Stardust Memories

Collectors of movie memorabilia are queuing up for an auction of items from a Star Wars and horror film legend.

Collecting TV and film memorabilia is a field that’s been growing in popularity – and returns! – in recent years.

Not only is it fun to have a little something that reminds you of a loved film, or an item with links to a favourite celebrity, the items are generally attractive in their own right – props, posters, stills and toys, all sprinkled with a bit of stardust.

And the value is not just sentimental. A recent study from Sotheby’s revealed that auction prices fetched by props from old films had tripled in value over ten years.

As we all age, items from our childhood become ‘vintage’, creating demand driven by nostalgia. Add to that the fact that CGI has reduced the number of physical props in a film and the laws of supply and demand kick in. There’s a record number of formerly-obscure collectors groups now easily accessible online, boosting prices too.

But where does one start?

Memorabilia from popular TV shows or blockbuster films with mass appeal and big stars are the most sought-after, with authenticity and rareness the key.

If you want to dip your toe in the water, coming up on October 1st at the Canterbury Auction Galleries is a special sale of rare memorabilia from the estate of acting legend, Peter Cushing OBE (1913-1994), who lived for most of his life in Whitstable, Kent.

With a career spanning six decades, from Star Wars to the Hammer House of Horror films, Sherlock Holmes, Laurel and Hardy and even Dr Who, the highly personal items range from sketches, letters and photographs and toys, right up to a famous pair of slippers he wore on set in Star Wars and a letter informing him of a healthy bonus, bearing a very early Star Wars logo.

With some 400 lots in this special auction, there will be loads of collectible items for film buffs across the world, but the memorabilia also reveals Cushing the man, an accomplished artist.

Devastated by his wife Helen’s death in 1971, he went to live with his great friend and assistant of 35 years, Joyce Broughton, and her family. After Joyce’s sad death, they have now decided to release the treasures for others to appreciate his many talents.

Here are just a few items that caught our eye.

Slippers worn while filming Star Wars

Famously, while filming his role as the evil Death Star commander Grand Moff Tarkin in the first 1977 Star Wars film, Cushing’s costume boots pinched his size 12 feet. He asked director George Lucas if he could wear slippers instead and be filmed from the thighs up! Lucas happily complied. Later, a costume department was reputed to have made a tiny pair for a 12ins model for Cushing as a joke. Those slippers and the model together have an estimated value of £15 – 20,000. (Lot 1791.)

Star Wars bonus letter

The 1977 film was such a success, Cushing was awarded a bonus of US $6,000 for his “dedication, perseverance, creativity, and hard work” – around £25,000 in today’s money. The rare letter, dated Dec 1977, from producer Gary Kurtz, carries a very early Star Wars logo, with a figure wielding a light sabre. It was the first appearance of the now-familiar stacked type on the Star Wars logo. Est £4-500. (Lot 1792.)

Star Wars production story

Another gem for film buffs are fascinating production notes from 20th Century Fox about the upcoming 1977 film, explaining what is required ‘for true credibility’ and explaining their reasons for choosing Tunisia as a location. Included is a photocopy of a map of Tunisia with three locations highlighted. Est £2-300. (Lot 1789.)

Frankenstein contract

Cushing appeared in various sinister guises – including Baron Frankenstein – in many Hammer horror films. There are many letters and signed photos from this large portion of his career, including his contract for the 1969 film Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed. Est £100-150. (Lot 1557.)

Film posters

Cushing’s films were seen worldwide. There’s a great, signed poster for the French version of the 1960 film ‘The Brides of Dracula’ , called ‘Les Maitresses de Dracula’. At 14ins x 21.5ins it’s estimated at £120-160 (Lot 1559.)

Watercolour art

Cushing trained with British artist Edward Seago and his talent grew. One watercolour in the sale is titled ‘View of the Golf Links, Whitstable, from my studio window (before housing development hid it)’. It’s signed and dedicated to Joyce Broughton and her husband. At 14.25ins x 10.75ins it’s estimated at £4-600. (Lot 1567.)

Hand-painted silk scarf

In 1946 Peter was ‘resting’ between plays and painted his wife, Helen, a scarf. She wore it to the opening night of a play, where it was spotted by a textile manufacturer, who invited him to learn screen-printing. He took to it and for the rest of that year became a designer and created silk scarves, notably for the Festival of Britain and the Queen’s Coronation. The Queen Mother wore one of his creations when they met in 1956. This is the original scarf, signed and dated ‘46. It’s framed with a typed note on the back, “Scarf for Helen”. Measuring 28ins x 26ins it’s estimated at £6-800. (Lot 1520.)

Wicked caricatures

He would often stop at Whitstable’s Tudor Tea Rooms and do a newspaper crossword. In the working-out space he’d draw sharp caricatures of the tea room staff and customers. In the sale is an exercise book with scores of sharply-drawn caricatures, cut from those newspapers and stuck in. The book, containing other sketches and notes, is signed and dated ’90 and has an estimate of £3-400. (Lot 1662.)

The sale will be held at the Canterbury Auction Galleries on Sunday October 1. Visit for the full catalogue, plus how to register and how to bid. Souvenir printed catalogues are available at £12 or £15 posted.

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