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Cushing, Peter (1913-1994)


Main image of Cushing, Peter (1913-1994)

Trained at London's Guildhall School of Music and Drama, Peter Cushing began his career in prewar Hollywood in The Man in the Iron Mask (US, d. James Whale, 1939) and made several films there before starting in Britain with Hamlet (1948), as a vividly exquisite Osric.

In the early 50s, he worked mainly in the theatre (he was in Laurence Olivier's 1951 St James Theatre season), had a TV triumph in Nineteen Eighty-Four (d. Rudolph Cartier, 1954), and was very moving as Deborah Kerr's cuckolded husband in The End of the Affair (d. Edward Dmytryk, 1954).

His film career took off when he played the eponymous over-reacher in Hammer's The Curse of Frankenstein (d. Terence Fisher, 1957), establishing him at once as a cult hero of the horror film aficionados, with Christopher Lee as the monster. These two names, along with director Terence Fisher, now evoke the output of this most successful British studio. 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 (d. Fisher, 1960).

His chiselled 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 performance is as the thin-lipped bank manager under fearful strain in the excellent B thriller, Cash on Demand (d. Quentin Lawrence, 1961).

He was awarded the OBE in 1989.

Autobiographies: An Autobiography (1986); Past Forgetting (1988).

Brian McFarlane, Encyclopedia of British Cinema

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Thumbnail image of At The Earth's Core (1976)At The Earth's Core (1976)

Cheap and entertaining SF hokum from an Edgar Rice Burroughs novel

Thumbnail image of Curse of Frankenstein, The (1957)Curse of Frankenstein, The (1957)

Breakthrough horror that made stars of Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee

Thumbnail image of Dr. Who and the Daleks (1965)Dr. Who and the Daleks (1965)

Feature film spin-off from the TV series, with Technicolor Daleks!

Thumbnail image of Gorgon, The (1964)Gorgon, The (1964)

Hammer branches out with its first female monster movie

Thumbnail image of Hamlet (1948)Hamlet (1948)

Laurence Olivier's multi-Oscar-winning Shakespeare adaptation

Thumbnail image of Hound of the Baskervilles, The (1959)Hound of the Baskervilles, The (1959)

Typically full-blooded Hammer Sherlock Holmes, with Peter Cushing

Thumbnail image of I, Monster (1971)I, Monster (1971)

Unofficial but surprisingly faithful version of the Jekyll and Hyde story

Thumbnail image of Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires, The (1974)Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires, The (1974)

Hammer Horror goes oriental as the studio cashed in on the kung fu craze

Thumbnail image of Nothing But The Night (1972)Nothing But The Night (1972)

Creepy Peter Cushing-Christopher Lee vehicle about a mysterious orphanage

Thumbnail image of Violent Playground (1958)Violent Playground (1958)

Powerful drama with Stanley Baker as a juvenile liaison officer

Thumbnail image of Hammer House of Horror (1980)Hammer House of Horror (1980)

Horror series about supernatural goings-on in the present day

Thumbnail image of Nineteen Eighty-Four (1954)Nineteen Eighty-Four (1954)

Highly controversial - in its day - Orwell adaptation by Nigel Kneale

Thumbnail image of Spread of the Eagle, The (1963)Spread of the Eagle, The (1963)

Nine-part miniseries adaptation of Shakespeare's Roman tragedies

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Thumbnail image of Fisher, Terence (1904-1980)Fisher, Terence (1904-1980)

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