Peter Cookson

IntroCanadian rower
Is Sports official 
Rowing official 
From Canada 
Type Sports 
Birth 11 October 1957 
Age63 years
Star signLibra

Peter Cookson (May 8, 1913 – January 6, 1990) was a stage and film actor of the 1940s and 1950s. He was known for his collaborations with his wife, Beatrice Straight the actress and member of the Whitney family.

Early life

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.

Personal life

In 1937, Peter married Maureen Gray. Before their divorce in 1948, they had:

  • Peter Cookson Jr. (b. 1942)
  • Jane Copland (née Cookson)

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:

  • Gary Cookson, an actor.
  • Tony Cookson, writer and director of And You Thought Your Parents Were Weird (1991)

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.

Published works

  • Henderson’s Head (1973), a novel described as “sexually whiffy psychotic stuff” by Kirkus Reviews.
  • Pigeons, a comedy play later turned into a script in 1986.
  • Million Rosebuds (1978), a play written with the New Dramatists
  • Unique Species (1984), a play.

Filmography and credits

Swingtime JohnnyFilm1943Jonathan
A Guy Named JoeFilm1943Sgt. Hanson (uncredited)
Strange ConfessionFilm1944Soldier
Detective Kitty O’DayFilm1944Johnny Jones
The Girl Who DaredFilm1944Rufus Blair
Shadow of SuspicionFilm1944Jimmy Dale
Adventures of Kitty O’DayFilm1945Johnny Jones
G.I. HoneymoonFilm1945Lt. Robert ‘Bob” Gordon
Behind City LightsFilm1945Lance Marlow
The Scarlet HorsemanFilm1946Kirk Norris
FearFilm1946Larry Crain
Strange ConquestFilm1946William Sommers
Don’t Gamble with StrangersFilm1946Bob Randall
Message for MargaretTheatre1947Robert ChalcotTheatre World Award (winner)
The HeiressTheatre1947-48Morris Townsend
The Philco-Goodyear Television PlayhouseTelevision1949
Robert Montgomery PresentsTelevision1950Maxim de Winter
The InnocentsTheatre1950Producer (ft. Beatrice Straight)
The Billy Rose ShowTelevision1951
The Little Blue LightTheatre1950EllisProducer
Lights OutTelevision1951
The WebTelevision1951-52
Broadway Television TheatreTelevision1952Nathaniel Dunham
Seagulls Over SorrentoTheatre1952Producer
SuspenseTelevision1952-54Maj. de Spain / Jack Trent
Can-CanTheatre1953-5Judge Aristide Forestier
Studio One in HollywoodTelevision1954
Appointment with AdventureTelevision1955Jamison Wyatt
Star TonightTelevision1955
The MillionaireTelevision1957Alan Bruce
Telephone TimeTelevision1957Paul Wallace
Armstrong Circle TheatreTelevision1955-57
The United States Steel HourTelevision1957
Four WindsTheatre1957Garrett Scott
Matinee TheatreTelevision1958James
The DuPont Show of the MonthTelevision1958
Kraft TheatreTelevision1952-58Bruis / Mr. Knightley
The InvestigatorTelevision1958A Debonair Bachelor
The Right Honourable GentlemanTheatre1965-66Producer, Tony Award for Best Play (Nominee)