Sunday, 14 June 2009

Sir Peter that never was

I was pleased to see in the Saturday papers that Christopher Lee is now Sir Christopher. I've resisted the temptation to go for a tabloid style title for this observation (Fangs for the Honour, Arise Sir (Count) Christopher)...I'm sure they were all trotted out yesterday when it was first announced, and it would only annoy Sir Christopher anyway if he were to read this. It was nice to see an underrated talent recognised. He is now 87, and probably more successful in terms of international recognition than he's ever been. While he would probably admit that he isn't the world's most versatile performer, he is a great personality with a sense of humour and ability to move an audience (Curse of Frankenstein, The Mummy etc.). He has also (it has to be said) been the only convincing actor in the role of Dracula.

Sadly, Peter Cushing was never honoured in the same way. An even greater actor, capable of projecting a completely cool and callous persona (as in his Frankenstein films) or a strangely pitiful one (Grimsdyke in Tales from the Crypt), he was also renowned as a complete gentleman. No-one in the business ever seems to have had a bad word for him - something that can't quite be said of Mr Lee (sorry, Sir Christopher) who, on occasions, has been described as egotistical and bad-tempered. After the death of his beloved wife Helen in 1971, Mr Cushing lived only for his work. He gave some of his greatest performances in the 1970s but then became increasingly frail and went into semi-retirement in the 1980s. He never complained about being typecast as a "horror star". Peter Cushing died in 1994.

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