Dennis Price

One of the great British Film Stars of the Forties and Fifties, his greatest achievement was as the elegant killer in Ealing Studios’ Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949). His portayal of Louis Mazzini, murdering his way through the upper-class family the d’Ascoynes (all played by Alec Guinness), was just perfect as he combined his polite and well mannered style which masked a clinical and calculating killer

Kind Hearts and Coronets

It’s the film he is best remembered. Alec Guinness seemed to get the plaudits for his eight-role display but in my view – and I have said this often – Dennis Price is the real star who narrates the story and appears in nearly every frame of the film.

What a performance – deserving of an Oscar in my view

I now have a biography of Dennis Price, who was “very nearly Britain’s biggest film star.” Born into an upper-class family who expected him to enter either the Army or the Church, he broke away in the mid-30’s, getting himself sent down from Worcester College, Oxford, and got into films as an extra.

The Biography is very well researched and is well written and very detailed and well worth buying – The Authors are Elaine Parker and Gareth Owen and I say Thank You to both of them, for the work they have put into this first class book

After an early star role for the visionary director Michael Powell in A Canterbury Tale (1944), he starred in several of the popular Gainsborough melodramas—but unlike James Mason and Stewart Granger, they did not lead him to Hollywood.

As it turned out the film The Bad Lord Byron (1948), in which he starred as the scandalous poet and had high hopes for, was a critical and commercial disaster.

He played a murderer in the film ‘Holiday Camp’ another favourite of mine – and that was a film that was successful and had quite a string of well known actors.

By the mid-50’s, Dennis Price was drinking heavily, had been messily divorced, declared bankrupt and was largely starring in B features; it all led to an unsuccessful suicide attempt.

He turned to comedy to revive his career, becoming a member of the Boulting Brothers’ company (Private’s ProgressI’m All Right Jack) and turning up on radio, such as guest spots on The Goon Show and a sitcom.

In 1966, Dennis Price’s fortunes seemed to be restored when he starred as Jeeves in the BBC’s The World of Wooster, and then he went bankrupt again, and left Britain to live in tax exile on the tiny Channel Island of Sark which limited his later appearances/

There was a last good role as a critic called Hector Snipe in the splendid Theatre of Blood (1973), led on by Diana Rigg to being butchered by Vincent Price; but that year, he died in a public ward in a Guernsey hospital from cirrhosis of the liver.

ABOVE – Dennis Price and Joan Rice in ‘The Horror of Frankenstein’ 1970

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