Peter Cookson (May 8, 1913 – January 6, 1990) was an American stage and film actor of the 1940s and 1950s. He was known for his collaborations with his wife, Beatrice Straight, an actress and member of the Whitney family.
Cookson was born on May 8, 1913 on a houseboat on the Willamette River in Milwaukie, Oregon to Gerald Cookson, a career British Army officer, and Helen Willis, a nurse. Cookson attended the Pasadena Playhouse on a scholarship.
Cookson appeared in the play The Heiress on Broadway in 1947, where he met his wife to-be, Beatrice Straight. He was also a producer and produced the play The Innocents on Broadway in 1950, starring his wife. Cookson’s most famous stage role was of the love struck judge in Cole Porter’s 1953 musical Can Can in which he introduced the song “It’s All Right With Me.” “In interviews at the time, he said he was astonished at being given the part, as he had not sung for an audience since high school.”
Cookson starred in several feature films during the 1940s, including G. I. Honeymoon (1945) and Fear, before moving exclusively to television during the following decade.
He was a founding member of The Actors Studio, as was his second wife Beatrice Straight.
In 1937, Peter married Maureen Gray. Before their divorce in 1948, they had:
Peter and Maureen separated in Spring 1947. They attempted a reconciliation in the Summer of 1947, renting a house in Denver. At that time, Cookson had an affair with actress Patricia Neal. His wife found out and left him.
In 1948, while starring in the Broadway production of The Heiress, an adaptation of Henry James’s Washington Square, Cookson met Beatrice Straight (1914–2001), who he was acting opposite. Straight was the daughter of Dorothy Payne Whitney (1887–1968), of the Whitney family, and Willard Dickerman Straight (1880–1918), an investment banker and diplomat. Straight’s step-father was Leonard Knight Elmhirst (1893–1974). Cookson and Straight married in 1949, and had two children:
Cookson died in 1990 of bone cancer at his home in Southfield, Massachusetts. Beatrice died in 2001 from pneumonia in Northridge, Los Angeles at the age of eighty-six.
Filmography and credits
|A Guy Named Joe||Film||1943||Sgt. Hanson (uncredited)|
|Detective Kitty O’Day||Film||1944||Johnny Jones|
|The Girl Who Dared||Film||1944||Rufus Blair|
|Shadow of Suspicion||Film||1944||Jimmy Dale|
|Adventures of Kitty O’Day||Film||1945||Johnny Jones|
|G.I. Honeymoon||Film||1945||Lt. Robert ‘Bob” Gordon|
|Behind City Lights||Film||1945||Lance Marlow|
|The Scarlet Horseman||Film||1946||Kirk Norris|
|Strange Conquest||Film||1946||William Sommers|
|Don’t Gamble with Strangers||Film||1946||Bob Randall|
|Message for Margaret||Theatre||1947||Robert Chalcot||Theatre World Award (winner)|
|The Heiress||Theatre||1947-48||Morris Townsend|
|The Philco-Goodyear Television Playhouse||Television||1949|
|Robert Montgomery Presents||Television||1950||Maxim de Winter|
|The Innocents||Theatre||1950||Producer (ft. Beatrice Straight)|
|The Billy Rose Show||Television||1951|
|The Little Blue Light||Theatre||1950||Ellis||Producer|
|Broadway Television Theatre||Television||1952||Nathaniel Dunham|
|Seagulls Over Sorrento||Theatre||1952||Producer|
|Suspense||Television||1952-54||Maj. de Spain / Jack Trent|
|Can-Can||Theatre||1953-5||Judge Aristide Forestier|
|Studio One in Hollywood||Television||1954|
|Appointment with Adventure||Television||1955||Jamison Wyatt|
|The Millionaire||Television||1957||Alan Bruce|
|Telephone Time||Television||1957||Paul Wallace|
|Armstrong Circle Theatre||Television||1955-57|
|The United States Steel Hour||Television||1957|
|Four Winds||Theatre||1957||Garrett Scott|
|The DuPont Show of the Month||Television||1958|
|Kraft Theatre||Television||1952-58||Bruis / Mr. Knightley|
|The Investigator||Television||1958||A Debonair Bachelor|
|The Right Honourable Gentleman||Theatre||1965-66||Producer, Tony Award for Best Play (Nominee)|