My First Favorite Sunglasses – On Vincent Price and Johnny Depp


Vincent Price as a comic book character sporting Richardson style sunglasses.

The first sunglasses I ever especially noticed in a film were those worn by Vincent Price in Tomb of Ligeia. It was the last in Roger Corman’s series of Poe adaptations.

I thought Price was wearing the coolest looking outfit I’d ever seen. It was probably the first time I’d ever taken note of “fashion” in any way. I must have been 6 or 7 years old. The settings were so opulent and Price projected a look that I wanted to project. I imagined myself sweeping around a Gothic abbey with a hot wife and haunted cat, too. It seemed like The Life.

Lobby card for Roger Corman’s Tomb of Ligeia.

I never stopped thinking his look was awesome. At some point when I was more or less adult I bought a similar 19th Century pair and put my prescription in. It was a sort of benchmark vintage eyewear moment. I’ll tell you more about those particular sunglasses and this style’s history some other time, but here they are:

The first version of this type of frame I ever purchased.

I never thought that look had any other admirers. I eventually went to film school and nobody ever mentioned the visual sensibility of those Corman films, much less costume design. Of course Vincent Price had fans but I never especially heard him accused of looking cool.

But there was someone else: Tim Burton. He was a huge Vincent Price fan and famously got Price to star in his student film. When Burton became the hottest director in Hollywood he gave Price his last role with Johnny Depp in Edward Scissorhands.

More recently he revived Vincent’s amazing Tomb of Ligeia look – complete with cool sunglasses – in Dark Shadows, which also starred Depp.

Poster for Tim Burton retrospective featuring Johnny Depp channeling Vincent Price.

When I saw the movie posters I felt strangely moved. The 6 year old me that still lives inside the current me smiled. His sense of cool had finally been validated by the grown-ups.

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