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Film / Alfie

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Alfie is a 1966 British romantic comedy-drama film directed by Lewis Gilbert, starring Michael Caine in the title role. Adapted by Bill Naughton from his own 1963 play of the same name, the film was released by Paramount Pictures.

A remake of the film sporting the same title was released in 2004, starring Jude Law as the title character. The movie was written, directed and produced by Charles Shyer and again released by Paramount Pictures.

Both incarnations of the film follow the life of the title character cynical, womanizing Cockney chauffeur Alfie Elkins over the course of a few years, documenting events that lead to his emotional growth, starting with the birth of his child. Alfie, however, is unable to get together with the mother of his son, who moves on herself. Left unable to see his son, Alfie seeks out emotional aid, leading to a series of misadventures as things derail further and he attempts to recover his life.

In 1970 Bill Naughton wrote a sequel novel, Alfie Darling, which five years later received its own film adaptation directed by Ken Hughes and starring former The Animals keyboardist Alan Price as Alfie. However, that film felt more like a remake than a sequel, what with Alfie being played by a younger man and whatnot, and is nowhere near as highly regarded as the original film.

Not related to the NSFW webcomic of the same name. Not related at all.

These films provide examples of:

  • Abortion Fallout Drama: Played very straight and seriously, with the normally amoral and carefree Alfie visibly moved.
  • Adaptational Location Change: From London (1966 film) to New York City (2004 film).
  • Auto Erotica: The film begins with Alfie romancing a married woman and having sex in his car.
  • Back-Alley Doctor: The abortionist memorably played by a scene-stealing Denholm Elliott is actually an aversion, as he's stated to be a properly-qualified general practitioner who does abortions (illegal in Britain at the time the movie was made) as a sideline.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Alfie often talks directly to camera. In the first scene, he even warns the viewers that the film has no opening titles.
    Alfie: I suppose you think you're going to see the bleedin' titles now. Well, you're not, so you can all relax.
  • Brick Joke: Alfie teases Harry by theorising that, were he to die, his wife Lily would take up with another man who would be initially introduced to the kids as "Uncle Bill". Later, after the abortion, he gives Lily a toy to give to her youngest, telling her to tell him that it's from "Uncle Alfie".
  • The Casanova: Alfie. He has sex with married women, single women, any woman that's willing and able.
  • Cuckold: Harry, the man Alfie befriends in the sanitarium (and whose wife he later gets pregnant, leading to the abortion scene). Whether he realises that he is one is not known.
  • Deconstruction: Of The Casanova trope that Alfie embodies. He goes about using women in whatever manner pleases him, referring to them as "birds" and sometimes even as "it", until his behavior eventually blows up in his face.
  • Did Not Get the Girl: Alfie has many love interests in the 1966 movie, but ends up alone.
  • Distaff Counterpart: Although she's older and richer than Alfie, Ruby otherwise turns out to be this to him, as she's carefree, promiscuous, and ultimately abandons him for another conquest, much like he did to all of the women he romanced.
  • Downer Ending: More so in the original, as Alfie is cheated on and winds up alone, though present in both.
    Alfie: You know what? When I look back on my little life and the birds I've known, and think of all the things they've done for me and the little I've done for them, you'd think I've had the best of it along the line. But what have I got out of it? I've got a bob or two, some decent clothes, a car, I've got me health back and I ain't attached. But I ain't got me peace of mind and if you ain't got that, you ain't got nothing. I dunno. It seems to me if they ain't got you one way they've got you another. So what's the answer? That's what I keep asking myself what's it all about? Know what I mean?
  • Fiery Redhead: Annie can give as good as she gets when Alfie provokes an argument with her for no good reason.
  • Good Girls Avoid Abortion: Played straight and then subverted with the two women who Alfie gets pregnant. The first is Gilda, who decides to have the baby (presumably, initially at least, in the hope that Alfie will fully commit to her). The second is Lily, who decides to have an abortion, presumably because she cannot possibly pass the baby off as her husband's, as he's still in the sanitarium. Since abortion is illegal, Alfie arranges for a doctor to come and do it in his flat. Alfie, who had previously hinted to Gilda that she should get an abortion and was somewhat taken aback when she didn't, is so shocked by the experience of seeing the fully formed fetus that he genuinely shows sympathy for Lily, something he hasn't shown to any other woman.
  • It's All About Me: Alfie has this attitude in spades. He even thinks that he is doing his chiropodist a favour by having sex with her even though she isn't a looker (although we have to take his word for that, as we don't see her face).
  • Nice Guy: Humphrey, Gilda's neighbour, who unlike Alfie seems to genuinely love her. With Alfie unwilling to marry her after she gives birth to Malcolm, Gilda settles for Humphrey, who has no qualms about marrying a woman who has had a child out of wedlock by another man. When Alfie sees them from afar towards the end of the film, they have a baby daughter and are to all intents and purposes a happy family, with Humphrey having become a father-figure to young Malcolm.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: The camera focuses entirely on Alfie's horrified reaction to seeing Lily's aborted foetus. Though it's later revealed that the truly scary thing is that it looked just like a normal baby.
  • Novelization: Written by Bill Naughton and published concurrently with the 1966 film.
  • Pet the Dog: One of Alfie's good points is his genuine love for his son, Malcolm. He also realises that he's gone too far when he upsets Harry by telling him that if he were to die, his wife would quickly remarry and his kids would soon forget about him (although this partial Heel Realisation does not stop him from having sex with the guy's wife).
  • Politically Incorrect Hero: Let's just say that almost everything that comes out of Alfie's mouth is incredibly sexist.
    Alfie: "She" or "it", they're all birds.
  • Really Gets Around: Alfie, who will go with anything that is female and has a pulse. The most outrageous instance is when he has sex with the wife of the man he meets and befriends while they are both in the sanitarium.
    Alfie: Well, what harm can it do? Old Harry will never know. And even if he did, he shouldn't begrudge me or her, come to that. And it'll round off the tea nicely.
  • Sharp-Dressed Man: Alfie is never not in his suit and tie, making him all the more appealing. At one point, he even shags the woman who does his dry-cleaning and leaves wearing a different suit, he having gone there to pick it up (and it being implied that this happens every time he drops one of his suits off to be cleaned).
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: Alfie is drawn to comment — in his own, inimitable way — about how attractive Gilda looked when she was pregnant. Bear in mind that by his standards, this was probably intended as a compliment...
    Alfie: Mind you, she came over quite beautified for a while, particularly during the early months. And I told her. I said: "Blimey, girl, you ain't as ugly as I thought".
  • Silver Fox: Ruby, the older woman Alfie dates, who he remarks is in "beautiful condition."
  • The Sociopath: Alfie is very, very, very detached from people.
  • Slapstick: The pub fight scene plays out like this. It starts when Alfie, who's gone out for a drink, is recognised by the trucker he stole the hitch-hiker from. One punch and a brief chase later, the trucker inadvertently hits another man, who stands up and reveals himself to be at least a foot taller than the trucker. Within seconds, a mass brawl breaks out, with falling chandeliers, random strangers throwing punches at each other, bottles and mirrors getting smashed, at least one girl-on-girl fight, the big guy being impervious to several men smashing chairs on his head, and two blokes trying to hide in the ladies' toilet. The singer carries on with her performance.
  • Stay in the Kitchen: Annie, the Northern redhead who Alfie steals from the trucker when she's trying to hitch-hike to London, seems to want to embody this trope, leading Alfie to wonder what she was running away from.
  • Stealing from the Till: Alfie engages in this and encourages Gilda to do likewise with her employers, although she declines. Alfie's supervisor is actually well aware that he's on the take, but rather than discipline him he merely warns him not to make it too obvious.
  • Take That!: Alfie surmises that the husband of one of his conquests (who thinks that his wife is out with some friends) is probably a Chelsea fan.
    Alfie: His sort often are.
  • Title Theme Tune: Written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David, it became a much-recorded standard, including hit versions by Cilla Black (who recorded it first, and had the highest-charting version in the UK), Cher (whose version plays over the end credits of the original film), and Dionne Warwick (whose version charted the highest in the US). Joss Stone recorded it for the 2004 film.