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Tuesday May 21st 2024

Travels With My Aunt | 1972

Travels With My Aunt location: the Salisbury, St Martin's Lane, London WC2
Travels With My Aunt location: Aunt Augusta’s West End digs: the Salisbury, St Martin’s Lane, London WC2

A Graham Greene novel, veteran George Cukor directing, Katharine Hepburn starring... It looked pretty enticing.

Then Hepburn dropped out of the cast (or was fired) and Maggie Smith came on board, with a performance so extravagantly OTT, it’s best appreciated from an adjacent cinema. Or possibly a neighbouring town.

She plays the ‘liberating’ Aunt Augusta who opens up new horizons for dry old stick Henry Pulling (Alec McCowen).

In London, the determinedly bohemian Augusta’s West End base is above The Salisbury, 90 St Martin’s Lane, WC2 , at the time one of London’s most famously theatrical gay bars. With its dazzling original etched glass, gleaming brass and hand-carved mahogany, the photogenic bar appeared (as a gay bar) in Basil Dearden’s groundbreaking Victim in 1960, with Dirk Bogarde, as the London pub in Tony Richardson's The Entertainer, with Laurence Olivier and in the 1969 musical version of Goodbye Mr Chips. With the gay community having moved on to Old Compton Street in Soho and actors finding more exclusive haunts to avoid the paparazzi, it's nowadays more likely to be full of theatregoers, but remains a reminder of what a grand old English pub used to be.

Not too far away, there's an even older pub. The money pick-up is arranged in front of the Lamb and Flag, 33 Rose Street, a tiny alleyway off Garrick Street, Covent Garden. It’s the oldest pub in Covent Garden, and a colourful past is reflected in its old name, The Bucket of Blood. The first mention of a pub on this site is in 1772, when it was known as The Coopers Arms (it became the Lamb and Flag in 1833). Although the building's brickwork dates from the 50s, this conceals the early 18th century frame of a house, replacing an original built in 1638.

The alleyway beside the pub was the scene of an attack on the poet John Dryden in 1679 by thugs hired by John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester, with whom the writer had a long-standing feud.

Moving on to France, the grandiose ‘St James and Albany Hotel’ is Paris’s lavish Four Seasons George V Hotel, 31 avenue George V, off the Champs Elysées, which opened in 1928.

Travels With My Aunt location: Le Train Bleu, Gare de Lyon, Paris
Travels With My Aunt location: Aunt Augusta’s flashbacks: Le Train Bleu, Gare de Lyon, Paris

The fabulous fin-de-siècle restaurant, where Augusta begins to get flashbacks to her youth, is Le Train Bleu, on the first floor of the Gare de Lyon, Paris (see it also in Luc Besson’s stylish Nikita).

The globetrotting travels also filmed in Italy, Morocco, Spain, Turkey and the former Yugoslavia.

The desert scenes filmed at Cabo De Gata, Almeria in southern Spain.