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Peter Cushing Poster

Biography

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Overview (4)

Date of Birth 26 May 1913Kenley, Surrey [now in Croydon, London], England, UK
Date of Death 11 August 1994Canterbury, Kent, England, UK  (prostate cancer)
Birth NamePeter Wilton Cushing
Height 6' (1.83 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Peter Wilton Cushing was born on May 26, 1913 in Kenley, Surrey, England, to Nellie Maria (King) and George Edward Cushing, a quantity surveyor. He and his older brother David were raised first in Dulwich Village, a south London suburb, and then later back in Surrey. At an early age, Cushing was attracted to acting, inspired by his favorite aunt, who was a stage actress. While at school, Cushing pursued his acting interest in acting and also drawing, a talent he put to good use later in his first job as a government surveyor's assistant in Surrey. At this time, he also dabbled in local amateur theater until moving to London to attend the Guildhall School of Music and Drama on scholarship. He then performed in repertory theater, deciding in 1939 to head for Hollywood, where he made his film debut in The Man in the Iron Mask (1939). Other Hollywood films included A Chump at Oxford (1940) with Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, Vigil in the Night (1940) and They Dare Not Love (1941). However, after a short stay, he returned to England by way of New York (making brief appearances on Broadway) and Canada. Back in his homeland, he contributed to the war effort during World War II by joining the Entertainment National Services Association.

After the war, he performed in the West End and had his big break appearing with Laurence Olivier in Hamlet (1948), in which Cushing's future partner-in-horror Christopher Lee had a bit part. Both actors also appeared in Moulin Rouge (1952) but did not meet until their later horror films. During the 1950s, Cushing became a familiar face on British television, appearing in numerous teleplays, such as 1984 (1954) and Beau Brummell (1954), until the end of the decade when he began his legendary association with Hammer Film Productions in its remakes of the 1930s Universal horror classics. His first Hammer roles included Dr. Frankenstein in The Curse of Frankenstein (1957), Dr. Van Helsing in Horror of Dracula (1958), and Sherlock Holmes in The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959).

Cushing continued playing the roles of Drs. Frankenstein and Van Helsing, as well as taking on other horror characters, in Hammer films over the next 20 years. He also appeared in films for the other major horror producer of the time, Amicus Productions, including Dr. Terror's House of Horrors (1965) and its later horror anthologies, a couple of Dr. Who films (1965, 1966), I, Monster (1971), and others. By the mid-1970s, these companies had stopped production, but Cushing, firmly established as a horror star, continued in the genre for some time thereafter.

Perhaps his best-known appearance outside of horror films was as Grand Moff Tarkin in George Lucas' phenomenally successful science fiction film Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977). Biggles: Adventures in Time (1986) was Cushing's last film before his retirement, during which he made a few television appearances, wrote two autobiographies and pursued his hobbies of bird watching and painting. In 1989, he was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in recognition of his contributions to the acting profession in Britain and worldwide. Peter Cushing died at age 81 of prostate cancer on August 11, 1994.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Lyn Hammond

Spouse (1)

Violet Helene Beck (10 April 1943 - 14 January 1971) (her death)

Trade Mark (4)

Chilly but mellifluous voice, often used to menacing effect
Often appeared with his good friend Christopher Lee
Many roles in Hammer Horror films
Prominent cheekbones and piercing blue eyes

Trivia (32)

Turned down Donald Pleasence's role as Dr. Sam Loomis in Halloween (1978).
Considered The Blood Beast Terror (1968) to be the worst film he ever made.
The costume boots they gave Cushing for Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977) were too small and hurt his feet. Cushing told George Lucas this, and asked if he could wear slippers instead. Lucas agreed, and shot Cushing from the waist up for nearly all his scenes to compensate for Cushing's slippers.
He was an artist, skilled in drawing and painting; as a young struggling actor, he supplemented his income by selling scarves that he hand-painted and later, as an established actor, had showings of his water colors.
Withdrew from the film Blood from the Mummy's Tomb (1971) due to the death of his wife. His role was assumed by Andrew Keir.
Was guest of honor at the Famous Monsters of Filmland Convention in New York City in 1975. After receiving a thunderous ovation from those in attendance, he looked at everyone and said, "Have you ever felt unloved?"
His sketch of Sherlock Holmes became the official logo for the Northern Musgraves, a British Sherlock Holmes society.
He was preferred to original Doctor Who (1963) lead actor William Hartnell as star of Dr. Who and the Daleks (1965) because he was more widely recognized by American audiences.
During a television interview, he confessed that fellow actor Christopher Lee had telephoned him earlier that evening to "Wish me luck!".
Was good friends with Christopher Lee. After he died, Lee said in an interview that he never felt closer and more open to any of his other friends than he felt to Peter.
Carrie Fisher said in an interview that doing her scenes with him in Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977) were difficult for two reasons: she thought the lines were ridiculous and she found Peter to be so polite and charming off camera that it was hard to project the sense of disdain that her character, Princess Leia Organa, held for his character, Grand Moff Tarkin.
George Lucas originally planned to use archival footage of Cushing from Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977) for insertion into Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith (2005). This would have made Episode III Cushing's final, albeit posthumous, collaboration with Christopher Lee. However, none of the footage was suitable to Lucas' needs. This may be because Grand Moff Tarkin only appears in long shots, due to the pain associated with wearing the boots Cushing was wearing. Therefore, Wayne Pygram was cast, and made to wear prosthetic make-up so that he would resemble Cushing.
Prior to casting Cushing as Grand Moff Tarkin in Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977), George Lucas considered using him as Obi-Wan Kenobi (a role that ultimately went to Alec Guinness).
In his later years, he and Joyce DeWitt of Three's Company (1977) fame became transatlantic pen pals, when the two became part of the voice-over ensemble for the animated film Walpurgis Night. Peter recorded his role in England, while Joyce later commenced recording in California, alongside his old friend Ferdy Mayne. It was during this time that Joyce, being a fan of both classic films and Shakespeare's works, and Peter, an admirer of the American West, enjoyed their friendship by post.
Described by many presenters as the best interviewee they had.
Wrote to BBC program Jim'll Fix It (1975) asking that a new rose be bred and named after his late wife. Jimmy Savile agreed and the process was filmed ending with the creation of a new strain of yellow rose being presented to Peter.
Cushing reprised his role, with dialog, from his last film Biggles: Adventures in Time (1986) in the video for the movie's theme song "No Turning Back" by The Immortals. He appears at the end to tell the camera: "I'm a restless sort of guy." Technically, this makes it his last performance and his last line of dialog.
Had appeared as Osric in Hamlet (1948). This was also his first film with Christopher Lee. Alec Guinness also played Osric in John Gielgud's 1934 theatrical production. Cushing, Lee and Guinness all later appeared in the Star Wars films.
Only one of the main characters from Star Wars not to appear in the sequels (for the obvious reason).
He was so ubiquitous on live television in Britain in the early 1950s that one popular comedian joked: "You know what television is, don't you? It's Peter Cushing with knobs.".
He was awarded the OBE (Officer of the Order of the British Empire) in the 1989 Queen's Honours List for his services to drama.
Originally cast as Dr. Vesalius in The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971), but declined as his wife was in poor health at the time.
He bought a seafront home in 1959 in Whitstable, Kent, England upon retiring. There is a pub there today dedicated to his memory, "The Peter Cushing".
He and Christopher Lee appeared together in two films outside of the Hammer Studio Horror genre: their first film together was Hamlet (1948), and they appeared together in Moulin Rouge (1952). They later went to appear in separate films in the Star Wars series: Cushing in Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977), and Lee in Star Wars: Episode II - The Attack of the Clones (2002) and Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith (2005). They would also appear separately in adaptations of Alexandre Dumas pere's Musketeer novels: Cushing appeared in The Man in the Iron Mask (1939), while Lee appeared in The Three Musketeers (1973), The Four Musketeers: Milady's Revenge (1974) and The Return of the Musketeers (1989).
Although he and Christopher Lee were often mortal enemies on-screen, off-screen they were inseparable friends.
In 1945 with no money for presents, he found a large piece of silk, cut it into a neat square, painted Dickens characters on it and gave it to his wife as a present. She later loaned it to a friend who wore it to a party where it was seen by a textile manufacturer who gave Peter a contract as a silk scarf designer. Amongst those he designed were those for the Festival of Britain and the Coronation.
He made seven films with Michael Ripper: The Revenge of Frankenstein (1958), The Mummy (1959), The Brides of Dracula (1960), Torture Garden (1967), The Creeping Flesh (1973) and Legend of the Werewolf (1975).
Along with Arnold Marlé and Wolfe Morris, he was one of only three actors to reprise their roles from BBC Sunday-Night Theatre: The Creature (1955) in the film remake The Abominable Snowman (1957).
Brother-in-law of Reginald Beck.
Considered for Fallanda Sir Percy and Dr.Armstrong in Lifeforce (1985).

Personal Quotes (22)

Who wants to see me as Hamlet? Very few. But millions want to see me as Frankenstein so that's the one I do.
If I played Hamlet, they'd call it a horror film.
Teeth are a vitally important part of an actor's equipment. I have over 30 toothbrushes at home and always keep a good supply at the studio.
I hate the word 'hate'.
[on the wig he had to wear for Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell (1974)] It made me look like Helen Hayes.
"You have to have a sense of humour, darling, to be alive. Even a bit mad. It helps to be mad." - (1991)
"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." - ABC Film Review (Nov 1964)
There is little chance for a person to exercise the imagination today in this complex, programmed society we have.
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 united 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. - Radio Times 1972
"You cannot make a film like this without integrity. To make the audiences believe in you, you must believe utterly in what you are doing." - (1972)
My criterion for accepting a role isn't based on what I would like to do. I try to consider what the audience would like to see me do and I thought kids would adore Star Wars.
"Strangely enough, I don't like horror pictures at all. I love to make them because they give pleasure to people, but my favourite types of films are much more subtle than horror. I like to watch films like Bridge Over the River Kwai, The Apartment or lovely musicals." - (1980s)
As far back as I can remember, I had a passion for 'dressing up' and playing games of 'Let's Pretend', which are, of course, the basic principals of acting, and if you are lucky enough, you get paid for so doing, hard work though it may be.
When Helen passed on six years ago I lost the only joy in life that I ever wanted. She was my whole life and without her there is no meaning. I am simply killing time, so to speak, until that wonderful day when we are together again.
Television is rather a frightening business. But I get all the relaxation I want from my collection of model soldiers.
There are all sorts of reasons why I don't do much work in the theater, the main one being that after two performances I feel I've given all I can. I hate repetition, I really do. It's like asking a painter to paint he same picture every day of his life.
In the early days I played a lot of comedy in the theater and on television. But once an actor becomes well known in any kind of part, he tends to get stereotyped. After I played Frankenstein, I was only thought of in that light. Of course, some actors are better at drama and some are better at comedy. But they can certainly have a stab at both. An actor should be able to do it all.
"It gives me the most wonderful feeling. These dear people love me so much and want to see me. The astonishing thing is that when I made the Frankenstein and Dracula movies almost 30 years ago the young audiences who see me now weren't even born yet. A new generation has grown up with my films. And the original audiences are still able to see me in new pictures. So, as long as these films are made I will have a life in this business -- for which I'm eternally grateful." (from a 1985 "Starlog" interview)
An actor's job is to entertain and I'm glad to say that my films succeeded in that respect.
[on Vincent Price] A dear, charming man with a great sense of humor. Strictly a professional, who cares far more about his work than he allows the public to know. I am extremely fond of him and bask in his gentle kindness and warmth.
Every part is approached in the same manner - gleaning all I can from what the author has written. When called for, I add reaction to any given circumstance such as I've witnessed and observed in others through life, applying the emotion in terms of the character as opposed to the way I might react personally.
[advice to Simon Ward, who was delivering his lines at an urgent pace] Now you know, dear boy, that at the end of every line leave a very tiny gap so they can get the scissors in.

Salary (1)

Shock Waves (1977) $5,000

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