Alfie (1966 film)

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Alfie
Alfie original.jpg
Original release poster
Directed by Lewis Gilbert
Produced by Lewis Gilbert
Screenplay by Bill Naughton
Based on Alfie 
by Bill Naughton
Starring Michael Caine
Shelley Winters
Millicent Martin
Vivien Merchant
Jane Asher
Julia Foster
Music by Sonny Rollins
Cinematography Otto Heller
Edited by Thelma Connell
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release dates
  • 29 March 1966 (1966-03-29) (UK)
  • 24 August 1966 (1966-08-24) (US)
Running time 113 minutes[1]
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Budget $800,000[2]
Box office $18,871,300[3]

Alfie is a 1966 British romantic comedy-drama film directed by Lewis Gilbert and starring Michael Caine. It is an adaptation by Bill Naughton of his own novel and play of the same name. The film was released by Paramount Pictures.

Alfie tells the story of a young womaniser (Caine) who leads a self-centred life, purely for his own enjoyment, until events force him to question his uncaring behaviour and his loneliness. He cheats on numerous women, and despite his charm towards women, he treats them with disrespect and refers to them as "it", using them for sex and for domestic purposes. Alfie frequently breaks the fourth wall by speaking directly to the camera narrating and justifying his actions. His words often contrast with or totally contradict his actions.

This was the first film to receive the "suggested for mature audiences" classification by the Motion Picture Association of America in the United States,[4] which evolved into the modern PG rating.

Plot[edit]

The film begins with Alfie Elkins ending a relationship with a married woman, Siddie, and getting the woman from another of his affairs, Gilda, pregnant. The film then follows his life for a few years, documenting events that lead to the character's emotional growth, starting with the birth of his son.

Alfie has a health check for hereditary diseases, but his inability to commit to the child's mother leads to her marrying a bus conductor. The health check reveals Alfie has tubercular shadows on his lungs, and this, combined with being banned from seeing his son, leads him to have a brief mental breakdown.

Alfie then spends time in a convalescent home, where he meets Harry, who confronts him about his delusion that he is doing no harm, and Lily. Harry's wife, whom he gets pregnant in a one-night stand. Later on in the film, the ensuing abortion is a turning point for the character, and the only time other than his passing out/breakdown where he exhibits real emotion—breaking down in tears at the sight of the aborted fetus.

In the meantime, he meets Ruby, an older, voluptuous, affluent, and promiscuous American, while freelancing taking holiday photos of tourists near the Tower of London. Later, as a car-hire chauffeur, he picks up a young hitchhiker, Annie from Sheffield, looking to make a fresh start in London, who moves in with him. She proves preoccupied with a love left behind, scrubbing Alfie's floor, doing his laundry, and preparing his meals to compensate. He grows resentful of the relationship and drives her out with an angry outburst, later regretting it.

Near the film's close, Alfie decides to change his non-committal ways and settle down, albeit with the rich Ruby. The day he chooses to suggest this to her, he finds a younger man in her bed, leaving him on his own and disheartened at the film's end and wondering "What's it all about? You know what I mean".

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

The film is unusual in that it has no opening credits and the end credits feature photos of the principal actors, as well as of the main technical crew, including director Gilbert and cameraman Otto Heller. It was shot at Twickenham Studios with scenes shot at several locations in London;[5] including Waterloo Bridge which is seen at the beginning and end of the film where the title character walks into the distance accompanied by a stray dog[6] and Tower Bridge which is the backdrop for the photography scene with Shelley Winters.[7] Several well-known actors, including Richard Harris, Laurence Harvey, James Booth and Anthony Newley turned down the title role due to the then taboo subject matter, which was experimented with in both American and British films. Despite having played "Alfie" on Broadway, Terence Stamp categorically declined to reprise the role on film, so he and casting agents approached his good friend and then roommate Michael Caine: not one to then snub a role about a common man, Caine agreed to do it. He won huge acclaim for the breakthrough role of his career and continued to land better parts.

Music[edit]

Main article: Alfie (album)

The original film soundtrack featured jazz saxophonist Sonny Rollins with local musicians from London including Stan Tracey on piano, who improvised "Little Malcolm Loves His Dad" (although never credited), Rick Laird on bass, Phil Seamen on drums, Ronnie Scott on tenor sax. The released soundtrack album, recorded back in the States with orchestration by Oliver Nelson, featured Rollins, but with other musicians.

The title song, "Alfie", written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David, was sung by Cher over the film's closing credits.[8] It became a hit for British singer Cilla Black (whose version was used for the original British soundtrack), and for Madeline Eastman and Dionne Warwick. Numerous jazz musicians have covered it and it has become a jazz standard.

Reception[edit]

Alfie garnered critical acclaim, currently holding a 100% "fresh" rating on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes.[9]

Awards and recognition[edit]

Alfie won the Special Jury Prize at the 1966 Cannes Film Festival.[10] It was also nominated for several Academy Awards including Best Actor in a Leading Role (Michael Caine), Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Vivien Merchant), Best Song (Burt Bacharach and Hal David for "Alfie") (a UK hit record for Cilla Black, but performed by Millicent Martin in the original UK release and Cher in the American release), Best Picture and Best Writing (Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium).

It was the second-most popular film at the British box office in 1966, after Thunderball.[11]

In 2004, Total Film magazine named it the 48th greatest British film of all time.[12]

Legacy[edit]

The 1966 film was followed by Alfie Darling (1975), with Alan Price replacing Caine. An updated 2004 remake starred Jude Law in the title role.

References in popular culture[edit]

  • Much dialogue from the film was sampled by the band Carter USM for their 1991 album 30 Something.
  • The LP, "Nino Tempo's Rock 'N Roll Beach Party" (1956 Liberty Records … LRP3023) can be seen hanging in Alfie's apartment in several key scenes.
  • New York post-hardcore band Polar Bear Club references "Alfie Elkins '66" in their song "Drifting Thing" off their 2009 release Chasing Hamburg.
  • The soundtrack to Austin Powers in Goldmember (in which Caine co-stars) contains a song entitled "Alfie (What's It All About Austin)". This song is a cover of the original film's title song, with all occurrences of "Alfie" replaced with "Austin".
  • The film inspired The Divine Comedy's Becoming More Like Alfie, which samples its opening dialogue in its introduction.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "ALFIE (X)". Paramount Pictures. British Board of Film Classification. 7 January 1966. Retrieved 14 March 2014. 
  2. ^ "Alfie (1966) - Box office / business". Internet Movie Database. Amazon.com. Retrieved 14 March 2014. 
  3. ^ "Alfie, Box Office Information". The Numbers. Retrieved 16 April 2012. 
  4. ^ Mark Harris (2008). Pictures at a Revolution: Five Movies and the Birth of the New Hollywood. The Penguin Press. Retrieved 2014-03-18. 
  5. ^ Alfie at reelstreets. Retrieved 6 November 2013
  6. ^ Neil Mitchell (11 May 2012). World Film Locations: London. Intellect. ISBN 184150484X. 
  7. ^ South Bank Movie Trail at filmlondon.org Waterloo Bridge at Film London South Bank Movie Trail. Retrieved 6 November 2013
  8. ^ The credits list Cher as the singer, but do not mention Bacharach and David.
  9. ^ "Alfie". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 14 March 2014. 
  10. ^ "Festival de Cannes: Alfie". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved 7 March 2009. 
  11. ^ Norma Lee Browning, 'It's Time to Speculate on Nominees for Oscar', Chicago Tribune (1963–Current file) [Chicago, Ill] 10 February 1967: c17.
  12. ^ "Ditto: Alfie". Retrieved 7 March 2009. 

External links[edit]