Monday, 27 May 2013

Peter Cushing Anniversary

Thanks to Martin Jones for pointing out that today (26th May) marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of one Purley Boys most famous sons - Peter Cushing.

Old Boy Michael Shergold writes : "I see that Peter Cushing appears on the new commemorative (GREAT BRITONS) UK postage stamps, issue date 16th April Is he the first Old Purleian to appear thus.. A bit before my time 1946-52 but he did visit the school and spoke to crowd of us in the old gymnasium shortly after his appearance in the film of Hamlet.." 

Old Boy Don Chapman writes from Canada: "I was unaware that Peter Cushing was honoured with a stamp. Great.  Yes I well remember Peter Cushing coming to the school. We were in the Art class with Mr. Payne that day and Cushing answered questions. I bet he enjoyed the being lauded as he was not yet famous. Acting Osric as a fop won't have been one of his greater moments. I think his visit was before the whole school went over to a Caterham Valley cinema to see the film. Dr Burchall yelled out to quiet us when the school roared with teen testosterone approval  at Ophelia (Jean Simmons) showing her thigh when falling on some castle steps. :-)"  

He was born in Kenley, Surrey, the second son of George Edward Cushing and Nellie Maria (King) Cushing. Shortly after his birth, the family moved to Dulwich, South London where they remained during World War I thereafter returning near his birthplace; this time neighbouring Purley, Surrey, where his father, a notable Quantity Surveyor, built an Art Deco house on St James Road in 1926 and it was here that Cushing remained until early adulthood. 

Cushing left his first job as a surveyor's assistant to take a scholarship at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. After working in repertory theatre in Worthing, Sussex,he left for Hollywood in 1939, debuting in The Man in the Iron Mask, then returned in 1941 after roles in several films. In one, A Chump at Oxford (1940), he appeared alongside Laurel and Hardy. His first major film part was as Osric in Laurence Olivier's Hamlet (1948). In the 1950s, he worked in television, notably as Winston Smith in the BBC's adaptation of the George Orwell novel Nineteen Eighty-Four (1954) scripted by Nigel Kneale. Cushing drew much praise for his performance in this production, although he always felt that his performance in the surviving version of the broadcast — it was performed live twice in one week, then a common practice, and only the second version exists in the archives — was inferior to the first. Among many of his small screen performances, Cushing starred as Fitzwilliam Darcy in the BBC's 1952 production of Pride and Prejudice and as King Richard II in Richard of Bordeaux in 1955.

Cushing's first appearances in his two most famous roles were in Terence Fisher's films The Curse of Frankenstein (1957) and Dracula (1958). Cushing is closely associated with playing Baron Victor Frankenstein and Van Helsing in a long string of horror films produced by Hammer Film Productions. He later said that career decisions for him meant choosing roles where he knew the audience would accept him. "Who wants to see me as Hamlet? Very few. But millions want to see me as Frankenstein so that's the one I do." Cushing was often cast opposite the actor Christopher Lee, who became his best friend. "People look at me as if I were some sort of monster, but I can't think why. In my macabre pictures, I have either been a monster-maker or a monster-destroyer, but never a monster. Actually, I'm a gentle fellow. Never harmed a fly. I love animals, and when I'm in the country I'm a keen bird-watcher", he said in an interview published in ABC Film Review in November 1964.  

In the mid-1960s, Cushing played the Doctor in two films (Dr. Who and the Daleks and Daleks – Invasion Earth: 2150 A.D.) based on the television series Doctor Who. He decided to play the part as a lovable and avuncular figure to escape from his image as a "horror" actor. "I do get terribly tired with the neighbourhood kids telling me 'My mum says she wouldn't want to meet you in a dark alley'." he said in an interview in 1966. He appeared in The Avengers and its successor, The New Avengers. 

In 1986, he played the role of Colonel William Raymond in Biggles. In Space: 1999, he appeared as a Prospero-like character called Raan.  Cushing was one of many stars to guest on the Morecambe and Wise Show — the standing joke in his case being the idea that he was never paid for his appearance. He would appear, week after week, wearily asking hosts Eric and Ernie, "Have you got my five pounds yet?" When Cushing was the subject of This Is Your Life in 1989, one of the guests was Ernie Wise (Morecambe had died in 1984), who promptly presented him with a five pound note, but then, with typical dexterity, extorted it back from him. Cushing was absolutely delighted with this and cried "All these years and I still haven't got my fiver!"  

Cushing played Sherlock Holmes many times, starting with Hammer's The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959), the first Holmes film made in colour. Cushing seemed a natural for the part and he played the part with great fidelity to the written character — that of a man who is not always easy to live with or be around — which had not been done up to that point. He followed this up with a performance in 16 episodes of the BBC series Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes (1968), of which only six episodes remain. Finally, Cushing played the detective in old age, in The Masks of Death (1984) for Channel 4.  

In 1971, Cushing withdrew from the film Blood from the Mummy's Tomb when his wife died. He and actress Helen Beck (8 February 1905 – 14 January 1971) had been married since 1943. The following year, he was quoted in the Radio Times as saying, "Since Helen passed on I can't find anything; the heart, quite simply, has gone out of everything. Time is interminable, the loneliness is almost unbearable and the only thing that keeps me going is the knowledge that my dear Helen and I will be reunited again some day. To join Helen is my only ambition. You have my permission to publish that... really, you know dear boy, it's all just killing time. Please say that."[4]  In his autobiography, he implies that he attempted suicide the night that his wife died, by running up and down stairs in the vain hope that it would induce a heart attack. He later stated that this was a hysterical reaction to his wife's death, and that he was not consciously trying to end his life - a poem left by his wife urged him not to end his life until he had lived it to the full, and thus he felt that ending his life would have been letting his wife down. Though he didn't consider himself religious he also had strong ethical beliefs. 

In 1986 Cushing appeared on the BBC TV show Jim'll Fix It, his wish being to have a strain of rose named after his late wife Helen Cushing.  The effects of Helen's death proved physical as well. For his role in Dracula AD 1972, Cushing had been intended to play the father of Stephanie Beacham's character, but had visibly aged so much and lost so much weight that the script was hastily rewritten to make him her grandfather. In a quiet tribute to Helen, a shot of Van Helsing's desk shows a photo of her.  Star Wars [edit]    Peter Cushing as Grand Moff Tarkin in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (1977). In 1976, he was cast in Star Wars, which was shooting at Elstree Studios, Borehamwood. He appeared as Grand Moff Tarkin.  During production Cushing was presented with ill-fitting riding boots for the role and they pinched his feet so much that he was given permission by George Lucas to play the role wearing his slippers. The camera operators filmed him above the knees or standing behind the table of the conference room set.

After Star Wars, Cushing continued appearing in films and television sporadically, as his health allowed. In 1982, he was diagnosed with prostate cancer, but managed to survive for the remaining 12 years up to his death without surgery, though his health was precarious.  Cushing appeared in a comedy play written by Ernie Wise in The Morecambe and Wise Show on BBC2 in 1969. Throughout the BBC era of the shows he would appear often with Morecambe and Wise on stage looking to be paid for his very first appearance on their show. This comedy skit continued when the comedy duo left the BBC and moved to Thames Television in 1978. Peter appeared in their first special for Thames Television on 18 October 1978, still looking to be paid with the hosts trying to get rid of him; at the end of the show Eric Morecambe placed money in a wallet connected to a bomb, to try and blow Cushing up in a huge comedic style. On the duo's Christmas special, Cushing pretended to be the Prime Minister when they were caroling in front of 10 Downing Street; he actually made them give him money and finally coming out to say "paid, at last!"  

In 1989, Cushing was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire, though his close friend Christopher Lee publicly opined that this was "too little, too late." He retired to Whitstable, on the Kent coast, where he had bought a seafront home in 1959, and continued his hobby of birdwatching, and to write two autobiographies. Cushing worked as a painter, specialising in watercolours, and wrote and illustrated a children's book of Lewis Carroll-style humour, The Bois Saga. He was the patron of the Vegetarian Society from 1987 up until his death.

His final professional engagement was as co-narrator of Flesh and Blood, the Hammer Heritage of Horror, produced by American writer/director Ted Newsom. His narration was recorded in Canterbury near his home. The show was first broadcast in 1994, the week before his death. 

In an interview on the DVD release of The Hound of the Baskervilles, Christopher Lee remarked on his friend's death: "I don't want to sound gloomy, but, at some point of your lives, every one of you will notice that you have in your life one person, one friend whom you love and care for very much. That person is so close to you that you are able to share some things only with him. For example, you can call that friend, and from the very first maniacal laugh or some other joke you will know who is at the other end of that line. We used to do that with him so often. And then when that person is gone, there will be nothing like that in your life ever again.

Thursday, 16 May 2013

1st x1 1965 - Vic Gilbert in view

click the photo to see it full size.

Friday, 10 May 2013

1953 Snowdon Hut

Richard May has kindly sent in this historic photo of the Snowdon Hut in 1953.
click the photo to see it full sized.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Purley Boys ( Coulsdon College ) from the air.

So you can get context from Martin Jones photos in the previous post have a look at the current aerial photo below: click to see it full sized.

Friday, 3 May 2013

Purley Boys as it is now.

Sadly gone forever and replaced by what you see below. Photos by Martin Jones.

Fas et Patria

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