The Killing of Sister George, 1968
visit the film locations
The Holly Bush, 22 Holly Mount, Hampstead, NW3 (tel: 020.7435.2892; Tube: Hampstead; Northern Line)
The Killing of Sister George location: George drowns her sorrows: The Holly Bush, Hampstead, London NW3
Robert Aldrich made his name with tough action movies (Apache, Kiss Me Deadly, The Dirty Dozen), but in 1962 directed camp classic What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, spawning the overwrought, Grand Dame Guignol genre which provided late-blossoming career opportunities for Hollywood's ex-leading ladies.
Bold in its day, this broad adaptation of Frank Marcus’ black comedy, about a TV soap star on the verge of losing both her job and her young female lover, Childie (Susannah York), is saved by terrific performances, especially from Beryl Reid, who originated the role on stage.
And the film has the proud distinction of having been banned in Norwich.
Studio interiors were filmed in Hollywood, but there are plenty of 60s London locations. Most famous, of course, is the club to which June ‘Sister George’ Buckridge invites imperious BBC lady Mercy Croft (Coral Browne). With its mix of genuine butch dykes and femme movie extras, this real club was the Gateways, the legendary but now long-gone lesbian club which stood in Bramerton Gardens, just off the Kings Road, Chelsea, SW10. After many years, The ‘Gates’ finally closed its doors for good in the mid 80s.
The pub, ‘The Marquis of Granby’, in which June drinks at the opening of the movie, is actually the wonderful old The Holly Bush, 22 Holly Mount, NW3, tucked away behind Heath Street in Hampstead (tube: Hampstead; Northern Line).
It’s still there, and virtually unchanged since filming in 1968. This warren of wood panels and bench seats was built in the 17th century as the stable of painter George Romney’s house, which still stands at the rear of the pub. When Romney retired to the Lake District, the building became local assembly rooms, the stable was upgraded to become a kitchen and, eventually, the pub it is today.
Past customers include the inevitable Boswell and Dr Johnson, playwright Oliver Goldsmith and essayist Charles Lamb. Music hall entertainer Marie Lloyd drank here, as did ‘Two Ton’ Tessie O’Shea (the larger-than-life ukulele-strummer Dirk Bogarde uses to establish his alibi in 1950s British classic The Blue Lamp).
One of a dying breed of traditional pubs (no game machines, no widescreen TV), the Bush is my regular watering hole. What more recommendation cold you ask for?
The Killing of Sister George location: George stomps down to the ‘Embankment’: The steps above Heath Street, Hampstead, London NW3
Over the opening credits, June stomps through the narrow stepped passages between Heath Street and Hampstead Grove, before popping out on the other side of London – at the Embankment, near Chelsea in southwest London.