Object lesson: Peter Cushing's smoking jacket

The history of an iconic piece of film memorabilia that comes up for sale this week

Dandies, horror aficionados and fans of British cult cinema have a treat in store when the original smoking jacket worn by Peter Cushing in The House That Dripped Blood comes up for sale in Bonhams’ entertainment memorabilia auction on 24th June.

Peter Cushing wearing the Cox Moore smoking jacket in The House That Dripped Blood (1971)

It’s a splendid garment and beautifully made. Tailored in a fine scarlet wool, it was stitched by woollen manufacturers Cox Moore for Simpson’s of Piccadilly, once the largest retailer of menswear in the UK and now the home of Waterstones' flagship store. The jacket sports a black shawl collar embroidered with ornate white stitching – just the thing for a would-be Dr Frankenstein with a slender build.  

Cushing wore it in the 1971 Amicus horror flick The House That Dripped Blood, which was based on a collection of short stories by American pulp horror writer Robert Bloch, and also starred Christopher Lee, Jon Pertwee and Denholm Elliott. Connoisseurs of the genre will remember the psychedelic ‘wax nightmare’ sequence, in which the smoking jacket features.

Peter Cushing was a gentlemanly charmer much loved by cinemagoers, film crews and horror fans, and was best-known for his numerous starring roles in Hammer Films’ series of British post-war horror movies.  

Following his death in 1994, the jacket first came up for sale in the Phillips auction of props, costume and memorabilia from Cushing's estate.

The jacket's current owner, former Bonhams director Stephanie Connell with it during Battersea Decorative Fair

Entertainment memorabilia is big business, and you might be surprised at the prices rare props and film collectables can fetch. For an obsessive fan, tracking down and owning an original prop creates a link to a favourite film or television programme. For non-collectors, this can be hard to fathom.

It’s about association and authenticity. If you find yourself tempted to enter the fray, remember that provenance is king, and it’s essential to spend time checking the history of the prop or costume you’re interested in before raising your hand for a bid.

Estimated at £800-£1,200 (very reasonable for a piece of this pedigree), the smoking jacket is being sold with a still from The House that Dripped Blood showing Cushing wearing an identical jacket and a copy of the original Phillips’ Items from the Estate of Peter Cushing auction catalogue.

If the sale of Peter Cushing’s frock coat from The Evils of Frankenstein at Bonhams in 2007 is anything to go by, it could be quite the estimate buster. It fetched £12,000.

The Entertainment Memorabilia auction takes place at Bonhams Knightsbridge, Montpelier Street, London, SW7 1HH on 24th June. 020 7393 3900; bonhams.com

Luke Honey is an antiques dealer and blogger for Homes & Antiques 

Images courtesy of The Peter Cushing Appreciation Society  and Luke Honey/Leo Bieber


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