Alfie (1966 film)

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Alfie original.jpg
Original release poster
Directed byLewis Gilbert
Screenplay byBill Naughton
Based onAlfie
by Bill Naughton
Produced byLewis Gilbert
CinematographyOtto Heller
Edited byThelma Connell
Music bySonny Rollins
Sheldrake Films
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release date
  • 24 March 1966 (1966-03-24) (UK)
  • 24 August 1966 (1966-08-24) (US)
Running time
114 minutes[1]
CountryUnited Kingdom
Budget$800,000[2][better source needed]
Box office$18.8 million[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 1966 novel and 1963 play of the same name. The film was released by Paramount Pictures.

Alfie tells the story of a young womanising man who leads a self-centred life, purely for his own enjoyment, until events force him to question his uncaring behaviour, his loneliness and his priorities. He cheats on numerous women, and despite his confidence 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 US,[4] which evolved into the modern PG rating. The film had its World Premiere at the Plaza Theatre in the West End of London on 24 March 1966.


Alfie Elkins, a handsome Cockney, self-centered, narcissistic chauffeur in London enjoys the sexual favours of married and single women, while avoiding commitment. Ending an affair with Siddie, a married woman, just as he gets his submissive single girlfriend, Gilda, pregnant. Alfie thinks nothing of pilfering fuel and money from his employer, and tells Gilda to do the same. Although he refuses to marry her, and despite his constant cheating, Gilda decides to have the child, Malcolm Alfred, and keep him rather than give him up.

Over time, Alfie becomes quite attached to his delightful son, but his unwillingness to marry her causes her to break up with him and marry Humphrey, a kindly bus conductor and neighbour. He loves her and is willing to accept Malcolm Alfred as his own. She bars Alfie from any further contact with Malcolm, forcing him to watch from a distance as Humphrey steps into his fatherly role. When a health check reveals Alfie has tubercular shadows on his lungs, the diagnosis, and his fear of death, combined with his separation from his son, leads him to have a brief mental breakdown.

Alfie spends time in a convalescent home, where he befriends Harry, a fellow patient, a family man devoted to his frumpy wife Lily. Alfie makes out with one of the nurses, disgusting Harry. Alfie thinks nothing of cheating, lying, stealing, or taking other men's wives. When Alfie flippantly suggests that Lily might be cheating on him, Harry angrily confronts Alfie about his attitudes and behaviour.

Released from the home, Alfie briefly stops working as a chauffeur to take holiday photos of tourists near the Tower of London. Here he meets Ruby, an older, voluptuous, affluent and promiscuous American, who, although she is accompanied by an older gentleman, gives him her address and telephone number. Alfie returns to the convalescent home to visit Harry, who asks him to give his wife Lily a ride. Neither initially want to spend time together, but they agree to please Harry, and the ride home turns into a one-night stand.

Later, chauffeuring again, Alfie picks up a young red-headed hitchhiker, Annie, from Sheffield, who wants a fresh start in London. He steals her away from a lorry driver who had given her a lift, and she moves in. Annie proves preoccupied with a love left behind, scrubbing Alfie's floor, doing his laundry, and preparing his meals to compensate. The lorry driver finds him in a pub, punches him in the face and a barroom brawl ensues.

Coming home with a big black eye, Alfie grows resentful of Annie and drives her out with an angry outburst, immediately regretting it. Around the same time, Lily informs him that she is pregnant from their one encounter, and they plan for her to have an abortion. Lily comes to his flat to meet the abortionist. During the procedure, Alfie leaves Lily and walks around. He catches sight of his son Malcolm outside a church, and witnesses the baptism of Gilda and Humphrey's new daughter. He watches as they exit the church as a family. The abortion traumatizes both Lily and Alfie, with him breaking down in tears when seeing the aborted fetus, the first time he confronts the consequences of his actions.

The stress of the situations with Annie and Lily makes Alfie decide to change his non-committal ways and settle down with the rich Ruby. However, visiting her, he finds a younger man in her bed. He encounters Siddie again, but she has lost interest in him and returned to her husband. Alfie is left lonely, wondering about his life choices, then asks the viewers "What's it all about? You know what I mean."



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 leading actors, including Richard Harris, Laurence Harvey, James Booth and Anthony Newley turned down the title role due to the then-taboo subject matter. 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 received a positive reception for the role.


The original film soundtrack featured jazz saxophonist Sonny Rollins with London musicians 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 Sonny Rollins album Alfie, orchestrated and conducted by Oliver Nelson, was recorded in the United States in January 1966. It features Rollins with J.J. Johnson – trombone (tracks 1 & 2), Jimmy Cleveland – trombone (tracks 3–6), Phil Woods – alto saxophone, Bob Ashton – tenor saxophone, Danny Bank – baritone saxophone, Roger Kellaway – piano, Kenny Burrell – guitar, Walter Booker – bass and Frankie Dunlop – drums

The title song, "Alfie", written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David, was sung by Cher over the film's closing credits in the US release reaching #32 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.[8] It became a hit for British singer Cilla Black (Millicent Martin sang Alfie on its British release) and for Madeline Eastman and Dionne Warwick.


On Rotten Tomatoes the film has an approval rating of 96%, based on reviews from 27 critics, with an average rating of 7.98/10. The site's consensus states: "Anchored by Michael Caine's charmingly droll performance, Alfie is an equally raucous and heart-rending portrait of romance in the Swinging '60s."[9]

Bosley Crowther, film reviewer for The New York Times, singled out Vivien Merchant's acting for particular praise:

There must be an abortion—a miserable and tragic thing, which Lewis Gilbert, who produced and directed, makes us sense in all its shabbiness and shame. But it is the performance of Miss Merchant as the woman brought to this shame, stunned and saddened by the necessity, deadened by her grief, that shocks us into feeling contempt for Alfie—and all the free-wheeling Alfie's in this world.[10]

Awards and recognition[edit]

Academy Awards
British Academy Film Awards
Golden Globe Awards
Cannes Film Festival


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)" performed by Susanna Hoffs. 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.
  • Guitarist Jeff Beck quoted the main musical theme from the title song in his instrumental showpiece "Jeff's Boogie," released a few months after the film's premiere.
  • Singer/songwriter Tori Amos performed the theme from Alfie as part of her repertoire as a teen, and references it in the song "Gold Dust" from her 2002 Scarlet's Walk album.
  • British Pop Art artist, Pauline Boty, makes a brief appearance as the manageress of a Dry-Cleaner's whom Alfie visits for sex. Boty died just over three months after the film's UK premiere.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Alfie (X)". British Board of Film Classification. 7 January 1966. Retrieved 14 March 2014.
  2. ^ "Alfie (1966): Box Office". IMDb. Archived from the original on 22 September 2005. Retrieved 17 June 2018.
  3. ^ "Alfie (1966)". The Numbers. Retrieved 16 April 2012.
  4. ^ Harris, Mark (2008). Pictures at a Revolution: Five Movies and the Birth of the New Hollywood. Penguin Press. ISBN 9781101202852. Retrieved 18 March 2014.
  5. ^ "Alfie (1966)". ReelStreets. Retrieved 6 November 2013.
  6. ^ Mitchell, Neil (11 May 2012). World Film Locations: London. Intellect. ISBN 978-1841504841.
  7. ^ "The South Bank Movie Trail" (PDF). Film London. Retrieved 6 November 2013.
  8. ^ The credits list Cher as the singer, but do not mention Bacharach and David.
  9. ^ "Alfie (1966)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved 18 June 2018.
  10. ^ Crowther, Bosley; "'Alfie,' Story of a Cockney Anti-Hero, Begins Run Here: Movie More Effective Than Stage Play," New York Times, August 25, 1966

External links[edit]