Birthday: November 17, 1937
Died At Age: 57
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Also Known As: Peter Cook
Born in: Torquay, Devon, England
Famous as: Actor, Comedian, Satirist, Writer
Spouse/Ex-: Judy Huxtable (m. 1973–1989), Lin Chong (m. 1989–1995), Wendy Snowden (m. 1963–1971)
father: Alexander Edward
mother: Ethel Catherine Margaret
siblings: Elizabeth, Sarah
children: Daisy Cook, Lucy Cook
Died on: January 9, 1995
place of death: Hampstead, London, England
City: Torquay, England
Peter Cook was one of the most brilliant British comedians and satirists who was at his zenth in the 1960s. When this comedian embarked on his career, there were many more comedians jostling for attention. He founded ‘The Establishment’, a club, as an outlet for these comedians to perform. He won many admirers in U.K and U.S. and was ranked alongside Jonathan Miller and Alan Bennet. His partnership with fellow comedian, Dudley Moore, produced many memorable performances. They complemented each other well. He would allow his partner to improvise by his spontaneous ad-libs that seemed to stray away from the script. As a writer, he preferred to take digs at the establishment, especially the politicians. His satire was aimed at the world of advertising too. He supported the Amnesty International and appeared in three fund raising galas staged by fellow humorists. He did not enjoy the same stature in Hollywood as Moore since he was never comfortable there, being too much of a rebel. Another reason, proposed at the time of his death by the media was that his alcoholism was a prime reason why he could not realize his full potential. He, however, continues to inspire successive generations.
Childhood & Early Life
Peter Cook born was in Shearbridge, Torquay, in Devon, as the eldest, and the only son of Alexander Edward Cook and Ethel Margaret Mayo. His father was a colonial civil servant.
He attended Radley College and Pembroke College, Cambridge, where he studied French and German. His original intention was to join the civil services but the idea lost its charm gradually.
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At Pembroke, in 1960, Peter Cook admired fellow comedy writer, David Nobbs and became the president of the Cambridge University Footlights Dramatic Club, an amateur theatrical club run by students.
His breakthrough came with the premiering of ‘Beyond the Fringe’, in 1960, a satirical stage show with Jonathan Miller, Alan Bennett and Dudley Moore. His impersonation of Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan was outstanding.
In 1961, he founded, ‘The Establishment’, a kind of night club, at 18 Greek Street, Soho, where fellow comedians could perform without fear of censorship as the club was open to members only.
His first major foray into television was with ‘Braden Beat’ in 1962, in which he played, E.L Wisty, a very unfriendly and boring person, a character conceived by him while at Radley College.
In 1966, he acted in the comedy film, ‘The Wrong Box’, based on the novel by Robert Louis Steven. It included leading actors of the time such as Michael Caine, Dudley Moore and Peter Sellers.
The comedian teamed with Dudley Moore for the ATV serial, ‘Goodbye Again’ which was not very popular because the program lacked preparation.
‘The Rise and Rise of Michael Rimmer’, a satirical film was released in 1970 starring Cook. Directed by Kevin Billington, it was about an opinion pollster who becomes the President of Great Britain.
He teamed with Moore in the revue, ‘Behind the Fridge’, with refashioned materials from ‘Not Only....But Also’, and ‘Goodbye Again’ and performed in Australia and America in 1973.
He partnered with Moore for the double act album, ‘Derek and Clive’, first released in 1976 with sequels in the following years. The main characters were foul mouthed and regarded too crude.
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He played an important role in ‘The Secret Policeman’s Ball’, a collective name to describe a series of benefit shows staged in England in the 1970s to raise funds for Amnesty International.
The comedian moved to America in 1980 and appeared in the sitcom, ‘The Two of Us’, with Mimi Kennedy. Produced by CBS, it is about a wealthy woman and her solemn English butler.
In the 1980s, he appeared in a number of television series such as, ‘Tales of the Unexpected’, ‘The Black Adder’, ‘The Comic Strip’, and was declared the winner of the comedy show, ‘Whose Line Is It Anyway?’
He played Arthur Streeb-Greebling in ‘A Life in Pieces’, about the oddball aristocrat’s series of twelve interviews in which he describes his life. His acting was amazing and it helped boost his sagging image.
The Peter Cook and Dudley Moore double act reached its zenith in ‘Not Only...But Also’, a BBC2 series that aired for six years from 1964. The ad-libs from Cook and Moore's responses were hilarious.
He co-wrote and co-starred with Dudley Moore in the 1967 comedy film, ‘Bedazzled’, that made $1,500,000. He played ‘The Devil’, who offers seven wishes to an unhappy young man, in return for his soul.
Awards & Achievements
Peter Cook shared ‘The Antoinette Perry Award’ for Excellence in Theatre, known popularly as the Tony Award, with Alan Bennett, Jonathan Miller and Peter Cook for ‘Beyond the Fringe’ in 1963.
He won the BAFTA Award in the category, ‘Best Light Entertainment’ in 1966. He shared the award with his comedy partner, Dudley Moore.
In 1974, he shared the Grammy Award in the ‘Best Spoken Word Recording’ for Good Evening, with double act partner, Dudley Moore. He also shared the Tony Award with Moore for the same.
Personal Life & Legacy
Peter Cook was married thrice. With his first wife, Wendy Snowden whom he married in 1963 and divorced in 1971, he had two daughters, Lucy and Daisy.
His married Judy Huxtable in 1973. This marriage ended in 1989.
He tied the knot for the third time with Malaysian born Lin Chong in 1989. This marriage lasted till his death.
He died on 9 January 1995, at the age of 57, after suffering a gastrointestinal haemorrhage.
This famous comedian’s former comedy partner was said to have based his title performance in ‘Arthur’ partly on this comedian, whose excessive drinking had soured their partnership.
John Lennon, the former Beatle member, once told this comedian and his wife at the time, Wendy, that the song, ‘Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds’, was written for their daughter, Lucy.