Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Bloofer Gent: Peter Cushing

If I were a vampire lady, I'd choose Cushing for my nemesis...
For the past few years, I've named a Bloofer Lady for October. ('Bloofer lady' being what the cockney kids in Dracula called the vampire Lucy Westenra, a childish version of 'beautiful'.) We've had Yvonne de Carlo, Elsa Lanchester and Fenella Fielding. This year, to even things up a little, I have decided we should have a Bloofer Gent, and have chosen one of my very favourite actors, Peter Cushing.



Hammer films are often mocked by people who fail to see how revolutionary they were, with their use of colour, splashings of gore and in-the-round sets. And the early ones are actually pretty well scripted, though by the 1970s even I will admit things aren't looking good. However, one thing that is always reliably good is the performance of Peter Cushing. If ever a man embodied the idea of elegance, it is he. His aquiline features look both intelligent and artistic, yet when he is gentle you really do understand that here is a kind man. (My first actual memory of Peter Cushing is when he wrote to Jim'll Fix It because he wanted a rose named after his late wife, Helen. What a beautiful thing to do!)

An excellent Sherlock Holmes in 'A Study in Scarlet'.
Watching Dracula 1972AD, you feel that Christopher Lee has decided to embrace the campery of it all (he doesn't get much screen time anyhow as he was by that point a sought-after actor and Hammer wanted to keep costs down) and the younger actors are having fun, but Cushing plays things devastatingly straight, giving the film a dose of much-needed dignity. That ability to remain dignified in the face of the downright silly stood him in good stead, and he appeared numerous times on the popular comedy programme Morecambe and Wise, always trying to get the fiver Eric and Ernie owed him for his first appearance. That's class for you: playing the perfect straight man.

He never did get that fiver.
Frankly, Peter Cushing is a Geek Icon. Just look at some of the characters he's played: Van Helsing. Sherlock Holmes. Doctor Who. Baron Frankenstein. Mr Darcy. Winston Smith. He appeared in Star Wars and The Avengers (the Steed/Peel Avengers, not the superheroes). He's taken on Dracula, the Daleks and Big Brother, and come to a sticky end at the hands of Darth Vader.


Elegant and intelligent, sensitive and suave – Peter Cushing, Bloofer Gent, we salute you!

5 comments :

  1. I always wanted him to live next door, but then I was a strange gothic child once upon a time

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  2. Everything I’ve ever read about the guy suggests he was an absolute gent, in fact I don’t think I’ve ever heard a bad word said against him. I’d heard before how much he adored his wife. My favourite anecdote is the fact that his boots were so uncomfortable filming Star Wars that, in close up, he was often wearing carpet slippers. Plus whilst certain other actors (I’m looking at you Alec Guinness) were sniffy about doing Star Wars, he was just utterly professional about it.

    Forgive me for letting my inner pedant out though, he didn’t meet a sticky end at the hands of Vader, rather it was at the hand (or rather trigger finger) of Luke (sorry).

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    Replies
    1. Damn! Geek FAIL on my part. I need to watch Star Wars again!

      You're right, no-one ever has a bad word to say about Cushing. He really was one of nature's gentlemen.

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  3. One of my heroes! Excellent post! :)

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