a warm man whom, it was often said, could make friends with anybody. Talk about tolerant, the man even got along with Delores Delgado, and even Will Rogers despised that hateful sow. Oh, and Vinnie was incredibly funny as well.
Hard as it is to believe from his long career playing villains, and mean, cutting, severe, nasty people with short tempers, Christopher Lee is very funny offscreen also. He's particularly known for his amazing impression of Cher. Here are three different pictures taken over the decades, of Lee doing his Cher impersonation. Chris is the scariest tranny on the planet.
Christopher Lee is also one of the smartest men in movies. He speaks 7 languages, and reads several more. Most actors today can barely speak even one. He has actually appeared in more movies than any other big star. Check out his IMDb resume. His film list is almost 300 movies. Over the last decade, he has appeared in Sleepy Hollow, two Star Wars movies, all three Lord of the Rings films, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and The Corpse Bride. That is eight box office hits in a row! That's better than Harrison Ford in the 1980s. He's the biggest star in the world! And right now, he's shooting the Sondheim musical, Sweeney Todd, The Demon Barber of Fleet. Did I mention he sings? And not just American Idol pop stuff. Lee is a full-on operatic bass, and has sung in operas all over the world, in those 7 languages he sings. And you should hear him beatbox!
And as if that's not enough, he's also a war hero. During World War II (You may have read about WWII. It was in all the papers, and I think they made a movie about it.) he was a spy for British Intelligence, not a movie spy; the real thing. The man IS James Bond! He risked his life going undercover, behind enemy lines. Most of his war record is still classified. One can imagine how amused he must have been when he played a Bond villain in The Man With the Golden Gun, opposite the pathetic Roger Moore, since Lee is the genuine article. I don't know how he kept a straight face.
Here's another lovely picture of him, from 1980:
Hold on. Douglas, is that you in that picture with Chris? I do wish you'd stop intruding into my postings. How is it that these days, you look a whole lot older and far less attractive than you do in that picture, while Chris, at 85, still looks great? When did you pass him?
No matter. You know, sometimes people think that horror stars aren't really fine actors, like Olivier and Brando and Pauly Shore. But Peter Cushing was a wonderful actor (As Osric, he STEALS the movie of Hamlet away from Olivier completely!), Vincent Price was peerless, and Chris Lee (Who is also in Hamlet by the way.) could teach everyone how it is done.
For that matter, Peter Lorre and Boris Karloff were masters as well. German genius playwright Bertolt Brecht said many times that Peter Lorre was his favorite actor in the world, and he wrote A Man's a Man just for him. (What a redundantly titled play. The sequel? More of the Bleeding Obvious.) Boris is one of my ex-husbands, no matter what his family says. (Co-incidentally, Lee has played my third husband, Count Vlad Tepes, in more than ten movies. The man wants me so badly that he keeps playing my tragic ex-hubby just so he can go on pretending he's married to me.) Boris was a terrific actor, and one of the founders of the Screen Actors Guild. His SAG card number was a single digit. Where did the idea that horror stars were lousy actors come from?
This lovely shot is of Bela Lugosi's little known interpretation of Stanley Kowalski in summer stock. I believe that Tennessee Williams suggested they retitle that production, A Streetcar Named Hambone! I toured in Streetcar (The play, not in a streetcar - I think.) in the 1980s, opposite Bob Denver as Stanley, and it was said that next to Lugosi's Stanley, Bob's Stanley was Tony-worthy. (Although, when questioned, they did tend to admit they meant worthy of Toni Tennielle.)
Happy Birthday Chris. And Pete,Vinnie, and Guy, wherever you are, natal felicitations to you too. Thanks for the scares. They don't make 'em like you anymore.