Alfie (1966)

Fifty-five years ago today, the film Alfie premiered. Swinging London in the 60s. You need to watch this movie.

Title: Alfie
Directed by: Lewis Gilbert
Produced by: Lewis Gilbert
Screenplay by: Bill Naughton
Based on Alfie by Bill Naughton
Starring: Michael Caine, Millicent Martin, Julia Foster, Jane Asher, Shirley Anne Field, Vivien Merchant, Eleanor Bron, Shelley Winters
Music by: Sonny Rollins
Cinematography: Otto Heller
Edited by: Thelma Connell
Distributed by: Paramount Pictures
Release date: 24 March 1966 (UK); 24 August 1966 (US)
Running time 114 minutes
Country: United Kingdom
Language: English
Budget: $800,000
Box office: $18,871,300
British Academy Film Awards – Most Promising Newcomer to Leading Film Roles: Vivien Merchant
Golden Globe Awards – Best English-Language Foreign Film
Cannes Film Festival – Special Jury Prize: Lewis Gilbert

A handsome Cockney, self-centered, narcissistic chauffeur in London named Alfred (Alfie) Elkins enjoys the sexual favors of married and single women, while avoiding any commitment. He ends an affair with a married woman, Siddie, 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 Alfie refuses to marry Gilda and cheats on her constantly, Gilda decides to have the child, a boy named Malcolm Alfred, and keep him rather than give him up for adoption.

Over time, Alfie becomes quite attached to his delightful son, but his unwillingness to marry Gilda causes her to break up with him and marry Humphrey, a kindly bus conductor and neighbor of hers who loves her and is willing to accept Malcolm Alfred as his own son. She also bars Alfie from any further contact with Malcolm, forcing Alfie 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 a fellow patient named Harry, a family man devoted to his frumpy wife Lily. Alfie makes out with one of the nurses, which disgusts Harry. Alfie thinks nothing of cheating, lying, stealing, or taking other men’s wives. When Alfie flippantly suggests that Lily might be cheating on Harry, Harry angrily confronts Alfie about his attitudes and behavior. Alfie is released from the home and briefly stops working as a chauffeur to take holiday photos of tourists near the Tower of London for five shillings each. Here he meets Ruby, an older, voluptuous, affluent and promiscuous American, who, even though 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 home. Neither Alfie nor Lily initially want to spend time together, but they agree to please Harry, and the ride home turns into a one-night stand.

Later, Alfie becomes a chauffeur again and picks up a young red-headed hitchhiker, Annie, from Sheffield, who is looking to make a fresh start in London. He manages to steal her away from a lorry driver who had given her a lift, and she moves in with him. 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. Alfie comes home with a big black eye. He 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 the two plan for her to have an illegal abortion to keep Harry from finding out. Lily comes to his flat to meet the abortionist. During the abortion, 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 proves traumatic for both Lily and Alfie, with Alfie breaking down in tears upon seeing the aborted fetus, the only time Alfie truly confronts the consequences of his own 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, upon visiting Ruby, 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 and wondering about his life’s choices, then asks the viewers “What’s it all about? You know what I mean.”

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