Peter Cushing - The Complete Memoirs on book shelves to celebrate the centenary of the much-loved actor's birth this month is the extraordinary collection The Peter Cushing Scrapbook. A beautiful A4 landscape soft bound book in full colour, this 328 page treasure trove is only available direct from Peveril Publishing and is an overwhelmingly lovely and exhaustive pictorial history of Peter Cushing's life and career.
Wayne Kinsey, a highly respected Hammer Films researcher, historian and author of many detailed books about the studio (Hammer Films – the Bray Studios Years, The Elstree Studios Years, A Life in Pictures, the Unsung Heroes and On Location), and fantasy films historian and author Tom Johnson (Hammer Films – an Exhaustive Filmography, Peter Cushing – the Gentle Man of Horror and his 91 Films and The Films of Oliver Reed) collaborated with Joyce Broughton (Cushing’s faithful secretary and aide for over 35 years) to compile this definitive, essential book.
Not only does it chronicle in depth the actor's work on stage, television and in the cinema but it also explores his superb talents as a watercolor artist and cartoonist, his hobbies as a model theatre builder and his work as a silk scarf and jewellery designer. It brings together unseen materials from Joyce's own collection as well as rare pieces from director Roy Ward Baker's estate and a wide range of items from familiar names including writers, historians, documentarians and collectors Marcus Hearn, Denis Meikle, Don Fearney, Stephen Jones, Uwe Sommerlad, Simon Greetham, Christopher Gullo and Richard Golen among many others.
With a foreword from George Lucas, who fondly remembers Cushing's request to wear slippers rather than the tight boots made for him as he delivered the terrifying Grand Moff Tarkin's orders in Star Wars (1977), the book then presents the collected material in chronological sections, from his childhood and early ambitions to be an actor, his Hollywood experiences, an award winning television career, to his confirmation as a horror star at Hammer and Amicus and beyond; concluding with 'the blue period' in the aftermath of his wife Helen's death, being honoured with an OBE and settling into retirement.
'the madman of Purley'All of the material is assembled with great sensitivity and clarity and each section is annotated by the authors, sourcing quotes from various books and interviews. The design by Steve Kirkham must have been a massive undertaking and he packs in an unbelievable amount of memorabilia, personal items, photographs and artwork and cleverly uses Cushing's own scrapbook annotations to label the items.
Arriving at his teenage years the personalised copies of plays are evidence of how acting became a reality for him, his reams of notes covering the inside of a copy of The Rivals an indication of the detail he would apply to the hundreds of roles he would perform. Pictures of 'the madman of Purley' at 18 and 21 lead on to stage plans of rep performances and his early pen and pencil sketches.
The Hollywood period of his film and theatre career are captured in an amalgam of visas, passports, posters, publicity and an overview of the films he made there, from The Man in the Iron Mask (1939), A Chump at Oxford (1940) with Laurel and Hardy, as second lead in Vigil in the Night (1940) to playing Clive of India in Your Hidden Master (1940). A real treat is the access to his Hollywood diaries provided by Elstree historian Paul Welsh which shows how Cushing was embraced by his fellow actors and directors.
He returned to England during the war and met his future wife Helen, a Russian émigré actress, as they were preparing to get aboard a coach outside the Theatre Royal Drury Lane to take them to Colchester in a touring production of Private Lives. Cushing's habit of sending her cartoons and notes, often inspired by his love of Disney, underlined the deep affection he had for her from their marriage in 1943 until her untimely death. These pages also present the original programme from the very ambitious staging of War and Peace in which he secured two roles.
In 1946, we get a double page of his highly detailed scarf and jewellery designs. The hand painted scarves were a lucrative way of earning money during a period when film and theatre work was scarce and they were so successful Cushing ended up getting paid for ten months as silk screen printer for a Macclesfield textile mill owner and producing designs for the Festival of Britain and the Coronation. Pictures of him and Helen, either wearing the scarves or jewellery, mingle with the designs, his cartoons and personalised books. The section is complete with other examples of how he filled his free time, either in painting or constructing model theatres and collecting toy soldiers.
'The Olivier Years' chronicle his role as Osric in Larry's screen version of Hamlet (1948), complete with a glorious colour picture of him looking quite the dandy, various black and white stills from the production and a gallery of publicity images showing him at home in Airlie Gardens, working on his models, scarves or painting. This moves on to the Australian and New Zealand tour of the Old Vic Company filled with programmes signed by Olivier and images of him in School for Scandal and The Proposal. His breakdown during the 1950 London production of Damascus Blade is marked by a kind letter from co-star John Mills and the text notes Olivier's kindness in paying him a retainer during his recovery.
A great sense of humour and his love of games comes through in some of the private moments - he peers through binoculars at a toy horse racing game, clearly willing on a particular horse to win, and dons a pirate demeanor while playing a similarly themed board game. We also get some lovely shots of him and his toy soldier collection at their Airlie Gardens home. By the early 1950s, and despite his father's declaration he was 'nearly forty and a failure', Cushing had forged a career in television, instigated by Helen's letter writing campaign to BBC television producers.
tx:24/01/54), Nineteen Eighty-Four (tx:12/12/54) and The Creature (tx:30/01/55) are covered here with publicity shots, his personalised copies of the books with each of the roles marked, and they share space with a growing film career and roles in 1952's Moulin Rouge (Christopher Lee also appeared in a small part), The Black Knight (1954), The End of the Affair (1955), Magic Fire (1955) and Alexander the Great (1956).
These are illustrated with stills, posters, notes, family photographs, cigarette ads ('mine's a Minor'), articles by 'Mrs Peter Cushing' about marriage in Woman and the cover of the 1954 TV Mirror featuring the serialised autobiography The Peter Cushing Story.
After lunch with the Queen courtesy of his artist mentor Edward Seago, the book covers the theatre production of The Silver Whistle, a TV Mirror article about his toy soldier collection with a lovely picture of him and Helen, the Joseph Losey film Time Without Pity (1957) and the film which would change his career, The Curse of Frankenstein (1957).
Fully annotated and with a review from Tom Johnson who adds considerable information about all of his roles, the film is represented by his original 26 October 1956 contract, reproduced here with colour stills, posters, his bank payment book and newspaper clippings about his News Chronicle Best Actor award. Oh, and Phil Leakey demonstrates the creature's blinded eye. There's also some great coverage of the premiere, including a photograph of some horseplay from James Carreras as he tries to strangle Cushing.
TV productions for the BBC in the 1950s, Gaslight (tx:13/01/57) and The Winslow Boy (tx:13/03/58), are detailed and, among the Nescafe coffee ads ('it's the finest instant coffee' says Peter Cushing) and more TV Mirror coverage, we hurtle on to 1958's Dracula and his contract, his own annotated copy of Stoker's book autographed by cast and crew and the original scripted climax to the film which he would have a huge influence on.
The chapter on the 1950s ends with masses of material from The Revenge of Frankenstein (1958), including signed notes from Francis Matthews and Oscar Quitak, Dracula's UK and US premieres, a press launch for Hammer's The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959) at the Sherlock Holmes pub, the originally scripted confrontation between Lee and Cushing in The Mummy (1959), and the Cushings purchase of 3 Seaway Cottage in Whitstable that began a long, warm association with the seaside town. There's also a page mentioning an exhibition of his watercolours and an appearance on Desert Island Discs.
'Sir Boss' and 'Lady Boss'After moving to Hillsleigh Road, the Cushings settled into the new home and welcomed the arrival of Joyce Broughton in 1959 who became secretary to 'Sir Boss' and 'Lady Boss' and helped them manage Peter's career, the house and entertaining guests with toys and games. Non-horror roles became few and far between and he entered 1960 working on The Brides of Dracula. The original scripted climax is reproduced and again he had an influence on changing that to the one we are more familiar with. Prop bats and a note from production designer Bernard Robinson's wife, Margaret, are included. Among many others, this chapter also covers Cone of Silence (1960), Sword of Sherwood Forest (1960) and Cash on Demand (1962) with a wealth of posters, lobby cards and stills.
One of the warmest and loveliest stories here is the section on the late visual effects designer Ian Scoones. Scoones, then at art college in the late 1950s, wanted to get into the film business and, realising Cushing had a cottage down the road from him in Whitstable, called in to show him his work. Cushing eventually invited him to meet Hammer's designer Bernard Robinson who then introduced him to Ian's mentor, special effects legend Les Bowie. Correspondence between Scoones and Cushing, via Joyce, is reproduced here.
Swashbucklers were the order of the day in 1961 and fresh from John Gilling's Fury at Smuggler's Bay (a wonderful Christopher Lee joke about Cushing's death scene is mentioned) Cushing began work on Captain Clegg (1962), Hammer's back door adaptation of Russell Thorndyke's Dr Syn books. Cushing's meticulous attention to detail is noted by co-star Oliver Reed and on display are his costume drawings and, a real treasure, the first few pages of Cushing's own adaptations of the Syn novels, such was his enthusiasm for the project. He would return to Captain Clegg in 1972, writing his own sequel adventure.
He was back to television in 1963, with The Spread of the Eagle and a Comedy Playhouse, 'The Plan' and Paul Eddington's letter praising Cushing's performance as Julius Caesar in the former and Cushing's notes for the role are reproduced. Horror was never far away and The Evil of Frankenstein (1964) and The Gorgon (1964) for Hammer were followed up by work on Dr Terror's House of Horrors (1965), The Skull (1965) and Dr Who and the Daleks (1965) for their rivals Amicus. You'll also find plenty of material for Hammer's production of She (1965), including some rare contact sheets and photographs of an equally rare visit to the set from Helen. The notes on Daleks Invasion Earth 2150AD (1966) offer an intriguing coda about Malcolm Hulke's pilot script for a proposed radio series featuring Cushing as the Doctor.
Pipe Smoker of the Year award was given to Cushing in 1968, even though he hated pipe tobacco, Hammer received their Queen's Award to Industry and he ended the 1960s cameoing in Jerry Lewis's One More Time (1969) and Scream and Scream Again (1970) with his horror sparring partner Christopher Lee. The 1970s ushered in many changes to the Hammer horror formula, none more so than in The Vampire Lovers (1970). Pages from Roy Ward Baker's script can be seen, again showing how the climax of the film was altered. Stills and posters cover The House That Dripped Blood (1971) and I, Monster (1971).
Over this period Helen's health gradually became more and more fragile and the decade between 1971 and 1981 became Cushing's 'blue period' after Helen died during the production of Blood From the Mummy's Tomb in January 1971. It's terribly sad to see him sitting under her framed picture, the message from Peter on her gravestone and to read about the poignant final letter from her. Joyce Broughton's recollections of his attempts at suicide are heartbreaking. The cartoon notes and messages become much missed indications of their bond.
After a period where he completely shut down, he threw himself back into making films and at the end of 1971 gave us two of his best roles, as the confused Gustav Weil in Twins of Evil and as the harassed widower Arthur Grimsdyke in Tales from the Crypt. His Méliès awards, including best actor for the latter, are also featured. The 1970s were filled with a punishing schedule of film production, including Hammer's continuation of the Dracula franchise and European horror such as Horror Express (1972). He adored making the latter with Christopher Lee in Spain and among the stills and posters is his annotated script with costume details. There's a lovely comment from director Freddie Francis about The Creeping Flesh (1973) and how Cushing could turn 'absolute rubbish' into something utterly convincing and, again, pages of the script are here complete with Cushing's notes to himself and a warning: 'don't overact'.
... captures the professional and personal worlds of a remarkable actor
Costume sketches from Madhouse (1974), From Beyond the Grave (1974) and Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires (1974) display his fine talents as an artist and attention to detail as an actor. Even Don Houghton's 1973 memo, detailing how to reinstate Dracula into the latter when it was simply a vampire kung-fu picture, and pages of Roy Ward Baker's annotated script, his notes and memos and Cushing's model for a proposed 'Vampire Temple' display in an unrealised Hammer museum project are all here. Pages from Houghton's outline for Kali- Devil Bride of Dracula, which never emerged from development, are included as is coverage of Tyburn's The Ghoul (1975) and Legend of the Werewolf (1975).
He returned for a final theatre production in 1975, The Heiress at The Horseshow Theatre, Basingstoke and his typically analytical approach to the part is evidenced in the notes on his copy of the play. It was then back to films, with At the Earth's Core (1976), The Uncanny (1977) and, where we came in, Star Wars. More and more, he took parts in some less memorable and lower quality films such as Hitler's Son (1978) and Touch of the Sun (1979) and there are pages of annotated scripts representing them in this chapter. In 1978 he was back with Christopher Lee making Arabian Adventure (1979) for John Dark and Kevin Connor and television beckoned with an episode, 'The Silent Scream', in the anthology series Hammer House of Horror (1980). Again, a wealth of stills and posters and behind the scenes material is featured.
In 1982, he was diagnosed with cancer and given one year to eighteen months to live. He defied the prognosis and lived for another twelve years and continued to work in film and television, with a return to Holmes for Tyburn's The Masks of Death (1984) and his last film in 1985, Biggles - Adventures in Time. The remainder of the final chapters in the book cover his retirement, the writing of his two volumes of autobiography and growing friendships with people like photographer Colin Bourner. Letters from Buckingham Palace heralded his OBE honour in 1988 and the news coincided with a fall off his bicycle. Joyce Broughton had by now moved a few doors next door to Cushing in Whitstable and was able to keep a closer eye on him.
His last years between 1990-94 included appearances on This is Your Life, the naming of Cushing's View - the seating area on the seafront at Whitstable - and the recording of Flesh and Blood, Ted Newsome's retrospective documentary about Hammer, with this chapter also featuring some of his correspondence with Ian Scoones and Christopher Lee. Sadly before the BBC transmission of Flesh and Blood in August 1994, Cushing was admitted to a hospice in Canterbury where Joyce and Bernard Broughton looked after him until his death on 11 August.
Fittingly, the final chapter 'The Cushing Gallery' presents a comprehensive and beautiful selection of work, including his co-star Veronica Carlson's exquisite pastel drawings of him, a huge range of film posters, pencil drawings from his sketchbook, his watercolours, intricately detailed costume designs and miniatures, a heart-warming collection of the cartoon messages sent to his wife Helen, wildlife paintings and a set of doodles he completed on his trips to the Tudor tea rooms in Whitstable. The book closes with images of his model theatres, his toy soldiers, a selection of film props, his trademark humour shining through a series of candid shots and an afterword from his Dracula co-star Janina Faye.
This stunning book, capturing the professional and personal worlds of a remarkable actor, is jaw-droppingly packed with so much rare and special material and details about his life from Joyce, his colleagues, friends and dedicated fans and collectors. It's wonderful to see Peter Cushing being remembered in such a rich and rewarding way through the tremendous work of Wayne Kinsey, Tom Johnson and Joyce Broughton in their compiling of this book. An essential purchase.
The Peter Cushing Scrapbook
A Centenary Celebration
Wayne Kinsey, Tom Johnson and Joyce Broughton
Soft back, 328 pages, A4 Landscape, Full Colour throughout
Foreword by George Lucas. Afterword by Janina Faye