The Price of Fame (Encouragement for Creators)

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He was an accomplished actor of both stage and film, a soft-spoken gentleman with refined features, a distinctive voice, and an air of gentility. He was a well-travelled connoisseur of fine wine and food, who enjoyed collecting interesting and unusual recipes from the places he visited, a hobby that led to his writing three cookbooks. He had a degree in art history, a subject about which he frequently lectured and wrote books.

He established himself as an actor in the 1944 film noir classic Laura, starring Gene Tierney; he gave voice to the radio show crime fighter Simon Templar in The Saint; he was a leading man in several Hollywood films, including The House of the Seven Gables and Dragonwyck; he portrayed such famous historical figures as Joseph Smith, Prince Albert, Richard III and Sir walter Raleigh; he costarred with such A-list actors as Gregory Peck, Ronald Coleman, Ava Gardner, Tyrone Power, and Charles Laughton; he played priests and prosecutors, doctors and dandies. Imagine his shock, when Vincent Price suddenly found himself typecast as a villain, and trapped in horror movie roles!

Vincent Leonard Price, Jr. was born in Saint Louis, Missouri in 1911. He was the offspring of a prosperous and prominent family of entrepreneurs: his grandfather, Vincent Clarence, secured the family fortune, when he invented “Dr. Price’s Baking Powder,” the first cream of tartar baking powder; and his father, Vincent Leonard, Sr., was the president of the National Candy Company. Vincent Price graduated from Yale University, where he wrote for the campus humor magazine, The Yale Record. After teaching for a year, he entered the University of London, intending to work on his Master’s degree, but was lured away by the call of the theatre.

Ultimately, Price appeared on stage, television, radio, and in over one hundred films. He enjoyed a career that lasted over fifty years, and spanned the genres of film noir, drama, mystery, thriller, comedy and horror. And he has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame: one for motion pictures, one for television. He was an intelligent and refined performer, a multi-talented actor who ended up starring in an almost uninterrupted string of horror films and TV shows, starting with House of Wax in 1953, and lasting until about 1983. How did Price feel about playing bloodthirsty madmen for over a quarter of a century? He took it all in stride, making the most of each and every role, enjoying himself and — dare we say it? — laughing all the way to the bank!

Sometimes our talents take us places we never dreamed or expected. It may not be exactly what we planned, perhaps not even what we trained for, but we need to make the most of every opportunity — or setback. In other words, if life gives you lemons, make lemonade.

Flourish despite your circumstances — and bloom where you’re planted. Price did this. He didn’t simply resign himself to acting in horror movies; he took ownership of each role, brought all his talent to the table, elevated the genre to an art form, and went down in history as The Master of the Macabre. If we were going to be scared to death, we’d want Vincent Price, suave and sophisticated, to do the scaring. And he did, in House of Usher, The Pit and the Pendulum, The TinglerThe Bat and many other movies.

“Live wisely … and make the most of every opportunity.” (Colossians 4:5 NLT) “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28 NIV)

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In the Wake of Rejection (Encouragement for Creators)

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New York book publishers in the early 1960s thought the idea stank — like old fish and seaweed — and that as a writer, Ricou Browning was wet behind the ears. And he actually was, both figuratively and literally. Browning was an underwater cinematographer and stuntman in his early thirties, who had no previous writing experience. But in a splash of sheer inspiration, Browning got a great idea for a novel. At least, he thought it was great. Book editors at practically every publishing company, however, thought he was “all wet.”

Browning was born in Fort Pierce, Florida on November 23, 1930. As a child he spent most of his time playing on the beach, and grew up do be an accomplished swimmer and diver. By the time he was 20, Browning was producing elaborate underwater shows for various theme parks. By the time he was 24, Hollywood had discovered him.

Hollywood had a history of making bankable stars out of excellent swimmers. In the early 1930s, two Olympic Gold-medalists dived into film roles that made them box office attractions. Buster Crabbe surfaced in cliffhanger movie serials, playing the seminal space heroes Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers. Johnny Weissmuller swung into action as Tarzan of the Apes, making 12 crowd-pleasing motion pictures before his expanding waistline forced him to hang up his loin cloth. (Not to worry, though, because savvy film producers simply clothed Weissmuller in a safari outfit, and started making a slew of Jungle Jim movies.)

And throughout the 1940s and 50s, champion swimmer Esther Williams starred in flood of “aquamusicals,” which featured elaborate sequences of diving and synchronized swimming.

Following in the wake of these three great swimmers-turned-actors, Ricou Browning landed his own starring role … well, sort of … portraying the title character in Universal Studio’s classic horror movie The Creature from the Black Lagoon. Hey, it was good money, and the film spawned two sequels which kept Browning swimming in the dough — as well as the large fish tank used to film all the creepy underwater sequences. Unfortunately for Browning, no one could recognize him under the green latex gills and fins.

By 1960, Browning was directing and/or filming the underwater sequences for television shows such as Sea Hunt (with Lloyd Bridges) and The Aquanauts. But the young man had even greater creative aspirations. One day, while watching an episode of the ever-popular series Lassie with his kids, Browning started sloshing around a highly original concept in his waterlogged brain, for an adventure tale about an “aquatic Lassie.” He took his ideas to a good friend, and together the two men wrote a novel … which nobody wanted to publish. Period.

That might have been the end of the story, had Browning not bumped into his old boss, movie and television producer Ivan Tors. Browning had worked with Tors on Sea Hunt, and figured he’d found a fellow with whom he could drown his sorrows; but after Browning explained his “novel idea” to Tors, the Hollywood producer immediately suggested they turn the unpublished book into a movie.

Tors was an innovator, as evidenced by such successful television series as Science Fiction Theatre, in 1955, and a 1961 show called Ripcord, which ultimately popularized skydiving as an extreme leisure sport. Then, too, Tors was a huge animal-lover. He’d eventually create and produce two long-running TV shows, one about a vet in Africa, Daktari, and one about a boy and his bear, Gentle Ben. So the producer was eager to sink some time and money into the heartwarming story of … a boy and his dolphin.

Flipper, the novel nobody wanted to publish, soon became Flipper, the motion picture. The movie was a box-office hit, and earned a sequel less than a year later, quickly followed (in 1964) by a television show that lasted 3 seasons and 88 episodes. In fact, Tors ended the show while it was still a ratings hit, only because he wanted to pursue other projects. But not before Flipper (played by a bottlenose dolphin named Mitzi) helped its creators to soak up lots of cash, through licensing deals that included lunch boxes, coloring books, toys, and games.

Got a novel idea? Have faith and stick with it.

Browning (left) and Mitzi’s trainer, Ric O’Feldman, with “Flipper.”

Has someone tried to convince you, regarding your dreams, that you’re all wet? If their resistance to your work smells a little fishy, well, perhaps it is. Think of all the people who initially faced rejection, only to make a big splash later, in writing, illustrating, singing, acting, inventing, innovating and, in general, creating. So keep on treading the often turbulent waters of life and success. Swim with the “dolphins,” gentle and intelligent; and look out for the sharks.

“When you go through deep waters and great trouble, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown! When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up—the flames will not consume you.” (Isaiah 43:2 TLB)

It’s okay. I’m really just a dolphin, ma’am.
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