Sunday, May 26, 2013

Six Degrees of Peter Cushing -- Horror Films -- May 26, 2013

This post is part of  the Peter Cushing Centennial Blogathon, hosted by Pierre Fournier at his excellent blog Frankensteinia (

I first saw Peter Cushing when Creature Features on KTVU, an Oakland television station, played Terence Fisher's Curse of Frankenstein or Horror of Dracula.  I was impressed by Christopher Lee, who played the monster and the Count, but I identified with Doctors Frankenstein and Van Helsing.  Creature Features later played The Hound of the Baskervilles.  I thought Peter Cushing was an excellent Sherlock Holmes.  I still look forward to seeing the surviving episodes of the television show where he played Holmes.  Creature Features also showed one or both of the movies where Cushing played Doctor Who.  This was my first exposure to the character. 

The concept of Six Degrees of Separation holds that every person on Earth is connected to every other person by a chain of no more than six acquaintances.   For instance, I have a Walt Disney number of three:  Walt Disney received financing for Snow White, his first animated feature (and many later movies), from San Francisco's Bank of America.  To get the financing, Disney and his brother Roy spent much time talking to founder AP Giannini and his brother.  AP often ate lunch at a restaurant where my grandfather was partner and chef.  Giannini gave my grandfather investment advice.  So:
3.  me 
2.  my grandfather
1.  AP Giannini
0.  Walt Disney  

In an interview published in1994, actor Kevin Bacon remarked that he had worked with everyone in Hollywood or someone who had worked with everyone he had not worked with.  This inspired Craig Fass, Brian Turtle, and Mike Ginelli to create a game and later a book called Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.  The goal of the game is to relate anyone to Kevin Bacon in six steps or fewer.

I have been thinking that Peter Cushing, who worked in Hollywood in the Thirties, Britain in the Fifties, and everywhere else in the world, must be pretty well connected.  In this post, I will look at his connections with various notable horror movie actors.  In my second post, I will look at this connections with other actors who have played Sherlock Holmes.  In my third post, I will look at his connections with other actors who have played Doctor Who. In my last post, I will dig a little deeper into Degrees of Separation.

Horror Movies

Peter Cushing has a Peter Cushing number of zero.

Peter Cushing's best friend, Christoper Lee, has a Peter Cushing number of one, because they worked together many times.  Here we see Lee choking Cushing in The Curse of Frankenstein.

Hazel Court also appeared in The Curse of Frankenstein with Christoper Lee and Peter Cushing, so she has a Peter Cushing number of one.  She also appeared in The Raven with Boris Karloff, Peter Lorre and Vincent Price.

The first actor to play Frankenstein's Monster in a movie was Charles Ogle, in the 1910 Edison Frankenstein.  Charles Ogle has a Peter Cushing number of two. 
2.  Charles Ogle was in The Thundering Herd with Gary Cooper in 1925.
1.  Gary Cooper was in The Naked Edge with Peter Cushing in 1961.  

Lon Chaney, Sr, considered by many to be the first great horror film actor, has a Peter Cushing number of two.
2.  In 1926, Chaney appeared in The Road to Mandalay with tall, bearded Eric Mayne, who had a bit part.

1.  In 1941, Eric Mayne played a bit part in They Dare Not Love, with Peter Cushing, who had a slightly larger part. 

Lon Chaney's son, Creighton, billed as Lon Jr, played in a multitude of horror movies, and felt typecast.  Here is a poster from a movie where he got to show that he could act, an adaption of John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men.  Lon Chaney Jr also has a Peter Cushing number of two.
2.  In 1939, Chaney Jr co-starred in Of Mice and Men with Burgess Meredith.
1.  In 1967, Burgess Meredith appeared in Torture Garden with Peter Cushing.

Bela Lugosi is loved by many for his performances as Count Dracula, especially in the 1931 version.  His career went downhill after that, which is why he has a Peter Cushing number of two.
2.  In 1951, Bela Lugosi appeared in the classic (?) comedy Old Mother Riley Meets the Vampire with Ian Wilson, who played the butler.
1.  In 1960, Ian Wilson played a small role in Suspect, also known as The Risk, with Peter Cushing.

I think Boris Karloff is the greatest interpreter of Frankenstein's Monster, in the 1931 Frankenstein and the 1935 Bride of Frankenstein.  I had a small reproduction of this poster in my room when I was growing up.  Karloff was able to appear in many types of movies over the years, but always came back to horror.  Boris Karloff has a Peter Cushing number of two, because in 1968 Karloff appeared with Christopher Lee in Curse of the Crimson Altar.  Christoper Lee has a Peter Cushing number of one.

Edward Van Sloan was a distinguished-looking actor who played Professor Van Helsing in Dracula and Doctor Frankenstein's teacher, Doctor Waldman.  His prologue to Dracula left an impression on me when I was very young.  Edward Van Sloan has a Peter Cushing number of two.
2.  Edward Van Sloan was in Dracula with Nicholas Bela in 1931.
1.  Nicholas Bela was in They Dare Not Love with with Peter Cushing in 1941. 

Colin Clive played Doctor Frankenstein in Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein, directed by James Whale and starring Boris Karloff.   Colin Clive has a Peter Cushing number of two.
2.  Colin Clive was in The Girl From 10th Avenue with Bette Davis in 1935.
1.  Bette Davis was in John Paul Jones in 1959 with Peter Cushing. 

Elsa Lanchester was a British actress who had a long and varied career.  She is famous among horror fans as the Bride in Bride of Frankenstein. Elsa Lanchester has a Peter Cushing number of two. 
2.  In 1942, Elsa Lanchester was in Son of Fury with John Carradine, another frequent horror movie actor.
1.  In 1983, John Carradine was in House of the Long Shadows with Peter Cushing.

 For me, the highlight of Bride of Frankenstein was Ernest Thesiger's Doctor Pretorious.  Every time he said "It's my only vice," I was pretty sure it wasn't.  His Horace Femm in The Old Dark House was another great performance.  Ernest Thesiger has a Peter Cushing number of two.
2.  Ernest Thesiger was in Bride of Frankenstein with Ted Billings in 1935.
1.  Ted Billings was in The Man in the Iron Mask with Peter Cushing in 1939. 

Zita Johann is best remembered for playing Princess Anck-es-en-Amon, Boris Karloff's love interest in The Mummy.  Zita Johann has a Peter Cushing number of two.
2.  In 1933, Zita Johann was in Luxury Liner with tough guy actor George Brent.
1.  In 1941, George Brent was in They Dare Not Love with Peter Cushing. 

I have always been a fan of Dwight Frye, who played Renfield in Dracula, Fritz in Frankenstein, and even Wilmer the gunsel in the 1931 Maltese Falcon.  Dwight Frye has a Peter Cushing number of one, because in 1939 he appeared in The Man in the Iron Mask with Peter Cushing.  They both played small roles.

Peter Lorre appeared in many horror films.  In the photo we see him in Mad Love, one of his creepiest performances.  I like his work in the horror-comedy Arsenic and Old Lace as Doctor Einstein.  Peter Lorre has a Peter Cushing number of two.
2.  Lorre appeared in The Raven in 1963 with Vincent Price.
1.  Vincent Price appeared in Madhouse in 1974 with Peter Cushing. 

Fay Wray had a long career, but is best remembered for her screams in horror movies like King Kong, The Most Dangerous Game, Doctor X, The Mystery of the Wax Museum and The Vampire Bat.  Fay Wray has a Peter Cushing number of two. 
2.  In 1934, Fay Wray appeared in The Affairs of Cellini with distinguished actor Frederick March.
1.  In 1956, Frederick March appeared in Alexander the Great with Peter Cushing. 

Vincent Price, who had a long career in Hollywood, became known as a master of horror.  The photo shows him in one of my favorites, The Abominable Doctor Phibes.  Vincent Price has a Peter Cushing number of one, because he appeared in a few movies with Peter Cushing, including 1970's Scream and Scream Again.

Barbara Steele was a British actress who became famous for appearing in Italian horror films in the 1960s.  Barbara Steele has a Peter Cushing number of two.
2.  Barbara Steele was in The 39 Steps in 1959 with John Harvey.  This was not a good version of The 39 Steps.
1.  John Harvey was in Legend of the Werewolf in 1975 with Peter Cushing.

I nearly forgot to mention John Carradine, who appeared in many horror movies during his long and distinguished career.  John Carradine has a Peter Cushing number of one.  He appeared with Peter Cushing, and Christoper Lee and Vincent Price, in House of the Long Shadows

Mel Brooks' Young Frankenstein  may have been the first movie I went to see by myself, at the Metro on Union Street in San Francisco.  It left an impression on me.  Gene Wilder played Doctor Frankenstein and Peter Boyle played the Monster.  Gene Wilder has a Peter Cushing number of two.
2.  Gene Wilder played in The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother with John Le Mesurier in 1975.
1.   John Le Mesurier played in The Hound of the Baskervilles with Peter Cushing in 1959. 

Peter Boyle also has a Peter Cushing number of two.
2.  Peter Boyle was in Malcom X with Billy J Mitchell in 1992.
1.  Billy J Mitchell was in Top Secret! with Peter Cushing in 1984. 

Marty Feldman (Igor), Teri Garr (Inga), Madeline Kahn (Elizabeth), Cloris Leachman (Frau Blücher) and Kenneth Mars (Inspector Kemp) all have a Peter Cushing number of two. 

Wes Craven's original 1984 A Nightmare on Elm Street and a slew of sequels starred Robert Englund as Freddy Krueger.  Robert Englund has a Peter Cushing number of two.
2.  In 1977 Robert Englund appeared in Eaten Alive (not to be confused with the 1980 Eaten Alive!, which had an exclamation point) with tough-guy actor Stuart Whitman.
1.  In 1974, Stuart Whitman played the title character in Shatter with Peter Cushing.

The 2010 remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street starred Jackie Earle Haley as Freddy Krueger.  Like Robert Englund, Jackie Earle Haley has a Peter Cushing number of two.  Jackie Earle Haley appeared in the 2012 Dark Shadows with Christoper Lee, who has a Peter Cushing number of one.

It appears that Peter Cushing is well connected in the horror movie field.  In my next post, I will look at his connections with other actors who have played Sherlock Holmes. 

After seeing so many people with a Peter Cushing number of two, I decided to compare Peter Cushing with another actor who was born in 1913 and died in 1994, Burt Lancaster.  The photo shows Lancaster with Ava Gardner in the excellent 1946 film  The Killers, which was loosely based on a short story by Ernest Hemingway.  I calculated Burt Lancaster numbers for the people mentioned in this article. Burt Lancaster's Peter Cushing number is ... 2. 

actorBurt LancasterPeter Cushing
Christoper Lee11
Hazel Court21
Charles Ogle22
Lon Chaney, Sr22
Lon Chaney, Jr22
Bela Lugosi22
Boris Karloff22
Edward Van Sloan22
Colin Clive22
Elsa Lanchester22
Ernest Thesiger22
Zita Johann22
Dwight Frye21
Peter Lorre12
Fay Wray22
Vincent Price21
Barbara Steele22
John Carradine11
Gene Wilder22
Peter Boyle22
Marty Feldman22
Teri Garr22
Madeline Kahn22
Cloris Leachman22
Kenneth Mars22
Robert Englund22
Jackie Earle Haley22

The results were similar, but not the same. 

Most of the images in this post come from the excellent site LucyWho (  The calculations of Peter Cushing numbers come from The Oracle of Bacon (

Six Degrees of Peter Cushing -- Horror Films
Six Degrees of Peter Cushing -- Sherlock Holmes
Six Degrees of Peter Cushing -- Doctor Who
Six Degrees of Peter Cushing -- And Now the Screaming Stops


RayRay said...

I really enjoyed this. Very clever. While familiar with the Bacon Number, I never would have thought of it in regards to Cushing's long career.

For the record, my own Cushing number is a respectable 3:
I took 2 years of high school chemistry with Rick Gomez (1), who was in 11:14 (2003) with Barbara Hershey (2), who was in Trial By Combat/A Dirty Knight's Work (1976) with Peter Cushing (3)

Joe Thompson said...

RayRay: I'm glad you enjoyed it. I will have Peter Cushing numbers of many people who played Sherlock Holmes tomorrow.

Your Peter Cushing number is impressive. I will reveal mine in my last post.

Craig Edwards said...

This is a fantastic idea and post! Before the Bacon game came up my friends and I played this game - linking actors by co-stars - we'd go from Johnny Depp to Charlie Chaplin - challenging each other. You could ALWAYS do it. Astounding. My Peter Cushing number is 3. I appear in the film Empire Records with Maxwell Caulfield, who appeared in The Man Who Knew Too Little with John Standing, who was in Torture Garden with Peter Cushing.


Fellow Peter Cushing Centennial Blogathon Participant

Joe Thompson said...

Craig -- I'm glad you liked it. I have played a similar game with baseball players, like Ty Cobb to Willy Mays by teammates. A Peter Cushing number of 3 is impressive. I loved Empire Records.