Archive for Hamlet

A Tribute to Peter Cushing

Posted in Entertainment, Movies and Theatre with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 25, 2012 by urbannight

Peter Cushing as Grand Moff Tarkin

 

I still have Peter Cushing on the brain. 

If you claim to be a fan of horror movies in general, or a fan of vampire movies, and you do not know who Peter Cushing is, I may have to call you a Poser.

This British actor, born in 1913, should rank up there with Bela Lugosi in name recognition.  Horror and Vampires owe as much to him and Christopher Lee as they to do Bela. 

Having an aunt who was an actress inspired his own acting dreams and he did amateur theater while also going to drama school. 

He continued to perform and decided to give Hollywood a try in 1939 when he landed a part in Man in the Iron Mask (good film, haven’t seen it in years) that same year.   But Hollywood wasn’t his style and he did a bit of acting  in Canada and on Broadway and returned to England to entertain the troops during WWII. 

He had the opportunity to perform Hamlet with Laurence Olivier and Christopher Lee was there in a bit part.  He and Lee also had the opportunity to do Moulin Rouge together as well. 

He is a perfect example of the British entertainment industry, where actors perform in film, on stage, and for television and he became a very familiar face on British television sets.  In fact, he was so well-known on t.v. that a comedian once called a television set “Peter Cushing with Knobs”.  (IMDB)

Near the end of the 1950’s, Hammer Film’s started to remake all the old horror films from the 30’s.  People saying we are in the decade of the Remake/Reboot are failing to notice that every decade does this.  They usually draw on material from 20 to 30 years prior.  What is unusual now is that they are currently drawing on material that isn’t actually all that old.

The Cushing and Lee names eventually became synonymous with Van Helsing and Dracula, at least to American viewers and apparently became best friends for life.  Cushing thought it odd that people would look at him and see a monster, he never actually played a monster.  He was occasionally the creator or a monster, Such as Baron Frankenstein, but often the man who killed the monsters, such as Van Helsing and Sherlock Holmes, who proved monsters were just humans with a bit of unusual knowledge.   It was Lee who often played the monster. 

For 20 years, Cushing performed in primarily horror programs.  During this time, although he did two films as The Doctor, he was actually the first choice for the original doctor.  I have not yet found out why that didn’t happen.  Of course, his most notable exception was Star Wars, as Grand Moff Tarkin. It is interesting to note that as many people working on Star Wars expected it to fail, Cushing actually thought kids would really like it. 

After his wife died, he seemed to have lost a lot of his will and didn’t perform as much.  His Star Wars performance was one of the few things he really did after her death.  He did do a few other bits and peices, but nothing as well know.

One of my favorite quotes by him is “You have to have a sense humor to be alive. Or a bit mad.  It helps to be mad.”  Of course, I’ve discovered that this isn’t the accurate quote.  It should be “You have to have a sense of humor, darling, to be alive.  Even a bit mad.  It helps to be mad”. (1991)

I found information on a variety of sites, I think I want to pick up either one of his autobiographies.  Most of the information seemed identical to IMDB or Wiki.  I’m not sure if wiki was based on the others or the other’s were just regurgitating Wiki.  So I primarily used IMDB for the timeline to organize the information I knew and filled in a few bits from Wiki.  Since most of what I know came from various t.v interviews and overviews over a lot of years, I couldn’t even begin to remember which programs my knowledge originally came from.  It probably came from PBS, A & E, and random stations running themed marathons where they talk about the people in the movies between showing the movies.