Peter Cookson

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Peter Cookson
Born(1913-05-08)May 8, 1913
DiedJanuary 6, 1990(1990-01-06) (aged 76)
Alma materPasadena Playhouse
OccupationActor, director, writer
OrganizationActors Studio
Spouse(s)Maureen Gray
(m. 1937-1948; div.)
Beatrice Straight
(m. 1949-1990; his death)
ChildrenPeter, Jane, Gary, Tony
RelativesWhitney W. Straight
Michael W. Straight

Peter Cookson (May 8, 1913 – January 6, 1990) was a stage and film actor of the 1940s and 1950s. He was known for his collaborations with his wife, Beatrice Straight the actress and member of the Whitney family.

Early life[edit]

Cookson was born on May 8, 1913 on a houseboat on the Willamette River in Milwaukie, Oregon to Gerald Cookson, a career British Army officer, and Helen Willis, a nurse.[1] Cookson attended the Pasadena Playhouse on a scholarship.[2]


Cookson appeared in the play The Heiress on Broadway in 1947,[3] where he met his wife to-be, Beatrice Straight.[2][4] He was also a producer and produced the play The Innocents on Broadway in 1950, starring his wife.[4] Cookson's most famous stage role was of the love struck judge in Cole Porter's 1953 musical Can Can[5] in which he introduced the song "It's All Right With Me."[4] "In interviews at the time, he said he was astonished at being given the part, as he had not sung for an audience since high school."[2]

Cookson starred in several feature films during the 1940s, including G. I. Honeymoon (1945) and Fear, before moving exclusively to television during the following decade.

He was a founding member of The Actors Studio, as was his second wife Beatrice Straight.[6][7]

Personal life[edit]

In 1937, Peter married Maureen Gray.[1] Before their divorce in 1948, they had:[8]

Peter and Maureen separated in Spring 1947. They attempted a reconciliation in the Summer of 1947, renting a house in Denver. At that time, Cookson had an affair with actress Patricia Neal. His wife found out and left him.[8]

In 1948, while starring in the Broadway production of The Heiress,[9] an adaptation of Henry James's Washington Square, Cookson met Beatrice Straight (1914–2001), who he was acting opposite. Straight was the daughter of Dorothy Payne Whitney (1887–1968), of the Whitney family, and Willard Dickerman Straight (1880–1918), an investment banker and diplomat. Straight's step-father was Leonard Knight Elmhirst (1893–1974). Cookson and Straight married in 1949, and had two children:[2][10]

Cookson died in 1990 of bone cancer at his home in Southfield, Massachusetts.[2] Beatrice died in 2001 from pneumonia in Northridge, Los Angeles at the age of eighty-six.[12]

Published works[edit]

  • Henderson's Head (1973),[13] a novel described as "sexually whiffy psychotic stuff" by Kirkus Reviews.[14]
  • Pigeons, a comedy play[15] later turned into a script in 1986.[16]
  • Million Rosebuds (1978), a play written with the New Dramatists[1]
  • Unique Species (1984), a play.[17]

Filmography and credits[edit]

Title[7][3] Medium Year Role Notes
Swingtime Johnny Film 1943 Jonathan
A Guy Named Joe Film 1943 Sgt. Hanson (uncredited)
Strange Confession Film 1944 Soldier
Detective Kitty O'Day Film 1944 Johnny Jones
The Girl Who Dared Film 1944 Rufus Blair
Shadow of Suspicion Film 1944 Jimmy Dale
Adventures of Kitty O'Day Film 1945 Johnny Jones
G.I. Honeymoon Film 1945 Lt. Robert 'Bob" Gordon
Behind City Lights Film 1945 Kirk Norris
The Scarlet Horseman Film 1946 Lance Marlow
Fear Film 1946 Larry Crain
Strange Conquest Film 1946 William Sommers
Don't Gamble with Strangers Film 1946 Bob Randall
Message for Margaret Theatre 1947 Robert Chalcot Theatre World Award (winner)
The Heiress Theatre 1947-48 Morris Townsend
The Philco-Goodyear Television Playhouse Television 1949
Robert Montgomery Presents Television 1950 Maxim de Winter
The Innocents Theatre 1950 Producer (ft. Beatrice Straight)
The Billy Rose Show Television 1951
The Little Blue Light Theatre 1950 Ellis Producer
Lights Out Television 1951
The Web Television 1951-52
Broadway Television Theatre Television 1952 Nathaniel Dunham
Seagulls Over Sorrento Theatre 1952 Producer
Justice Television 1954
Suspense Television 1952-54 Maj. de Spain / Jack Trent
Can-Can Theatre 1953-5 Judge Aristide Forestier
Studio One in Hollywood Television 1954
Appointment with Adventure Television 1955 Jamison Wyatt
Star Tonight Television 1955
The Millionaire Television 1957 Alan Bruce
Telephone Time Television 1957 Paul Wallace
Armstrong Circle Theatre Television 1955-57
The United States Steel Hour Television 1957
Four Winds Theatre 1957 Garrett Scott
Matinee Theatre Television 1958 James
The DuPont Show of the Month Television 1958
Kraft Theatre Television 1952-58 Bruis / Mr. Knightley
The Investigator Television 1958 A Debonair Bachelor
Rashomon Theatre 1959 Producer
The Right Honourable Gentleman Theatre 1965-66 Producer, Tony Award for Best Play (Nominee)


  1. ^ a b c "Peter Cookson Biography (1913-1990)". Retrieved 20 September 2016.
  2. ^ a b c d e "Peter Cookson, 76, A Writer, Producer And Stage Actor" The New York Times, January 8, 1990
  3. ^ a b League, The Broadway. "Peter Cookson – Broadway Cast & Staff | IBDB". Retrieved 20 September 2016.
  4. ^ a b c "Peter Cookson Broadway", accessed September 16, 2015
  5. ^ Times, Special To The New York (29 June 1953). "Cookson Returning to 'Can-Can'". The New York Times. Retrieved 20 September 2016.
  6. ^ Garfield, David (1980). "Birth of The Actors Studio: 1947-1950". A Player's Place: The Story of The Actors Studio. New York: MacMillan Publishing Co., Inc. p. 52. ISBN 0-02-542650-8. Lewis' class included Herbert Berghof, Marlon Brando... Beatrice Straight, Eli Wallach, and David Wayne... Also Henry Barnard, Jay Barney, John Becher, Philip Bourneuf, Joan Chandler, Peter Cookson, Stephen Elliott, Robert Emhardt, Joy Geffen, William Hansen, Will Hare, Jane Hoffman, George Keane, Don Keefer, George Matthews, Peggy Meredith, Ty Perry, Margaret Phillips, David Pressman, William Prince, Elliot Reid, Frances Reid, Kurt Richards, Elizabeth Ross, Thelma Schnee, Joshua Shelley, Fed Stewart, John Straub, Michael Strong, John Sylvester, Julie Warren, Mary Welch, Lois Wheeler, and William Woodson.
  7. ^ a b "Peter Cookson". IMDb. Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 20 September 2016.
  8. ^ a b Shearer, Stephen (2006). Patricia Neal: An Unquiet Life. Lexington, Kentucky: University Press of Kentucky. ISBN 0813171369. Retrieved 20 September 2016.
  9. ^ Fluker, Kit. "Beatrice Straight papers 1922-1987 [bulk 1968-1986]". Archives of the New York Public Library. Retrieved 30 March 2016.
  10. ^ "AIDES FURTHERING SCHOOLS' BENEFIT Committee Advances Sale of Tickets for 'Janus' to Help Two Scholarship Funds". The New York Times. October 2, 1955. Retrieved 20 September 2016.
  11. ^ a b Staff, Variety (16 April 2001). "Beatrice Straight". Variety. Retrieved 20 September 2016.
  12. ^ Mel Gussow (April 11, 2001). "Beatrice Straight, Versatile Star, Dies at 86". New York Times. Retrieved 2015-01-21. Beatrice Straight, a graceful and versatile actress who won both an Oscar and a Tony Award, died on Saturday in North Ridge, Calif. She was 86 and lived in Beverly Hills, Calif., for most of the last 10 years. ...
  13. ^ Cookson, Peter (1973). Henderson's head : a novel. New York: Putnam. ISBN 0399111654.
  14. ^ Nov. 26th, 1973. "HENDERSON'S HEAD by Peter Cookson | Kirkus Reviews". Putnam. Retrieved 20 September 2016.
  15. ^ Magers, Donna. "Serial Report Chapter 73-Adrian Booth, Peter Cookson, Tom Mix, The Fatal Warning". Retrieved 20 September 2016.
  16. ^ "RMC: Beatrice Straight Papers". Cornell University. Retrieved 20 September 2016.
  17. ^ "Peter Cookson; Actor and Writer". Los Angeles Times. 12 January 1990. Retrieved 20 September 2016.

External links[edit]