Thursday, October 9, 2014

Michael Caine Week: Alfie

Hello and welcome back one and all for the third day of Michael Caine Week. Well we have had some thrills, spills and more than enough violence to rival The Wild Bunch, so what say we move more into a comedy? Howsabout a film that allowed Michael Caine a range of seduction, charm and good humors? In 1966, a play by Bill Naughton had done so well on stage that it wad decreed by Paramount that it be made into a film. With a budget of 500,000,  director Lewis Gilbert set out to find out lead role but actors of the range of Richard Harris, Laurence Harvey, James Booth and Anthony Newley turned down the title role due to the taboo subject of abortion. When the original play actor Terrence Stamp declined the reprise the role he suggested his friend and roommate Michael Caine. This is Alfie.

I'm afraid I am a bit of a dog in this one, folks.

Alfie: Make a married woman spoil and you're halfway there.

Our story centers around a veteran womanizer Alfie (Michael Caine of Shiner, Last Orders, Quicksand, Secondhand Lions and The Statement), who is living up life in the fullest of enjoyment as he realizes how badly he treats women. In spite of being charming to them he reflects that maybe he isn't the best example on how to behave.

The movie begins with him ending a relationship with a married woman Siddie (Millicent Martin of Stop the World: I Want to Get Off, From a Bird's Eye View, Moon and Son, Fraiser and Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont) after a brief liaison in a parked car with her and getting out from under his other lady Gilda (Julia Foster of The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, Half a Sixpence, The Great McGonagail and News at Twelve) who is carrying his child. Trying to remain unfeeling and aloof of these women, he is curious about his child turning out to be a son. Try as he might, he simply cannot make things work with the child's mother and she in turn marries a bus driver.

Care for a titillating photo of your wife?

Getting a physical, Alfie finds he has tubercular shadows in his lungs, compounded with the total banning of seeing his son, he has a nervous breakdown forcing him to stay at a convalescent house (recuperation ward) and is visited by Harry (Alfie Bass of The Lavender Hill Mob, The Army Game, Bootsie and Snudge and The Fearless Vampire Killers) who tells Alfie his detachment to women has been more harm than good. After being informed he is such a louse, our fellow picks up where he left off in pursuit of love. Will he find it or is he simply spinning his wheels?

Some trivia about the movie now. Sporadically, Alfie gets to break the fourth wall and talk directly to the audience which is not a common occurence for film and TV but occasionally such is used for a character on reflection and pointification of the soul.

The entire movie was brought in at cost of $500,000 or as the director put it the sum total money executives spend on cigar bills. While the entire film had an instrumental soundtrack by Sonny Rollins, the Oscar nominated song same title, Alfie by Burt Bacharach and Hal David was added for the American release and then later added to British re-release. The British version of which I watched was sang by Cilla Black while the US version was sang by Cher as a last minute replacement for Dionne Warwick. Heck of a way to handle your end credits.

Upstairs neighbor is playing that banjo, again!