The Unexplained: A Rose from the Master of Horror

Peter Cushing had memorable roles as Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Who

Peter Cushing was not a big fan of horror but was grabbed up by Hammer Studios to appear in their horror films – twenty-two in all.

Have  you ever seen a Helen Cushing Rose? You may have, and just didn’t know it.

The rose with white petals, edged in pink, has a unique history.  There is quite a story behind it.

Peter Wilton Cushing was the famous English actor whose acting covered six decades.  Helen – Violet Helene Beck – was his wife from April of 1943 to 1971 when she died of emphysema.  She had a previous marriage, but Peter Cushing was the love of her life.  She was his.  They were perfect soul mate’s and all of their friends could see it.  Though he was born in 1913, Peter said the actual date of his birth was 1942 when he met Helen.

In 1942, Helen was able to nab a replacement role in the Noel Coward play, Private Lives.  When she went through the stage door, she saw her one true love, another actor, Peter Cushing.

Helen’s family had come to England from St. Petersburg, Russia–Leningrad–to escape the horrors of the mounting revolution.  Helen worked hard to teach herself to dance and to perform on stage.  She was very bright and could speak four languages.  Her family had been wealthy in Russia.

Sara Marie Hogg

When she and Peter got married, she realized that if she tried to continue her show business engagements, that she would not get to see much of her beloved husband.  She decided that it would be best if she threw all her energy and support to help her husband.  He was really struggling to make a name for himself.Her formula worked.  It took a lot of grueling hours, but Peter started to become noticed.

First he appeared in live television plays where he became easily identifiable and well-known.  Helen encouraged him to take on the new medium of television and he succeeded in doing over thirty-one plays and two serials.  He was a television pioneer.

Then he was grabbed up by Hammer Studios to appear in their horror films – twenty-two in all.

He  also had good roles as Sherlock Holmes,  Dr. Who, and Grand Moff Tarkin.

Peter Cushing was not a big fan of horror, himself, but when he realized he was good at playing gentlmanly and distinguished characters in the scripts, he threw himself into the horror genre- – often appearing with his friend Christopher Lee who played the more rough roles.

All the while, Helen, his love, supported him and gave excellent suggestions.  She gave him confidence.  Many of his actor friends asked Helen for advice.  When Peter had to work in foreign countries, Helen acted as a translator.

Peter had had a somewhat traumatic childood, with odd parents.  His mother sometimes dressed him as a girl, and to discipline her childten, she pretended to be dead.  His father was distant.  Peter would carry some insecurities, as a result, and Helen was able to build him up.

Peter developed considerable artistic talent along the way.  He designed silk scarves and his design work got him through lean times.  His scarves were prized and it is rumored that some members of the royal family acquired them.  His paintings were also prized and they appeared in galleries and exhibitions.

Peter did much radio and voice work – even for talking books.

He collected military miniatures as a hobby – some, he painted himself.  He had over 5,000 soldiers that were sometimes  used in movies.

Peter had gone to Hollywood for a few parts in the early 1940s – he spent about two years.  He got homesick for England and traveled to New York to make his way back.  He performed in several dramatic works while in New York City.

He always preferred film to stage, because he could keep working a scene until it met his standards.

When Helen died, Peter could not accept the loss.  That very night he tried to commit suicide by giving himself a heart attack. He went up and down the staircase until he dropped – he dropped from fatigue, there was no heart attack.  He was inconsolable.  He told everybody he talked to, including journalists, that he wanted to die, he needed to die.  He announced that the only way he could be happy was if he died immediately, so he could be reunited with Helen.

He was not s religious practitioner, but his spiritual beliefs assured that he and Helen would be reunited in an afterlife.  The only way he found the strength to go on was in a letter that Helen left him.  She knew her days were numbered.  She begged him to go on without her and live out his life.  He made a mental promise to her ad was able to survive by working almost continuously.

Helen’s death was not only hard on him emotionally, it wrecked him physically.  In one instance he was cast as a man and had to be re-cast as his grandfather, instead, because he had gotten so thin and grey, practically overnight.

In May of 1982, Peter Cushing was diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer.  He could live 18 months manimum. He lived twelve more years without any treatment at all.

By some miracle, he had lived 23years beyond Helen – without her.

n October of 1973, Cushing appeared on The Amazing World of Kreskin, ITV.  He was talked into being a participant.  Kreskin asked Peter to write something significant about 1942 on a slip of paper and put it in an envelope.  They then burned the envelope until it was ash.  Kreskin asked Peter to rub the ash on his forearm and the letters “H” and “E” appeared on his arm.  Kreskin annouced: “It is ‘Helen,’ there is no need to continue.

In 1985, Peter was semi-retired.  He wanted to have a rose named for his wife.  Gardening was another of his hobbies.  He contacted Christopher Wheatcroft of Wheatcroft Nurseries to help him select a rose to bear Helen Cushing’s name.  Peter and the rose were featured in a segment of the BBC Wogan Chat Show.

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