Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Cyfres y Ceirw II: Vincent Price


Now as always, Wales dominates the ham section of the acting profession. Anthony Hopkins, Richard Burton, Ray Milland, Richard Coyle - they all had to come from somewhere, I'm afraid, and that somewhere was Vincent Price.

Price's career as an actor, cook, art-collector and TV gobshite is all too well-known, but his humble background, political activism and sheer Welshness are not.

Born Fychan ap Rhys in Bethesda to Rhys and Falmai ap Rhys, Price spent his childhood training to follow his father into the sin-eating business. This prepared him well for his later role in The Witchfinder General and various adverts.

A defining moment, however, came during his preparations for the Bethesda Cwyniad - the local Welsh-language freestyle toasting and dissing sessions. He used the hwntw expression "chimod" to rhyme with "Ichabod" during a bravura dismissal of Archdruid Cynan, and was booed off the chapel benches by the local Gog separatists.

Although there is no proof of this, Cynan incited the local bigots to drive Price away from the well where his family had dwelt for generations - partly in jealousy over the young man's courtship of Dolgellau harp diva and ankle-model Telynores Dwyryd, or so it's said.

This made Price a doughty champion of Welsh national unity and an opponent of racial intolerance, even when it was entirely justified.

He fled south to the easygoing port city of Tenby, where he eked out a living as a crwth-player with a street jazz combo and developed his interest in cookery by slapping Welsh cakes for the demimondaines at Maison Griff's all-night speakeasy - the only place you could get a drink in Pembrokeshire in those days, even a cup of tea.

Fate grabbed Price by the danglers once again when the US Fleet steamed into harbour, heralding Wales’s entry into the Second World War on the Allied side.

A group of Calvinist street toughs had marked his card over the "hot" version of "Arglwydd Dyma Fi" he'd performed at a Griff jam session one crazy night, so he stowed away on a US frigate heading for Havana to pick up cigars for Mr Churchill.

Price was discovered near the Azores, but his cooking and rhyming skills, plus his ability to see U-boats underwater, soon had him shoot up the ratings. By the time the ship had docked in New York, Price was a Senior Captain - which meant he not only ran the ship itself but had the use of another when his was being mended.

A glorious naval career followed, but Price showed his principles once again by resigning his commission when President Truman refused to carry the war to its logical conclusion and free Wales from English occupation.

Instead, he sold his medals to fund a Broadway musical version of Caradog Pritchard's "Un Nos Ola Leuad" called "Mam!". Literally no one came to see it, which allowed him to recycle much of the material in a concert work for male voice choir and crwth that he toured around clubs in LA.

Michael Jackson loved the piece so much that he turned it into the hit single "Thriller". Price, ever the crusader against racism, praised Jackson for giving so many prominent parts to black people in the video, and agreed to play a cameo part. That, as they, is the measure of the man - composer, warrior, lover, short-order chef and Welsh.

10 comments:

Gorilla Bananas said...

The Welsh must have thought Vincent was gay because of his camp voice, when of course he was nothing of the sort. The men of rugby-playing nations are hypersensitive about that kind of thing. Tom Jones dared not refuse any woman for fear she might think he was a poof.

Ordovicius said...

The Welsh must have thought Vincent was gay because of his camp voice

Camp voice??? You've clearly never been to Benllech!

No Good Boyo said...

Ordo's right, GB, the classic Gog accent is squeaky and nasal enough, but mutuates into something Sylvester would have been proud of once you cross the Menai Straits. Benllech is the centre of Anglesey gayness, given its hordes of Scouse pensioners and Young Farmers looking for a good time. Something to do with the beach, apparently. Puts people in mind of Rio. You'd probably be safe there, as the depraved locals would think you're in a Mardi Gras costume. Every day is fiesta in Benllech.

M C Ward said...

Your biography of the boy Vinnie differs substantively from that of Wikipedia, proving one's long-held suspicion that the latter should be taken with a healthy pinch of salt. Dickie Burton had a lovely voice, though, didn't he?

No Good Boyo said...

The Burt had a lovely everything. Even his mac in The Spy Who Came in From the Cold was great. I'd have happily mucked about with Liz Taylor twice as well. If he were still alive Burton would be my choice to play Philip Madoc in Madoc: The Movie. Philip Madoc is the greatest living bearded Welsh actor, unless the Bumphries bloke on Gorilla Bananas's blog is similarly endowed. He'll go far.

Wikipedia is all cock and can't even spell -pædia. It will soon be superceded by this lot:

http://dickipedia.org/index.php?title=Main_Page

Gorilla Bananas said...

Well Wiki can't be that bad because they largely confirm what you say about Benllech. I'm also sure that Anglesey was the cradle Welsh druidism, which makes it doubly shameful that one of its towns should be taken over by foreigners. Is there nothing sacred left in Wales?

david santos said...

Hello, no good boyo,
Very good posting, thank you.

I wish you a good end of 2007 and a good year of 2008.

The Hitch said...

Fucking hell!
He was Welsh?
I knew he was a camp cunt , BUT WELSH?
*shakes head*
Next thing You will be telling me Rock Hudson was gay (and Welsh).

No Good Boyo said...

GB, looks like Wikipedia got it about right. One of their few entries not written by a fat beared American Lara Croft fan, by the look of it. The description of Benllech isn't far off for much of eastern Anglesey, in truth. The bourgeois nationalists of Plaid Cymru see these English types and think: "settlers". We in the Cymru Rouge think: "hostages".

Hitch, Rock was as Welsh as a man in a tall black hat rowing a coracle with a leek for a paddle up the Thames to the Tower of London, waving a daffodil at it and yelling "!Welsh!". Can't comment on his dalliances, but on the whole we Welsh don't have sexuality we just have sex. What we have it with is mere detail, and the legal restrictions nought but commentary.

Old Holborn - bitter and twisted said...

It is absolutely amazing that anybody employed a Welsh. They are known as Morlocks and are ALL on incapacity benefit. Hairy palmed dwarves, all of them