Guest Actor Biography
Page 28 of 127

   

Peter Cushing

Paul Beresford, Return of the Cybernauts
Von Claus, The Eagle's Nest

by Pete Stampede

Peter Cushing was indeed an icon of the horror genre, while at the same time conveying his real-life humility and mild manner—the Gentle Man of Horror, in the title of one biography. What should be remembered is that this episode was something of a return to old haunts (sorry!), as he was one of the first actors to have been really made by television. In the days of the BBC as the only channel, when a play would be broadcast live, Cushing was constantly playing lead roles, from Eden End (1951) onwards. It's well known that his performance in Nigel Kneale's controversial adaptation of George Orwell's 1984 (1954, alongside another horror habitue, Donald Pleasence) led to his being cast by Hammer in The Curse of Frankenstein. In spite of being an icon of the horror genre, Cushing played romantic leads like Beau Brummel and Mr Darcy in Pride and Prejudice, and was in The Spread of the Eagle, a chronological staging of Shakespeare's Roman plays. He played Sherlock Holmes in a BBC series in 1968, one of the first in colour, but was dissatisfied with the result, citing the rapid pace of production. He co-starred in Patrick Macnee's first work after The Avengers, a horror film from acerbic cult novelist Simon Raven's Doctors Wear Scarlet. But Patrick was killed off halfway through and Cushing was only in a couple of scenes, director Robert Hartford-Davis removed his name from the credits, the film was heavily recut, dubbed and retitled Bloodsuckers by its producers, and not surprisingly, it was a mess.

A real curiosity of Cushing's TV career was that he did an episode of the sitcom anthology, Comedy Playhouse, "The Plan" (BBC, 1963), by two future Avengers writers, Richard Harris and Dennis Spooner. Even more bizarrely, he played a man called Fawkes who, fed up by inevitable jokes about his name, decides to blow up the Houses of Parliament and recruits an IRA man as his assistant. Hmmm... no wonder it didn't lead to a series. His last work, and last teaming with Christopher Lee, was narrating Flesh and Blood, a history of Hammer, made by American film enthusiast Ted Newsom; unlike Lee, Cushing didn't actually appear on camera, and he certainly looked frail in publicity photos. Despite being made to American technical standards, and with slightly below average production values at that, it was screened by BBC1, in two parts on successive Saturday nights, in the summer of 1994. With precision timing, Cushing died the week between transmission of the first and second parts. He was recently honored by the National Film Theatre.

Links: The Peter Cushing Museum and Association, deriving from an American fan club for Cushing, is a fine memorial to the Gentle Man of Horror. Touchingly, it gives equal emphasis to what he was like as a person, as well as an actor, with plenty of firsthand accounts of having met him; there are some terrific poster reproductions as well (don't miss the one for Dr. Terror's House of Horrors!). The news section is particularly good as well, especially for convention-goers. The Peter Cushing Shrine is, as stated, a tribute rather than a biography, but has some interesting features on Cushing's self-illustrated books (he published one just before his death); I particularly like the "Near Misses" section, detailing unmade projects. Also, Fortune City has another (nearly unreadable) tribute—good luck.

All materials copyrighted per their respective copyright holders.
This website Copyright 1996-2017 David K. Smith. All Rights Reserved.
Page last modified: 5 May 2017.

Top of page
Table of Contents