Born in 1913, Peter Wilton Cushing graduated from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and began his acting career doing repertory theatre. He was in his mid-twenties when he made his first foray into Hollywood, making his film debut in 1939’s The Man With The Iron Mask—playing the back of Louis Hayward’s head. Several small roles followed, but this was a false start of sorts to his career. The war intervened, and its aftermath found Peter Cushing back in England. He had his most significant film role in Olivier’s Hamlet, in 1948—but it would be television in which he would make a name for himself during the 1950s. Working almost non-stop, Cushing won both popularity and critical praise for roles as diverse as Mr Darcy in Pride And Prejudice, Richard II in an adaptation of the play, Richard Of Bordeaux, and Winston Smith in 1984. His work won him a BAFTA in 1956, a year that also saw the founding of The Peter Cushing Appreciation Society (which is still going strong).

Then, in 1957, a group of producers began looking for a reliable, talented – and not too expensive – actor to play a mad scientist. They got much more than they had bargained for when they cast Peter Cushing as Victor Frankenstein: his brilliant, iconoclastic performance in the lead of The Curse Of Frankenstein was significantly responsible both for the success of the film, and for the birth of what came to be known as “Hammer Horror”.

And, like others before him, Peter Cushing subsequently found himself “typed”: his career from that point onwards was dominated by horror, science fiction and fantasy films, all of which were the better for his presence. One of the great “horror actors”, Cushing had the ability (often much needed) to elevate almost any production, never giving any sign of considering himself superior to his material. On his own and in partnership with his close friend, Christopher Lee, with whom he co-starred in twenty-two films, Peter Cushing would build one of the genre film’s great bodies of work.

So join us this month as we celebrate the work of one of horror’s true gentlemen:


All through May at the B-Masters’ Blog!

 
 

Liz Kingsley is the insane genius behind And You Call Yourself a Scientist!


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