Although Peter Cushing was born in 1913, the world famous actor preferred to see his birth year as 1942 – the year he met Violet Helen Beck.
Peter and Helen married in 1943, and the 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.”
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.
On that fateful night, Cushing repeatedly ran up and down stairs to induce a heart attack. He failed and later said his actions had been caused by the trauma of his wife’s death.
“I had always hoped that we would depart this life together, but it was not to be,’ he said.
Thereafter, Cushing had a death wish, and claimed that 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 Gentleman of Horror. Cushing lived for a further 23 years, performing in some of his most memorable films, which highlighted the very fine talents of this very great actor.