Peter Cushing OBE
(1913 - 1994)
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What can one say of the wonderful Peter Cushing, nick-named the ‘gentleman of horror’ he was indeed that – a fine actor and affable, thoughtful and kind. Born in Surrey on the 26th May 1913, he and his older brother David were raised first in Dulwich Village, a south London suburb, and then later back in Surrey by his mother Nellie Marie and father George Edward, who was a Quantity Surveyor. At an early age, Cushing was attracted to acting, inspired by his favorite aunt who was a stage actress. He supported himself as a clerk in a surveyor's office before studying for a theatrical career under the guidance of Cairns James at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. He made his first professional stage appearance in 1935. Four years later, he came to America, where he was featured in a handful of Broadway plays and Hollywood feature films.


Peter began his career in pre-war Hollywood in ‘The Man in the Iron Mask’ (1939) and made several films there - he was second male lead in the Carole Lombard vehicle ‘Vigil in the Night’ (1940) and after closing out his Hollywood tenure with ‘They Dare Not Love’ (1941), he returned to stage work in England. He quickly gained respect in Hollywood, both as an actor and as a man of great intelligence and integrity.


He was turned down for military service on health grounds and instead joined a theatre company that performed at military bases. Cushing came to work with actress Helen Beck, and the two fell deeply in love. They married in 1943.


His next notably film appearance was as Osric in Laurence Olivier's ‘Hamlet’ (1948), which also featured his future co-star Christopher Lee in a non-speaking bit (Cushing and Lee's paths would cross again cinematically in Moulin Rouge (1952), though, as in Hamlet, they shared no scenes. He was excellent and was very moving as Deborah Kerrs cuckolded husband in ‘The End of the Affair’ (1954).


In the early 1950s, Peter became a TV star by virtue of his performance in the BBC production of George Orwell's ‘1984’. Still, film stardom would elude him until 1957, when he was cast as Baron Frankenstein in the first Hammer film 'The Curse of Frankenstein'. It was the first of 19 appearances under the Hammer banner; Cushing went on to play Van Helsing in ‘Dracula’ (1958) and Sherlock Holmes in ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’ (1959), roles which, like Baron Frankenstein, he would repeat again. Critics argue about which of Hammers roles was his best. Again on a personal note I would be torn between Sherlock Holmes and his original Abraham Van Helsing in Dracula. It is of note that both of these great movies have stood the test of time.
His film career had taken off establishing him at once as a cult hero of the horror film aficionados, with his now friend, Christopher Lee as the monster. These two, along with director Terence Fisher and writer Jimmy Sangster, dictated the course of horror cinema for the next decade. Hammer was to become the most successful British film company of all time and Cushing played an integral role. As well as playing the Baron half a dozen times, he also memorably incarnated Dr Van Helsing in several reprises of the Dracula myth, including the wonderfully stylish 'The Brides of Dracula' (1960).

His chiseled features, refined, even ascetic speech and bearing, his intense belief in the scientific mumbo-jumbo he was given to say, are now so firmly embedded in the public mind that it is an effort of will to remember that he played many other roles, including Sherlock Holmes. It is arguable, though, that his most incisive acting performance is as the thin-lipped bank manager under fearful strain in the excellent `B' thriller ‘Cash on Demand’ (1961).


In 1971, Peters beloved wife Helen died after a prolonged illness. It was a loss from which he never fully recovered. He threw himself into his work, but spent most private hours dreaming of when he and Helen would be reunited in Heaven. Peter was a deeply Christian man and attended St. Alphege Church in Whitstable, he also did extensive charity work and never failed to sign his cards and photos


‘may Gods blessing be with you always – in all sincerity’


There is a lovely story about Peters genuine but simple faith in God. Whilst filming 'At the Earths Core' Caroline Munro's grandfather died, she was very shaken up about the loss. Peter resolved to briefly pray with her every morning - such was the care and concern of this gentle man.


 












 

 

 




 

 

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