Peter Cushing starred with Patrick Wymark in The Skull
Peter Cushing at 100
by Doctor Terror himself - George Sik
Whitstable, the small Kent fishing port where Peter Cushing settled and whose inhabitants grew to love him – as he did them. In 2013 the town was marking what would have been his 100th birthday with an exhibition at the local museum.
Across the road, what was once the Oxford Cinema has been for the last couple of years The Peter Cushing, a Wetherspoons pub of such art deco magnificence that it takes the breath away. As you go upstairs to the toilets, you pass posters dated precisely to denote when the films concerned showed at this former picture palace. There are Carry On films, Hitchcock classics and, naturally, such Peter Cushing favourites as The Abominable Snowman and The Curse of Frankenstein.
In the museum, kids were being encouraged to make their own cardboard Daleks in memory of the man who was the Doctor of the silver screen. But he wasn’t just Doctor Who: he was Victor Frankenstein, Sherlock Holmes, Winston Smith, Van Helsing, Mr Grimsdyke, Captain Clegg. And when he wasn’t acting or pursuing Morecambe and Wise for his cheque, he busied himself designing scarves for Marks and Spencer, painting in the style of his favourite artists (several of his pictures appear in the exhibition), building model theatres and collecting tin soldiers. When his wife died, he never fully recovered, but threw himself into his work and even used her memory to help him act, like the true professional that he was.
I snapped away with my camera, soaking up the memories, and then suddenly there they were: the very carpet slippers that had disappeared into Star Wars mythology, along with David Prowse’s broad Bristolian accent. A special concession from George Lucas because the imperial jackboots intended for his role as Grand Moff Tarkin were all too tight.The icing on a hundredth birthday cake!
Over the bank holiday weekend, taking in Sunday 26th May, the Peter Cushing pub held the party of parties for Whitstable’s favourite adopted son.
I arrived Sunday afternoon with my friend Steve Bates. We had a bite to eat at the Royal Native Oyster Stores. The waitress told us that Saturday night had been busy, the streets full of costumed people on the way to the pub. She had spotted a superhero ("the red one") in alarmingly figure-hugging lycra.
At the Peter Cushing, the bingo was in full swing (after it ceased to be a cinema, the Oxford served time as a bingo hall, prior to its rebirth as the Peter Cushing pub the year before last) and I was delighted to spot one lad with his girlfriend who was the perfect Van Helsing. He looked very, very like a young Peter Cushing. A werewolf won the fancy dress competition, though many were convinced that it wasn’t fancy dress at all. I had donned the mantle of Dr Terror, complete with a Tarot deck (‘I call it my House of Horrors.’)
Cushing's View - site of the Bench donated by Peter Cushing on Whitstable Sea Wall
We then walked along the sea wall to Chez Cushing with its; Blue Plaque. Someone had left a bouquet of flowers and a hundredth birthday card outside. It was a touching gesture.
His devoted fans were there - if not in body, the in spirit. As was the man himself. To us, like his arch enemy, Count Dracula, he never really died.
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