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Peter Wilton Cushing (born in Kenley, Surrey on 26 May 1913[1], died 11 August 1994[2]) played the eccentric Dr. Who in two mid-1960s movies (Dr. Who and the Daleks and Daleks' Invasion Earth 2150 A.D.) based on the Doctor Who television series. He is perhaps best known for playing Baron Frankenstein and Professor van Helsing in Hammer films, often appearing opposite his close friend Christopher Lee, as well for his role as Grand Moff Tarkin in Star Wars.

Apart from his role as Dr. Who, Cushing was considered to take over from First Doctor William Hartnell or Third Doctor Jon Pertwee. In either case, he turned down the role, due to prior commitments. Though, he did express doubts over whether or not he would've taken on the part if he had been free. [3] He had also appeared on a list of actors who could potentially play the Frankenstein-like role of the mad surgeon Solon in the Fourth Doctor story The Brain of Morbius. [4] and was subsequently considered for the role of Professor Hayter in Time-Flight (TCH 35). Shortly before his death, he was considered for the part of Borusa in a television movie project that eventually became Doctor Who.[5]

Profile[edit | edit source]

Cushing was born in Kenley, Surrey on 26 May 1913. He was raised in Kenley and Dulwich, South London. His middle name of Wilton was given to him in reference of his father's stepbrother, Wilton Herriott. [1] As child, he attended Shoreham Grammar School and Purley Grammar School.

Cushing's first acting experience came in 1929 at Purley, where he played a part in a school production. He left his first job as a surveyor's assistant to take up repertory theatre. After working in repertory theatre as both an actor and stage manager, he left for America in 1939. He traveled through New York and Los Angeles in search of acting roles, and soon found some limited success.

Due to previous medical issues and injuries, Cushing was exempted from serving in the second world war, but feeling homesick, he returned to England in 1941 after playing small roles in several films. He continued to perform in theatrical productions, and gained his first major film part in 1948 as Osric in Hamlet with Laurence Olivier, after Olivier had recollected Cushing's audition for a prior project of his and called for him to be screentested for the movie. [6]

Following the success of the movie, Cushing played parts in theatre productions of several Shakespeare plays under the hands of Olivier. In 1954, he played Winston Smith in the BBC TV live production of Nineteen Eighty-Four, for which he would win an award.

He is well-remembered for his many appearance in productions by Hammer Films, where he would most famously play the roles of Baron Frankenstein and Van Helsing, often starring alongside his close friend, Christopher Lee. Additionally, he played Sherlock Holmes many times, starting with Hammer's The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959), the first colour Holmes film. He followed this up with a performance in the BBC series Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes (1968), from which only six of the sixteen episodes survive. It co-starred Nigel Stock as Dr. Watson. Cushing played the detective one final time, in old age, in The Masks of Death (1984) for Channel 4.

Cushing's first role with Amicus Films, whom he also would have a long-standing affiliation with, was in Dr. Terror's House of Horrors in 1964. This would be the first of several times he worked on a project script by Milton Subotsky. During this film, he would also work alongside Roy Castle for the first time and become friends with him. He would again work with both on the first Dalek film.

After his work on the two Dalek films, Cushing recorded Journey into Time, the pilot episode for a proposed Doctor Who radio series that was rejected by the BBC. He would then continue to play roles in films created by Hammer and Amicus over the following years, as well as other horror films, though he would be somewhat troubled by the loss of his wife in 1971.

He would again play the character of Van Helsing in the Hammer Films movie, The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires. Interestingly, for the last half of the movie, he wears an outfit that closely resembles the outfit that he wore as Dr. Who.

In 1976, Cushing portrayed Doctor Abner Perry in At the Earth's Core, scripted by Subotsky. This part is often remarked as bearing a great similarity to Cushing's Dr. Who. Perry, specifically pointed out to resemble actor Peter Cushing, made an unnamed but obvious cameo in the Doctor Who universe in the 2013 novel From Wildthyme with Love, by Paul Magrs.

In 1977, he appeared in Star Wars as one of his most recognised characters, Grand Moff Tarkin, infamously recording his scenes wearing his own carpet slippers due to issues with the boots that had been made for him. He was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1982, inbetween film commitments. He would play a few more smaller role until 1986, when he retired to Whitstable, where he had bought a seafront house in 1959. In 1989, he was awarded an OBE (Officer of the Order of the British Empire).

He died from cancer in Canterbury in 1994, aged 81. He was married to the actress Helen Beck in 1943, not long after meeting her whilst performing in a production of Private Lives, until her death in 1971. His love for her has become one of the most warmly regarded aspects of his star persona, and he famously named a rose after her on the BBC programme Jim'll Fix It.

Justin Richards has stated in a tweet that the character of Lord Ernhardt in his novel Plague of the Cybermen was "played" by Cushing.[7]

In the DWU[edit | edit source]

An in-universe version of Peter Cushing has been referenced on many occasions in Doctor Who media, both valid and otherwise — sometimes in reference to other parts of Cushing's film career, but most often as part of efforts to present Cushing's "extracanonical" Doctor as in-universe fiction, "loosely based" on the real Doctor's adventures. In his novelisation of The Day of the Doctor, Steven Moffat went as far as to posit that the N-Space Cushing was in fact once a companion of the Doctor. He appears in the board game The Universe Marathon.

Footnotes[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 "The Peter Cushing Scrapbook", Wayne Kinsey; Tom Johnson; Joyce Broughton, Peveril Publishing, 2013
  2. The Independent
  3. Peter Cushing: In His Own Words, 2019, Rabbit and Snail Films (interview featured recorded by Richard Edwards in May 1986)
  4. DWM 541
  6. "An Actor, and a Rare One", Tony Earnshaw, 2001, Scarecrow Press
  7. Justin Richards' Twitter page (June 15th, 2013). Retrieved on March 14th, 2016.

External links[edit | edit source]

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