Scowl In The Family

(Chapter 17 excised from Mark Twain’s Autobiography 1910-2010)


Creative work can be a tough business. Take my good friend Vincent Price… In 1970 he had the chance to change his career, and get away from his horror-film image. Vincent was tired of pimply-faced teens coming up to him and saying they loved to be scared by him, he wanted mainstream respect. He had been hired by producer Norman Lear to play a character named Archie Bunker in the ground-breaking new television series "All in the Family." It was going to be controversial and give Vincent a whole new image. 

Except it wasn't working out. I visited the set and witnessed Vincent wrestling with his performance. "Meaathead, you are a witless fool!" he was shouting at a young actor named Rob Reiner. "Your whole generation tries my patience with its inability to comprehend the true forces that underpin this Universe!" "Oh, Archie!" said Jean Stapleton, in a effort to save the scene.

"Vincent, could you please be less Shakespearean and sinister," said the director, but it was obvious Vincent couldn't do it. Playing a blue-collar working-class stiff from Queens just wasn't in his vocabulary, and he was soon replaced with Carroll O'Connor. He didn't give up, though, and a few years later had managed to be cast as the father in a retro sitcom called "Happy Days." That didn't work out either, and he was replaced by the more amiable Tom Bosley. "I'm afraid you're stuck with murdering and torturing people, Vincent," I consoled him.