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Tuesday May 28th 2024

Secret Ceremony | 1968

Secret Ceremony location: Debenham House, Addison Road, Holland Park, London W11
Secret Ceremony location: the strange house: Debenham House, Addison Road, Holland Park, London W11

Made in London, at the gloriously self-indulgent tail end of the Sixties, this weird psychodrama has raven-wigged waif Cenci (Mia Farrow) adopting blowsy Leonora (Elizabeth Taylor) as a substitute mother.

This must be one of the few movies actually inspired by its location. Director Joseph Losey had long been fascinated by a bizarre house in West Kensington and chose to film this oddball melodrama here (though some interiors had to be recreated in the studio).

The strange, brooding mansion, with tall chimneys and startling turquoise tiles is Debenham House, 8 Addison Road, between Holland Park Avenue and High Street Kensington. The supremely photogenic house was also seen in the colourful period melodrama Trottie True, the 1995 Richard III and The Wings of the Dove. It even became the ‘Arabian Embassy’ for the dire Carry On Emmannuelle and, more recently, the interior of the ‘Edinburgh’ brasserie in which Julie Walters waits for the missing Rupert Grint in Driving Lessons.

The area has to be the centre of London Gothic – just around the corner in Melbury Road stood the house where Michael Powell filmed Peeping Tom.

It’s to the church of St Mary Madgalene, Rowington Close, in Little Venice, London W2, that Cenci initially follows Leonora. You can see the church’s distinctive exterior at the start of the car chase in 1949 classic The Blue Lamp, its interior in both Neil Jordan’s 1999 adaptation of Graham Greene’s The End Of The Affair and 2005’s The Constant Gardener, and its crypt in Les Misérables.

The antique shop run by Hannah (Peggy Ashcroft) and Hilda (Pamela Brown) can still be recognised on the corner of St Stephen’s Mews and Chepstow Road in Westbourne Green, W2.

The disastrous holiday was filmed in Noordwijk on the Dutch coast, southwest of Amsterdam. The glum-looking seafront hotel has been massively redeveloped and brightened up in the process (it was damaged by fire in 1990), but part of the original structure is still recognisable. It’s the Grand Hotel Huis ter Duin, Koningin Astrid Boulevard 5, Noordwijk.