UK, 1965, 113 minutes, Colour.
Michael Caine, Shelley Winters, Jane Asher, Julia Foster, Vivien Merchant, Millicent Martin, Shirley Anne Field, Denholm Elliot, Alfie Bass, Graham Stark, Eleanor Bron.
Directed by Lewis Gilbert.
Alfie was very popular when first screened. It is based on a play by Bill Naughton (who also wrote The Family Way and Spring and Port Wine.) It tells a parable; the story of a Cockney Lothario who thinks he has a way with women. He has, but it does not last. Despite his smart wit and wolfish charm, Alfie does not get very far and turns to the audience at the end of the film to point the moral.
Michael Caine was nominated for an Oscar for his performance. This kind of role (or manner) is what we have come to expect from him. However, he does it with flair here. Some very good actresses star with him. Outstanding is stage actress Vivien Merchant (also in Accident and Alfred the Great) who has been seen in a number of television versions of plays by her husband, Harold Pinter. It is she who undergoes the abortion in the film, a moving sequence, well acted by herself and Caine with Denholm Elliot as the sickening abortionist.
Considered somewhat shocking when first released, we might find it less so now. But, as a film for entertainment, thought and discussion it is well worth seeing.
1. Do you know any Alfies, or almost Alfies? Do you think - they are very common or do you think some Alfies brag a lot?
2. Was Alfie a happy man? Why did he need to continually chase women? Was he a self-assured man? Did he really love his women?
3. Why did women like him? Or did they? Or for how long?
4. How much sense of responsibility did Alfie have? How much sensitivity towards others? Did he change much throughout the film? Who and what made him change?
5. What did you think of the image-association of Alfie and the dog? What of the technique of Alfie himself talking to the audience, especially pointing the moral at the end?(What was the moral?)
6. What was Alfie's attitude towards children? What was his reaction to the abortion (which was followed in the film by the christening of one of his former girlfriend's children)? Why did Alfie cry after the abortion - for the child or, as he says, for himself?
7. Has Alfie any sense of right and wrong? What is the basis for his sense of right and wrong? Is he typical of the modern young men?
8. List the women Alfie says he loves; Have they anything in common? Did they love him? Did he ultimately mean anything to them? e.g., Millicent Martin and her husband; Julia Foster and her love for children; Jane Asher and her love for domesticity; Vivien Merchant, her suspicious husband and - the abortion; Shelly Winters and her good-tine penchant for younger men?
9. Had Alfie ever thought about getting older? How does this affect him at the end?
10. Would Alfie be a good film for adolescents and parents to see together and discuss? Why?