Comedy

Vincent Price: Super Boss

Vincent Price: It's lonely at the top. Image: sdfuseilfjkdsk
Vincent Price: It’s lonely at the top. Image: Macabre Drive-In Theatre

Have you ever had a boss who was self-centred, greedy and completely unreasonable?

No, we didn’t think so. Bosses, by nature, are always kind, forgiving and rational.

However, if you are one of the very few who may have had a negative boss/subordinate experience, we recommend the delightful Champagne for Caesar.

Champagne for Caesar is a 1950 comedy with a stellar cast featuring Ronald Colman, Celeste Holm and Vincent Price. With a cast like this, a movie cannot go wrong.

Colman plays a perpetually under-employed intellectual who tries, but is unable, to secure a job as a research surveyor for a national firm, Milady Soap Company (“The Soap that Sanctifies”). This company is ruled by Price who interviews, then greatly offends, Colman.

Colman decides to get even with Price by becoming a contestant on the television quiz show sponsored by Price’s company, Masquerade for Money. This is a show where contestants wear costumes and answer trivia questions for cash prizes.

Colman is delightful in this movie. He’s convincing as a kind-hearted know-it-all who has the brains to score a truckload of Milady Soap Company moola.

Holm, too, is perfectly cast as a beautiful smarty-pants with whom Colman becomes instantly smitten. Holm has a hysterical deadpan delivery that almost seems to wink at us in the audience.

But Vincent Price!

Price is the best part of this film. He’s captivating in the role of an obnoxious, narcissistic idiot – a man who surrounds himself with Yes Men. For example, Price falls into a “thinking” trance whenever someone brings up a distasteful subject, and his Yes Men must reverentially tiptoe around his otherworldly reverie.

Vincent Price (centre, clutching heart) is surrounded by his Yes People. Image: ldsjf eiofj
Price surrounded by his Yes People. Image: wearemoviegeeks.com

No one chews the scenery better than Price, even on a bad day. When Colman starts winning very large sums on the quiz show, Price’s angst is thoroughly satisfying. This is because Colman and Price are making a fool of every bad boss any one of us has ever had.

For instance: In the scene where Price interviews Colman for the position at Milady, we see Price at his oversized desk, flanked by busts of Napoleon and Julius Caesar. Colman, clearly out of place in this pretentious atmosphere, makes a small joke. A snippy Price immediately declares his hatred of humour.

(A person who hates humour?)

Price: “At some given moment you would probably revert to type.”

Colman: “Oh, but surely –”

Price: (anguished) “Why is he interrupting? I didn’t indicate that I had finished talking. Did I? … You are an intellect and I hate intellectual types.”

In another scene, Price murmurs to his secretary, “You do care for me, don’t you? Remind me to ask you later what you’re doing tonight.”

You can see why we desperately want Colman to beat Price at his own (quiz show) game.

However, all of this creates an interesting situation. The more times Colman wins – and becomes famous – on Masquerade for Money, the more successful and famous Milady Soap Company becomes. It’s a public relations Détente.

The movie also raises a side question: Can big business ultimately tame the celebrities it creates?

Even though some of the humour is dated, Champagne for Caesar is a little-known treasure that deserves a wider audience. If you’ve ever had a Bad Boss experience, you might find this film oddly therapeutic.

Champagne for Caesar: Ronald Colman, Celeste Holm, Vincent Price. Directed by Richard B. Whorf. Written by Hans Jacoby and Fred Brady. United Artists Corp., 1950, B&W, 100 mins.

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20 thoughts on “Vincent Price: Super Boss

  1. OMG I have to see this!!! You know I adore Vincent Price… and the cast and story line sound irresistible. I know Price was quintessential in his career but this is one I haven’t heard of. Thanks so much for this wonderful post! Cheers Joey who wishes Vincent Price had been her uncle.

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    1. Jo, I am shocked – shocked! – to discover you haven’t seen this one. When I was working on it I constantly thought of you & what you might think of this movie. I hope you get the chance to see it. Vincent is SO good@

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  2. It would be fun to see Vincent Price in a different kind of movie than the mysteries that I have always seen him in. Ronald Coleman sounds like a great character, too. I haven’t had too many bad bosses, but I think this movie would be very satisfying just the same. Thanks, Ruth!

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    1. This movie is full of great characters. I didn’t even touch on the fab supporting characters – it’s hard not to love them all. Plus, this movie has a lot of funny lines. Really, I don’t know why it’s not more well-known.

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  3. Yes I totally agree with nobody chewing scenery or enjoying themselves on screen like Price did. Love him and no wonder he was so lovable, even in his scariest movies. Great post!

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  4. Every editor I have ever written for was the zenith of kindness, forgiveness and rationality.
    NOT.
    This sounds like a great little-known gem Ruth, thanks for bringing it to my attention – and in such a wonderfully written post too 🙂

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  5. One of my all-time favorite comedies! And you’re right, Vincent is the stand-out in a fine cast. I love the scene where he has the angel Burnbridge on one shoulder and the devilish one on the other. It’s a clever satire on advertising, too…Milady Soap–the soap that sanctifies!

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    1. Ha ha! Yes, that is a great scene with the tiny angel + tiny devil on each shoulder. Vincent Price is pure delight in this film.

      Rick, why isn’t this film more well known? It’s a terrific comedy that’s just as timely now as it was then.

      Like

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