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Tuesday March 5th 2024

The Servant | 1963

The Servant location: Royal Avenue, Chelsea, London SW3
The Servant location: the house of dissipated aristocrat Tony: Royal Avenue, Chelsea, London SW3

Dirk Bogarde is Hugo Barrett, the sinisterly waspish servant indulging in class-war power games with dissipated aristo Tony (James Fox), in this classic sixties film of Robin Maugham’s novel, by the Joseph Losey-Harold Pinter-Dirk Bogarde at the top of their game.

Tony’s house is 30 Royal Avenue, Chelsea SW3, opposite the one-time home of Somerset Maugham, some of whose pictures were borrowed to give the home a suitably ‘homocentric’ atmosphere.

In the opening shot, you can see the shop of ‘Thomas Crapper, Sanitary Engineer’, which stood on the King’s Road opposite Royal Avenue. Thomas Crapper was a plumber specialising in toilets and bathroom fittings (indeed, he invented the ballcock) – his amazingly appropriate name, though, is entirely coincidental. The store later became the Laura Ashley shop, and has now been divided up into Hawes & Curtis and Ghost.

The Servant location: King's Road, Chelsea, London SW3
The Servant location: the opening shot of 'Thomas Crapper': King's Road, Chelsea, London SW3

Losey’s film drips with baroque embellishment: when Tony meets his fiancée Susan (Wendy Craig) in a Knightsbridge restaurant, the camera drifts in and out of surrounding conversations, including a louche Harold Pinter himself as ‘Society Man’, and Patrick Magee and writer Alun Owen (scripter of the Beatles’ first feature film, A Hard Day's Night) as a pair of disturbingly worldly priests.

The restaurant stood on Lowndes Street at Motcomb Street in Knightsbridge. It's now a shop, but the street itself is pretty much unchanged.

Since she’s coming down from the North, Barrett meets his slutty 'sister', Vera (Sarah Miles) at St Pancras Station – now St Pancras International, on Euston Road, NW1. You can the Victorian Gothic fantasy in Brannigan, Smashing Time, Richard III and, oddly, masquerading as the exterior of nearby King’s Cross Station in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.

The home of Tony’s parents, Lord and Lady Mounset, is Chiswick House, Burlington Lane, Chiswick west London.

Built in 1725 for the Earl of Burlington, the house, modelled after the Villa Rotonda in Vicenza, Italy, it's one of the finest Palladian villas in the country, set in formal gardens populated with classical statuary, obelisks and sphinxes. The rear of the house is seen in Todd Haynes’ 70s glam rock fantasia Velvet Goldmine.