Peter Cushing was born in 1913 in Kenley, Surrey, England. 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). He featured in a few other Hollywood films such as ‘A Chump at Oxford’ (1940) with Laurel & Hardy. However, he soon returned to England by way of a stint on Broadway in New York. Back in hisEngland 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 didn’t meet until their later horror films. Towards the end of the decade 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 ‘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 over the next 20 years. ‘The Revenge of Frankenstein’ (1958), ‘The Mummy’ (1959), ‘The Brides of Dracula’ (1960), ‘The Evil of Frankenstein’ (1964), ‘The Gorgon’ (1964), ‘She’ (1965)’ ‘Frankenstein Created Woman’ (1966), ‘Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed’ (1969), ‘The Satanic Rites of Dracula’ (1973) and his last outing as Frankenstein in ‘Frankenstein and the Monster From Hell’ (1974). He also appeared in films for the other major horror production company Amicus Productions where he made a couple of Dr. Who films (1965, 1966), ‘The House that Dripped Blood’ (1971), ‘I, Monster’ (1971) and ‘The Beast Must Die (1974), among 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 ‘Star Wars’ (1977). He made appearances on television shows ‘Hammer House of Horror’ (1980) and ‘Tales of the Unexpected’ (1983). Cushing’s retired in 1986. I grew up watching Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee on television every weekend, they stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the Universal horror legends.
In 1989 he was made an Officer of the British Empire in recognition of his contributions to the acting profession in Britain and worldwide. Peter Cushing died in August 1994 aged 81. Legend.
This entry was posted on May 26, 2011 by Geordie. It was filed under Biography, Biography: ACTORS, Birthdays and was tagged with Biography, British, Classic, Cult, Hammer Horror, Horror, Icons, Legend, Suspense, Thriller, Vampires.