I wrote a version of this for Planet Paul, but as it’s getting near time for Halloween I thought I’d share. I love horror movies, and when I was younger I was a member of the Peter Cushing Fan Club. No seriously, it was cool. For your dollar a year you received a monthly newsletter, lots of free pix, and many other oddments. One such was a news clipping about the great actor and his longing for death, after his wife, Violet Helen Beck died. Helen gave Cushing purpose and meaning and although he was born in 1913, the world famous actor preferred to see the year of his actual birth as 1942 – the year he met Helen.
It was love-at-first-sight, and the couple married in 1943, and thereafter, Helen, a former actress became the centre of Cushing’s life, encouraging him, and supporting him throughout the early, lean years of his career. As Cushing later said, “I owe it all to Helen. She was an actress and gave up her career for me. She made me what I am. She gave me a confidence, I could never have found on my own.”
If you look closely, you’ll see, in many of Cushing’s movies, a small silver framed portrait of Helen, placed as a prop on the desk of Baron Victor Frankenstein or in the study of Professor Van Helsing.
Cushing’s life with Helen was lived more on a mental plane than a physical one, as he told New Reveille in 1974, “We didn’t consider the physical aspect of marriage very important,” he explained. Yet, their love was so great that Cushing claimed his life ended the day Helen died in 1971.
That night, Cushing repeatedly ran up and down stairs in an attempt to induce a heart attack. He failed and later claimed his actions had been caused by the trauma of his Helen’s death - “I had always hoped that we would depart this life together, but it was not to be.”
From then on, Cushing had a death wish, and stated death was the only happy ending to his love affair with Helen.
“I am not a religious man, but I try to live by Christian ethics. Helen has passed on but she is with me still. She is all around. What I am doing is merely existing – longing for the day when I shall die and join her for ever. We will be together again but time does not heal.”
Before she died, Helen wrote Peter a poem telling him “not to be hasty to leave” until he had lived the life he had been given.
“I could not take away my life, because that would be letting Helen down. But I would be so happy if I could die tomorrow.”
But death did not come quickly for the great, good Gentleman of Horror, Cushing lived for a further 23 years, during which time he made some of his most memorable and successful films.