||This article includes a list of references, but its sources remain unclear because it has insufficient inline citations. (May 2013)|
|Born||Peter Wilton Cushing
26 May 1913
Kenley, Surrey, England, United Kingdom
|Died||11 August 1994
|Cause of death||Prostate cancer|
|Alma mater||Guildhall School of Music and Drama|
|Home town||Purley, Surrey|
|Spouse(s)||Violet Helene Beck (8 February 1905 – 14 January 1971) (m. 1943–71) (her death)|
|Parents||George Edward and Nellie Maria (née King) Cushing|
|Awards||British Academy Television Award for Best Actor (1956)|
Peter Wilton Cushing, OBE (26 May 1913 – 11 August 1994) was an English actor known for his many appearances in Hammer Films, in which he played the sinister scientist Baron Frankenstein, Sherlock Holmes and the vampire hunter Dr. Van Helsing, among many other roles. He appeared frequently opposite Christopher Lee, and occasionally Vincent Price. A familiar face on both sides of the Atlantic, Cushing's best-known roles outside the Hammer productions include Grand Moff Tarkin in Star Wars (1977) and Dr. Who in Dr. Who and the Daleks (1965) and Daleks – Invasion Earth: 2150 A.D. (1966), films based on the Doctor Who television series.
Early life and career
Cushing was born in Kenley, Surrey, the second son of George Edward Cushing and Nellie Maria (née King) Cushing. Shortly after his birth, the family moved to Dulwich, South London. After the end of the First World War, they returned close to Kenley; this time to neighbouring Purley, Surrey, where in 1926 his quantity surveyor father built Clearview, an Art Deco house on St James Road. It was here that Cushing remained until early adulthood.
Educated at Shoreham College, Cushing left his first job as a surveyor's assistant to take up a scholarship at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. After working in repertory theatre in Worthing, Sussex, he left for Hollywood in 1939, debuting in The Man in the Iron Mask later that year, before returning to England in 1941 after appearing in several films. In one, A Chump at Oxford (1940), he appeared opposite Laurel and Hardy. His first major film role was that of Osric in Laurence Olivier's Hamlet (1948).
In the 1950s, he worked in television, notably as Winston Smith in the BBC's 1954 adaptation of the George Orwell novel Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949), scripted by Nigel Kneale. Cushing was highly praised for his performance, although he considered his acting in the surviving version of the broadcast — it was performed live twice in one week, then a common practice, and only the second version exists in the archives — to be inferior to the first.
Among other TV appearances, Cushing starred as Fitzwilliam Darcy in the BBC's production of Pride and Prejudice (1952), as King Richard II in Richard of Bordeaux (1955), and as Raan, a Prospero-like character, in "Missing Link" (1975), an episode of Space: 1999. He also appeared in The Avengers and its successor series, The New Avengers. In 1956, he received the British Academy Television Award for Best Actor.
Hammer Horror and Doctor Who
Cushing is well known for playing Baron Victor Frankenstein and Professor Van Helsing in a long series of horror films produced by Hammer Film Productions in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. He was often cast alongside Christopher Lee, who became his best friend. His first appearances in his two most famous roles were in Terence Fisher's films The Curse of Frankenstein (1957) and Dracula (1958). He later said that his career decisions entailed selecting roles where he knew that he would be accepted by the audience. "Who wants to see me as Hamlet? Very few. But millions want to see me as Frankenstein, so that's the one I do."
Cushing also played Sherlock Holmes many times, originally in Hammer's The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959), the first Holmes adaptation to be filmed in colour. This was followed by a performance in 16 episodes of the BBC series Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes (1968), of which only six episodes survive. Cushing reprised the role, now playing the detective in old age, in The Masks of Death (1984) for Channel 4.
In the mid-1960s, Cushing played Dr. Who in two films (Dr. Who and the Daleks and Daleks – Invasion Earth: 2150 A.D.) based on the BBC science-fiction TV series Doctor Who. He decided to play the part as a lovable and avuncular figure to counter the public's image of him as a horror actor.
In an interview published in ABC Film Review in November 1964, Cushing stated, "People look at me as if I were some sort of monster, but I can't think why. In my macabre pictures, I have either been a monster-maker or a monster-destroyer, but never a monster. Actually, I'm a gentle fellow. Never harmed a fly. I love animals, and when I'm in the country I'm a keen bird-watcher." In an interview published in 1966, he added, "I do get terribly tired with the neighbourhood kids telling me 'My mum says she wouldn't want to meet you in a dark alley'."[this quote needs a citation]
In 1971, Cushing withdrew from the filming of Blood from the Mummy's Tomb following the death of his wife, actress Violet Helene Beck (8 February 1905 – 14 January 1971), to whom he had been married since 1943. The following year, he was quoted in the Radio Times as having said, "Since Helen passed on I can't find anything; the heart, quite simply, has gone out of everything. Time is interminable, the loneliness is almost unbearable and the only thing that keeps me going is the knowledge that my dear Helen and I will be reunited again some day. To join Helen is my only ambition. You have my permission to publish that ... really, you know, dear boy, it's all just killing time. Please say that."
In his autobiography, Cushing implies that he attempted suicide on the night of his wife's death by running up and down stairs in the vain hope that it would induce a heart attack. He later stated that this had simply been a hysterical response borne out of grief, and that he had not purposely attempted to end his life; a poem left by Helen had implored him not to die until he had lived his life to the full, and he had resolved that to commit suicide would have meant letting her down. Although he did not consider himself a religious person, Cushing maintained strong ethics.
The effects of his wife's death proved to be as much physical as mental. For his role in Dracula AD 1972, Cushing had originally been cast as the father of Stephanie Beacham's character, but had aged so visibly and lost so much weight that the script was hastily re-written to make him her grandfather. In a silent tribute to Helen, a shot of Van Helsing's desk includes a photograph of her. In 1986, Cushing appeared on the BBC TV show Jim'll Fix It, his wish being to have a strain of rose named after Helen; the "Helen Cushing Rose" was the result.
In 1976, Cushing was cast in Star Wars in the part of Grand Moff Tarkin. He was presented with ill-fitting riding boots, which pinched his feet so much that he was given permission by director George Lucas to play the role wearing his slippers. The camera operators filmed him only from the knees up, or else standing behind the table of the Death Star conference room set.
Morecambe and Wise
Following Star Wars, Cushing continued to appear sporadically in film and television, as his health permitted. In 1969, he had appeared in a comedy play by Ernie Wise on The Morecambe and Wise Show on BBC2. Throughout the BBC era of the show, he would regularly join Wise and his comic partner, Eric Morecambe, on stage; he would constantly seek payment for his first appearance, wearily asking "Have you got my five pounds yet?"
This running joke continued when the duo left the BBC and moved to Thames Television in 1978. Cushing appeared in their first special for Thames Television on 18 October, still asking to be paid, with the hosts repeatedly trying to get rid of him; at the end of the show, Morecambe placed some money in a wallet wired up to a bomb, in an attempt to blow Cushing up in exaggerated comedic style. In the duo's Christmas special, Cushing pretended to be the Prime Minister while Morecambe and Wise caroled outside 10 Downing Street; he made the comedians give him money and finally came out to declare "paid, at last!"
Wise was a guest for Cushing's appearance on This Is Your Life in 1989. He promptly presented Cushing with a five pound note, only to extort it back from him. Cushing was delighted and exclaimed "All these years and I still haven't got my fiver!"
Later life and death
Cushing was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1982, but managed to survive for 12 years without surgery, although his health remained fragile. In 1989, he was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire, although his friend Christopher Lee publicly opined that the honour was "too little, too late". Cushing retired to Whitstable, on the Kent coast, where he had bought a seafront home in 1959, and continued his hobby of birdwatching while writing two autobiographies. He also worked as a painter, specialising in watercolours, and wrote and illustrated a children's book of Lewis Carroll-style humour, The Bois Saga. He was the patron of the Vegetarian Society from 1987 until his death.
Cushing's final professional commitment was the co-narration of the TV documentary Flesh and Blood: The Hammer Heritage of Horror, produced by American writer and director Ted Newsom. His contribution was recorded in Canterbury, near his home. The programme was broadcast only a few days before his death on 11 August 1994, aged 81.
In an interview included on the DVD release of The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959), Lee said of his friend's death: "I don't want to sound gloomy, but, at some point of your lives, every one of you will notice that you have in your life one person, one friend whom you love and care for very much. That person is so close to you that you are able to share some things only with him. For example, you can call that friend, and from the very first maniacal laugh or some other joke you will know who is at the other end of that line. We used to do that with him so often. And then when that person is gone, there will be nothing like that in your life ever again."
- The Man in the Iron Mask (1939; playing opposite Louis Hayward to facilitate the double exposure scenes, with a small role of his own)
- Laddie (1940)
- Vigil in the Night (1940)
- A Chump at Oxford (1940)
- Women in War (1940)
- The Howards of Virginia (1940; uncredited)
- Dreams (1940)
- They Dare Not Love (1941; uncredited)
- Hamlet (1948)
- Pride and Prejudice (TV serial; 1952)
- Moulin Rouge (1952)
- 1984 (TV film; 1954)
- The Black Knight (film) (1954)
- The End of the Affair (1955)
- Alexander the Great (1956)
- Time Without Pity (1957)
- The Curse of Frankenstein (1957)
- The Abominable Snowman of the Himalayas (1957)
- Violent Playground (1958)
- Dracula (1958 film) (a.k.a. Horror of Dracula; 1958)
- The Revenge of Frankenstein (1958)
- The Mummy (1959)
- The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959)
- John Paul Jones (1959)
- The Flesh and the Fiends (1960)
- The Brides of Dracula (1960)
- Suspect (1960)
- Sword of Sherwood Forest (1960)
- Cash on Demand (1961)
- The Hellfire Club (1961)
- Fury at Smugglers' Bay (1961)
- The Naked Edge (1961)
- Night Creatures (1962)
- The Evil of Frankenstein (1964)
- The Gorgon (1964)
- Dr. Terror's House of Horrors (1965)
- Dr. Who and the Daleks (1965)
- She (1965)
- The Skull (1965)
- Island of Terror (1966)
- Daleks – Invasion Earth: 2150 A.D. (1966)
- Frankenstein Created Woman (1967)
- Torture Garden (1967)
- Blood Beast Terror (1967)
- Night of the Big Heat (1967)
- Corruption (1968)
- Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (1969)
- Incense for the Damned (1970)
- Scream and Scream Again (1970)
- The Vampire Lovers (1970)
- The House That Dripped Blood (1971)
- Twins of Evil (1971)
- Tales From The Crypt (1972)
- Dracula AD 1972 (1972)
- Fear In the Night (1972)
- Dr. Phibes Rises Again (1972)
- Horror Express (1972)
- Asylum (1972)
- And Now the Screaming Starts! (1973)
- From Beyond the Grave (1973)
- The Creeping Flesh (1973)
- The Satanic Rites of Dracula (1973)
- Shatter (1974)
- Madhouse (1974)
- The Beast Must Die (1974)
- Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell (1974)
- The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires (1974)
- Tender Dracula (1974)
- Legend of the Werewolf (1975)
- Space: 1999 (TV; 1975) – episode "Missing Link", as Raan
- The Ghoul (1975)
- Land of the Minotaur (a.k.a. The Devil's Men; 1976)
- Trial by Combat (1976)
- At the Earth's Core (1976)
- Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (1977)
- Shock Waves (1977)
- The Uncanny (1977)
- Arabian Adventure (1979)
- A Tale of Two Cities (TV; 1980)
- Hammer House of Horror (TV series; 1980) – episode "The Silent Scream"
- Mystery on Monster Island (1981)
- House of the Long Shadows (1983)
- The Masks of Death (1984)
- Top Secret! (1984)
- Sword of the Valiant (1984)
- Biggles: Adventures in Time (1986) as Colonel William Raymond
- "Peter Cushing Biography (1913-)". Filmreference.com. 26 May 1913. Retrieved 22 August 2012.
- "Peter Cushing - Films as actor". Filmreference.com. Retrieved 22 August 2012.
- Brosnan, John. The Horror People, 1976, Plume Books. p. 190.
- Peter Cushing - Biography
- Hearn, Marcus (2013). "The Peter Cushing Scrapbooks". Doctor Who Magazine (Panini Comics) (461): 16–21.
- "I am not a religious man, but I try to live by Christian ethics. Helen has passed on but she is with me still. She is all around." http://uncapp.wordpress.com/2010/06/12/peter-cushings-death-wish/
- Hearn, Marcus (2009) Hammer Glamour: Classic images from the archive of Hammer Films, Titan Books, London, p. 20.
- Mallon, Kevin (2002). "MY JOURNEY THROUGH THE HAMMER HOUSE OF HORROR". Peter Cushing Museum. Retrieved 28 October 2010.
- Joseph Farrell (2003). The Giza Death Star Deployed. Adventures Unlimited Press. p. 1. ISBN 978-1-931882-19-4.
- Mark Clark (2004). "Peter Cushing". Smirk, Sneer and Scream. McFarland. p. 119. ISBN 978-0-7864-1932-6.
- Adam Charles Roberts (2000). "The History of Science Fiction". Science Fiction. Routledge. p. 88. ISBN 978-0-415-19205-7.
- Brad Duke (2005). Harrison Ford: The Films. McFarland. p. 39. ISBN 978-0-7864-2016-2.
- [dead link]
- "Peter Cushing's Obituary - The Vegetarian (Autumn 1994)". Web.archive.org. 5 December 1998. Retrieved 22 August 2012.
- The Hound of the Baskervilles (DVD). 1959.
- Peter Cushing at AllRovi
- Peter Cushing at Ausstage
- Peter Cushing at the British Film Institute's Screenonline
- Peter Cushing at the Internet Broadway Database
- Peter Cushing at the Internet Movie Database
- Peter Cushing at the TCM Movie Database
- "Peter Cushing". Find a Grave. Retrieved 11 June 2013.
- Peter Cushing as Sherlock Holmes
- Peter Cushing Literature
- Peter Cushing Association