Alfie | 1966
- Locations |
- DIRECTOR |
- Lewis Gilbert
With the 60s in full swing and London the centre of the Universe, Michael Caine shot to stardom as a callous Cockney womaniser.
Alfie started out as a stage play by Bill Naughton, and it was a bold decision of director Lewis Gilbert to break naturalistic conventions and film the monologues and asides straight to camera: ‘I suppose you think you’re goin’ to see the bleedin’ titles now...’.
Despite establishing shots of Westminster, Alfie delivers the line on Camley Street, NW1, behind King’s Cross Station, with the famous Victorian gasometers much in evidence in the background. The industrial buildings, where Alfie’s steamed-up car is parked, have gone, and the site became Camley Street Natural Park, a wildlife preserve. There's been a massive redevelopment of the area to accommodate St Pancras International, and even two of the famous gasometers have been removed. You can see them in all their glory in Richard Attenborough’s biopic Chaplin.
Better luck in Notting Hill Gate, where you can still see Alfie's rather seedy bedsit, at 29 St Stephen’s Gardens at Chepstow Road, W2 (tube: Royal Oak). It hasn’t really changed at all, apart from the inevitable gentrification and pedestrianisation of the area, which means that Annie (Jane Asher) would no longer be able to jump straight onto a convenient bus.
There's lots to see in this area. Nearby you'll find Caine's campy 60s pad from The Italian Job; the hideaway of Turner Purple (Mick Jagger) in Performance; as well as sites from such London classics as About A Boy, Withnail and I and, naturally, Notting Hill.
South of the Thames, opposite World’s End, Chelsea, you can see the green spire of St Mary’s, Battersea Parish Church on Battersea Church Road, SW11, where Gilda (Julia Foster) spends her lunchbreaks with nerdy but dependable bus conductor Humphrey (Graham Stark), and Alfie later balefully watches her baby’s Christening.
St Mary's is also the church where the Boys' Brigade assembles at the opening of Waris Hussein’s 1970 Melody (S.W.A.L.K.)
The sanatorium in which Alfie recuperates after a shadow is found on his lung, and where he seduces fellow patient’s wife Lily (Vivien Merchant), is York House and Gardens, York Street (the A305), Twickenham, conveniently close to the film studios. The seventeenth century mansion, alongside the new Civic Centre, now houses council offices, but the ornamental gardens are open to the public.
Alfie meets his match when he famously photographs voracious Ruby (Shelley Winters) alongside the Tower of London, against the touristy picturesque backdrop of Tower Bridge. Its slightly kitschy Gothicism is created by bogus Medieval cladding which hides a sophisticated metal frame construction and which infuriated architectural purists of the time who believed that the state-of-the-art technology should speak for itself.