Vincent Price, Diary Of A Madman, Lowell Grant, Fred Sexton, The Maltese Falcon, & The Black Dahlia

Written by Joe D on September 12th, 2007

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Once again inspired by the wonderful blog Cinebeats I am posting something I have been wanting to write about for some time. Vincent Price! The master of 60’s horror, Roger Corman’s Poe-etic icon, mad scientist, mad magician, mad sculptor, reincarnated warlock, horny Inquisitor, bon vivant, gourmand, art connoisseur extrodinare! A Renaissance Man, Lover Of Laura, Drinker of Malmsey. The Last Man On Earth.
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The Man

Where to begin? OK some years back I was showing my visiting sister-in-law the sights of Southern california. We were in Santa Monica and stopped into a vintage clothing store. I found a tuxedo jacket that looked cool and purchased it for $10. A little while later back at my house my sis-in law was checking out the jacket. She pulled an inside pocket out and there was a label, it said this jacket had been custom made for Mr. Vincent Price!
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The Jacket

The date of creation was printed as well. July 20, 1969. That’s the day that Neil Armstrong landed on the moon. I happen to remember this because it’s also my birthday( the day not the year) .
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The Label

I was pleasantly surprised to say the least having grown up a fan of V. P. Cut to about one year ago. There is a deserted cement slab and foundation around the corner from my house. I live in Echo Park. I’ve always wondered about it, it’s been like that for as long as I’ve been here (15 years). One day I was speaking to a neighbor, he’s an older guy maybe 70 or so named Fred. He told me the story of the cement slab. It was a house, lived in by his friend a sculptor named Lowell Grant. Fred used to help Lowell instal sculptures around L.A.
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Where the Sculptor Lived and Died

One day in the 70’s there was a terrific explosion! Lowell’s kiln exploded, killing him and burning down his house which has remained vacant to this day. You can see it in the movie Mi Vida Loca, a gang hangs out there. I googled the name Lowell Grant and I got an IMDB hit. Lowell had made sculptures for a Vincent Price movie back in 1963 Diary Of A Madman.
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Based on a Guy de Maupassant story about an invisible creature called a Horla that inhabits humans and forces them to commit horrible murders. I saw it when I was a kid and thought it was pretty scary but I found a VHS recently and it’s not that great. It was produced by Robert E. Kent and Edward Small, I guess they were trying to cash in on the success of other Vincent Price Horror films, these two guys finished up their careers with the exploitation flick The Christine Jorgenson Story (more about that in a later post).
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Creation Of A Mad Sculptor

I am going to photograph some of Lowell’s public art and post the pictures one of these days.
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Anyway back to V.P. , he has a strange connection to the famous Black Dahlia murder case. This case has fascinated people for years and I consider The Black Dahlia the spirit of Los Angeles, the muse to many creators, a human sacrifice to the arcane supernatural mechanisms at work just beneath the surface of the City.
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The Black Dahlia

I use her as a character in my film One Night With You. Anyway VP operated an art gallery in Beverly Hills in 1943/44. He exhibited works by Man Ray among others. Man Ray was a friend to Dr. George Hodel, a major suspect in the Black Dahlia Murder.

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Dr. George Hodel

Price’s friend and fellow art maven Frank Perls gave a show to Fred Sexton a sculptor who made the Maltese Falcon statue for Hodel crony John Huston.
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The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of

Sexton lived at Hodel ’s creepy lair on Franklin Ave. and is considered a co-suspect by Hodel’s son who wrote a book about the case. The house was bugged by the LAPD back in the early 50’s, transcriptions of the wire recordings show Dr. Hodel discussing Vincent Price with someone.
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Lair of The Black Dahlia Killer

Steve Hodel’s book is called Black Dahlia Avenger and now there is a new book called Exquisite Corpse about the Surrealist aspect to the crime and all the Hollywood connections to it. Check out these websites for fascinating information on the crime and the web of connective tissue that emantes from it. http://www.blackdahliaavenger.com/
http://exquisitecorpsebook.blogspot.com/