Cushing in 1955
26 May 1913|
Kenley, Surrey, UK
|Died||11 August 1994
Canterbury, Kent, UK
|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)|
|Parent(s)||George Edward (1881–1956) and Nellie Maria (née King) Cushing (1882–1961)|
|Awards||British Academy Television Award for Best Actor (1956)|
Peter Wilton Cushing, OBE (26 May 1913 – 11 August 1994) was an English actor and a BAFTA TV Award Best Actor winner in 1956. He is mainly known for his prolific appearances in Hammer Films, in which he played strong character roles like 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 is best known outside the Hammer productions for playing Dr. Who in Doctor Who and the Daleks (1965) and Daleks – Invasion Earth (1966), and for his performance as Grand Moff Tarkin in Star Wars (1977). Cushing's likeness was extensively recreated using digital effects in Rogue One (2016), which raised questions about the morality of using a deceased actor's likeness.
Early life and career
Cushing was born in Kenley, Surrey, the second son of George Edward Cushing (1881–1956) and Nellie Maria (née King) Cushing (1882–1961). 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, making his debut 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. During the Second World War he served with the Entertainments National Service Association (ENSA).
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 second 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." The film critic Roger Ebert described Cushing's work in the Hammer films thusly: "[Cushing is] the one in all those British horror films, standing between Vincent Price and Christopher Lee. His dialog usually runs along the lines of, 'But good heavens, man! The person you saw has been dead for more than two centuries!'"
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, although the films are not considered part of the show's official canon by the BBC. 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'."
In 1971, Cushing withdrew from the filming of Blood from the Mummy's Tomb following the death from emphysema 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 not conventionally religious, Cushing maintained a belief both in God and an afterlife. Cushing's colleagues of that period commented on his deeply Christian faith and his conviction that his separation from his wife was only temporary.
The effects of his wife's death proved to be as much physical as mental. For his role in Dracula A.D. 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: it was done again in the last Dracula film from Hammer, The Satanic Rites of Dracula. In a silent tribute to Helen, a shot of Van Helsing's desk includes a photograph of her. He repeated the role of the man who lost family in other horror films, including Asylum (1972), The Creeping Flesh (1973), and The Ghoul (1975). 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 supporting part of Grand Moff Tarkin. Like all of the other actors portraying Galactic Imperial officers, 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. As a result, the camera operators filmed him throughout the film only from the knees up, or else standing behind the table of the Death Star conference room set. This costuming discomfort aside, Cushing contrasted sharply with co-star Alec Guinness in that he enjoyed his experience on the film, appreciated the renewed interest in his work from young fans and only regretted that he could not appear in the sequels.
For the 2016 film Rogue One, CGI and digitally-repurposed-archive footage were used to insert Peter Cushing's likeness from the original movie over the body of actor Guy Henry. Henry provided the on-set capture and voice work with the reference material augmented and mapped over his performance like a digital body-mask. Cushing's estate owners were heavily involved with the creation which took place over twenty years after his death. This extensive use of CGI to "resurrect" an actor who had died decades ago created a great deal of controversy about the ethics of doing so. Joyce Broughton, Cushing’s former secretary, had approved recreating Cushing in the film. After attending the London premiere, she was reportedly "taken aback" and "dazzled" with the effect of seeing Cushing on screen again.
Morecambe and Wise
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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 1980 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 1990. He promptly presented Cushing with a twenty-pound note, only to extort it back from him, for the price of a taxi getting there and the rental of a suit for that particular night.
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; 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 a 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 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||Second Officer||Playing opposite Louis Hayward to facilitate the double exposure scenes, with a small role of his own|
|A Chump at Oxford||Student|
|Vigil in the Night||Joe Shand|
|Women in War||Captain Evans||(Uncredited role)|
|The Howards of Virginia||Leslie Stephens||(Uncredited role)|
|They Dare Not Love||1941||Sub-Lieutenant Blackler||(Uncredited role)|
|Moulin Rouge||1952||Marcel de la Voisier|
|The Black Knight||1954||Sir Palamides|
|The End of the Affair||1955||Henry Miles|
|Magic Fire||Otto Wesendonk|
|Alexander the Great||1956||General Memnon|
|Time Without Pity||1957||Jeremy Clayton|
|The Curse of Frankenstein||Victor Frankenstein|
|The Abominable Snowman||Dr. Rollason|
|Dracula||Doctor Van Helsing|
|The Revenge of Frankenstein||Victor Frankenstein|
|The Hound of the Baskervilles||1959||Sherlock Holmes|
|John Paul Jones||Captain Richard Pearson|
|The Mummy||John Banning|
|The Flesh and the Fiends||1960||Dr. Robert Knox|
|Cone of Silence||Captain Clive Judd|
|The Brides of Dracula||Doctor Van Helsing|
|Sword of Sherwood Forest||Sheriff of Nottingham|
|The Hellfire Club||1961||Merryweather|
|Fury at Smugglers' Bay||Squire Trevenyan|
|The Naked Edge||Mr. Evan Wrack|
|Cash on Demand||Harry Fordyce|
|Captain Clegg||1962||Parson Blyss||Alternate title: Night Creatures|
|The Devil's Agent||(Scenes deleted)|
|The Man Who Finally Died||1963||Dr. Peter von Brecht|
|The Evil of Frankenstein||1964||Victor Frankenstein|
|The Gorgon||Dr. Namaroff|
|Dr. Terror's House of Horrors||1965||'Dr. Terror' / Dr. W. R. Schreck|
|The Skull||Dr. Christopher Maitland|
|Dr. Who and the Daleks||Dr. Who|
|Island of Terror||1966||Dr. Brian Stanley|
|Daleks – Invasion Earth: 2150 A.D.||Dr. Who|
|Frankenstein Created Woman||1967||Victor Frankenstein|
|Night of the Big Heat||Dr. Vernon Stone|
|Torture Garden||Lancelot Canning||Segment 4: "The Man Who Collected Poe"|
|Some May Live||John Meredith|
|The Blood Beast Terror||1968||Detective Inspector Quennell|
|Corruption||Sir John Rowan|
|Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed||1969||Victor Frankenstein|
|Incense for the Damned||1970||Dr. Walter Goodrich||Alternate title: Bloodsuckers|
|Scream and Scream Again||Major Heinrich Benedek|
|One More Time||Dr. Frankenstein||(Uncredited role)|
|The Vampire Lovers||General von Spielsdorf|
|The House That Dripped Blood||1971||Philip Grayson||Segment 2: "Waxworks"|
|Twins of Evil||Gustav Weil|
|I, Monster||Frederick Utterson|
|Tales from the Crypt||1972||Arthur Edward Grimsdyke||Segment 3: "Poetic Justice"|
|Dracula A.D. 1972||Van Helsing|
|Dr. Phibes Rises Again||Captain|
|Asylum||Mr. Smith||Segment 2: "The Weird Tailor"|
|Fear in the Night||Michael Carmichael|
|Horror Express||Dr. Wells|
|Nothing But the Night||1973||Sir Mark Ashley|
|The Creeping Flesh||Emmanuel Hildren|
|And Now the Screaming Starts!||Dr. Pope|
|The Satanic Rites of Dracula||Van Helsing|
|From Beyond the Grave||Antique Shop Proprietor|
|Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell||Victor Frankenstein|
|The Beast Must Die||Dr. Christopher Lundgren|
|The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires||Van Helsing|
|Legend of the Werewolf||1975||Professor Paul|
|The Ghoul||Dr. Lawrence||Medalla Sitges en Plata de Ley Award for Best Actor|
|Trial by Combat||1976||Sir Edward Gifford||Alternate title: Dirty Knights Work|
|At the Earth's Core||Dr. Abner Perry||This film was "riffed" on 14 April 2017 as part of the Season One (episode 14) release of Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Return on Netflix.|
|Land of the Minotaur||Baron Corofax||Alternate title: The Devil's Men|
|Star Wars||1977||Grand Moff Tarkin||Nominated: Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actor|
|Shock Waves||SS Commander||Alternate title: Almost Human|
|Die Standarte||Baron von Hackenberg||Alternate title: The Standard|
|Son of Hitler||1978||Heinrich Haussner|
|Arabian Adventure||1979||Wazir Al Wuzara|
|A Touch of the Sun||Commissioner Potts||Alternate title: No Secrets!|
|Misterio en la isla de los monstruos||1981||William T. Kolderup||Alternate title: Mystery on Monster Island|
|Black Jack||Sir Thomas Bedford||Alternate title: Asalto al casino|
|House of the Long Shadows||1983||Sebastian Grisbane||Caixa de Catalunya Award for Best Actor
(shared with Vincent Price, Christopher Lee & John Carradine)
|Top Secret!||1984||Bookstore Proprietor|
|Sword of the Valiant||Seneschal – Gaspar|
|Biggles: Adventures in Time||1986||Air Commodore William Raymond|
|Pride and Prejudice||1952||Mr. Darcy||TV mini-series (all 6 episodes)|
|Epitaph for a Spy||1953||Josef Vadassey||TV mini-series (all 6 episodes)|
|You are There||Rudolf Hess||Season 1, episode 20: "The Escape of Rudolf Hess"|
|BBC Sunday-Night Theatre||1951–1957||Charles Appleby
Prince Mikhail Alexandrovitch Ouratieff
Dr. John Rollason
|Season 2, episode 48: "Eden End (I)"
Season 3, episode 15: "Bird in Hand"
Season 4, episode 5: "Number Three"
Season 4, episode 25: "The Road"
Season 4, episode 28: "Anastasia"
Season 4, episode 34: "Portrait by Peko"
Season 5, episode 4: "Tovarich"
Season 5, episode 11: "Beau Brummell"
Season 5, episode 50: "Nineteen Eighty-Four"
Season 6, episode 5: "The Creature"
Season 6, episode 10: "The Moment of Truth"
Season 8, episode 2: "Gaslight"
|Drama 61-67||1962||Frederick James Parsons||Season 2, episode 7: "Drama '62: Peace with Terror"|
|ITV Television Playhouse||Fred Parsons||Season 8, episode 3: "Peace with Terror"|
|The Spread of the Eagle||1963||Cassius||TV mini-series|
|Comedy Playhouse||Albert Fawkes||Season 3, episode 6 "The Plan"|
|Story Parade||1964||Elijah Baley||Episode: "The Caves of Steel" (unknown season)|
|Thirty-Minute Theatre||1965||Leonard||Season 1, episode 5: "Monica"|
|The Avengers||1967||Paul Beresford||Episode: "Return of the Cybernauts" (season 5, episode 17 or season 6, episode 1)|
|Sherlock Holmes||1968||Sherlock Holmes||All 16 episodes from season 2:
"The Second Strain"
"The Dancing Men"
"A Study in Scarlet"
"The Hound of the Baskervilles (Part 1)"
"The Hound of the Baskervilles (Part 2)"
"The Boscombe Valley Mystery"
"The Greek Interpreter"
"The Naval Treaty"
"The Musgrave Ritual"
"Shoscombe Old Place"
"The Solitary Cyclist"
"The Sign of Four"
"The Blue Carbuncle"
|Orson Welles' Great Mysteries||1973||Count Gerard De Merret||Season 1, episode 4: "La Grande Breteche"|
|The Zoo Gang||1974||Judge Gautier||Season 1, episode 5: "The Counterfeit Trap"|
|Space: 1999||1976||Raan||Season 1, episode 7: "Missing Link"|
|Looks Familiar||1 episode – dated 2 February 1976|
|The New Avengers||Von Claus||Season 1, episode 1: "The Eagle's Nest"|
|Hammer House of Horror||1980||Martin Blueck||Season 1, episode 7: "The Silent Scream"|
|Tales of the Unexpected||1983||Von Baden||Season 6, episode 8: "The Vorpal Blade"|
|When We Are Married||1951||Gerald Forbes|
|If This Be Error||1952||Nick Grant|
|The Silver Swan||Lord Henriques|
|Rookery Nook||1953||Clive Popkiss|
|The Noble Spaniard||Duke of Hermanos|
|A Social Success||Henry Robbins|
|The Face of Love||1954||Mardian Thersites|
|Richard of Bordeaux||1955||Richard II|
|The Browning Version||Andrew Crocker-Harris|
|Home at Seven||1957||David Preston|
|The Winslow Boy||1958||Sir Robert Morton|
|Uncle Harry||Uncle Harry|
|Beyond the Water's Edge||1972|
|The Great Houdini||1976||Sir Arthur Conan Doyle|
|A Tale of Two Cities||1980||Dr. Alexander Manette|
|Helen Keller: The Miracle Continues||1984||Professor Charles Copeland|
|The Masks of Death||Sherlock Holmes|
|The Hidden Master||1940||Robert Clive of India||Uncredited role|
|It Might Be You||1946||The Doctor|
|The Morecambe & Wise Show||1969 - 1980||Himself||Long running gag involving being owed payment.|
|BBC Wildlife Spectacular||1971||Himself - Presenter|
|Dieter & Andreas||1986||Grateful Acknowledgment|
|House of the Long Shadows... Revisited||2012||Dedicated to|
|Rogue One: A Star Wars Story||2016||Grand Moff Tarkin||Special Acknowledgment. Posthumous. CGI recreation used for likeness.|
- "CGI resurrection of Peter Cushing is thrilling – but is it right?". Guardian. Retrieved 24 December 2016.
- Fullerton, Huw (15 December 2016). "How a Holby City actor brought one of Star Wars’ most iconic characters back to life". Retrieved 15 December 2016.
- "Peter Cushing Biography (1913-)". Filmreference.com. 26 May 1913. Retrieved 22 August 2012.
- "Peter Cushing - Films as actor". Filmreference.com. Retrieved 22 August 2012.
- "Obituary: Peter Cushing". The Independent. 12 August 1994.
- Brosnan, John. The Horror People, 1976, Plume Books. p. 190.
- Ebert, Roger (2000). "At The Earth's Core". I Hated, Hated, Hated This Movie. Kansas City: Andrews McMeel Publishing. p. 21. ISBN 978-0740706721.
- Daoust, Phil (1 April 2008). "Radio pick of the day". The Guardian. Retrieved 12 March 2015.
- Howe, Desson (13 July 1986). "Peter Cushing-The Horror of It All". Washington Post.
- Hearn, Marcus (2013). "The Peter Cushing Scrapbooks". Doctor Who Magazine. Panini Comics (461): 16–21.
- Gullo, Christopher (2004). In All Sincerity, Peter Cushing. Philadelphia: Xlibris. ISBN 1413456111. Retrieved 22 July 2015.
- Gullo, Christopher (2004). In All Sincerity, Peter Cushing. Philadelphia: Xlibris. p. 206. ISBN 1413456111. Retrieved 22 July 2015.
- Hearn, Marcus (2009) Hammer Glamour: Classic images from the archive of Hammer Films, Titan Books, London, p. 20.
- 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.
- Kroft, Jack (30 May 1977). "Fun in Space". Newsweek.
- "The effect was achieved by drawing on preexisting footage of the actor, particularly his work in A New Hope...". 24 December 2016. Retrieved 24 December 2016.
- "the CGI used to repurpose the footage may not age well...". 24 December 2016. Retrieved 24 December 2016.
- Telegraph Film. "'Morbid and off-putting' or 'convincing'? Rogue One's CGI Peter Cushing gets a mixed response from Star Wars fans". The Telegraph. The Telegraph. Retrieved 18 December 2016.
- Miller, Matt (5 January 2017). "See the Stunning Detail That Went Into Recreating Two Star Wars Characters For Rogue One". Variety. Variety. Retrieved 9 January 2017.
Many debates have raged on the ethics of these characters being digitally placed in the film and if Industrial Light & Magic (the Star Wars visual effects company) even pulled it off. Certainly, the computerized characters look stunningly lifelike, but still kind of creepy in an uncanny valley sort of way.
- ""What Peter Cushing’s Digital Resurrection Means for the Industry"". 24 December 2016. Retrieved 24 December 2016.
- "Peter Cushing's Obituary - The Vegetarian (Autumn 1994)". 5 December 1998. Archived from the original on 5 December 1998. Retrieved 22 August 2012.
- The Hound of the Baskervilles (DVD). 1959.
- The Peter Cushing Companion David Miller - 2002 - Page 45 "Cushing's fee for The Face of Love was 74 guineas. ... There was a general increase in BBC artists' fees, but Cushing's growing standing as a film actor must have given John Redway extra clout. "
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Peter Cushing.|
|Wikiquote has quotations related to: Peter Cushing|
- Peter Cushing at AllMovie
- Peter Cushing at AusStage
- Peter Cushing at the British Film Institute's Screenonline
- Peter Cushing at the Internet Broadway Database
- Peter Cushing on Internet Movie Database
- Peter Cushing at the TCM Movie Database
- The Peter Cushing Appreciation Society UK
- Peter Cushing as Sherlock Holmes
- Peter Cushing Literature