(this phrase is sure cause a depressed chill in any of you that are a ‘certain age‘).by Brian Tunstill
Michael Caine /Shelley Winters ‘Alfie’ 1966
Brixton market Atlantic Road, . Quite an easy one this as I am on home ground and the market has been a favourite of filmmakers and photographers for the last century or so.
Holding up my erotic poster of Ms Winters and Mr Caine ,
we dash off the first ‘then and now ‘. Retreat under the bridge and find the next shot in...Brixton Station Road.
Some truly shocking 1970s architecture, The Brixton Recreation Centre and Multi Story Car Park have all but transformed the right hand view . However the left side of the picture (railway arches and stalls) with good old Marks and Spencer’s roof top dome in the distance is much the same as 1966.
The great and good councillors of Lambeth in the nineteen seventies decided to re-build the whole of Brixton in the then ‘modern style‘. All flyovers and mega stores. However the plan was so ambitious that the money was never found. Thirty five years later most of our tumbled dwellings are still extant and now being lovingly restored by both enthusiasts and property dealers.
We are now called ‘Brixton Village’, Ahh! ‘Twee’ comes to Brixton, I never thought I’d see the day!
St Mary’s Church Battersea .. I wait, a solitary figure huddled among the tombstones ,when ….could this be a Reel Streeter? Yes ,John Crawford resplendent in black overcoat ,Trilby and Rupert The Bear yellow scarf , has turned out.
Like a scene from...
‘Waiting for Godot’
we chat about Reel Streets. First standing on one leg then the other. We keep a look out for ‘The Dear Leader’……. It gets colder…..We wait………
’Waiting long ?’ Oh! honeyed words!…..Yes, it‘s the Dear Leader at last and we are suddenly in a swirl of activity. A few trees are missing but most of the church is much the same as in 1966. A round/reel of snaps is taken . Our Dear Leader’s, Dear Lady, Liliana arrives and we are off , for hot refreshments and comfort in Battersea Square. We gather ourselves at last and decide to visit my friend Colin just round the corner for more coffee and cakes and an hour or so later ,enthusiasts to the last , the two Johns and Liliana get underway on the nineteen bus for..‘Darling’ in Piccadilly.
There are seventy or so ‘Darling’ stills to ‘then and now’ .Here they will have to continue the story themselves as I reluctantly leave them and head home…..The next day, Chiswick and Darling
Julie Christie and Dirk Bogarde in ‘Darling‘. 1965
Swathed in alternate layers of Bombazine and Viyella, I am topped off with yellow outer pinnings (a true Reel Streeter). I make my way to Stand-on-the-green for 14.30 sharp!
No ‘Stand’ but there is a Strand-on-the-green, Chiswick, yes, this must be it.
A watery sun picks out the gently rotting flotsam at low tide and the sharp wind removes the last traces of dank odour (river pong). I comfort myself with the knowledge that I will have first pickings of the flotage before the rest of the Reel Streets crowd arrive.
I brace myself against the riverside railings and wait……………………………….....................
………………………………and wait………………..At who knows what time, my tardy brother ambles along ‘been here long?’ he asks brightly, Grrrrr!
However all is action from now on and with the digital equivalent of flash bulbs popping we dash from ‘still to still’ ’then and now‘. It’s all here, almost the same after more than forty years.
The riverside railings are now metal instead of wood but everything else is just as it was!
The London Underground (iron?) Bridge to Kew ,untouched and even the trees on the far bank don’t seem to have grown much.
How can that be?
We are lucky to be visiting at low tide and with a quick semi- paddle we manage to ‘then and now’ Julie Christie running up the Strand toward The Bull’s Head pub.
In his boyish enthusiasm my brother manages to coat me in river mud by galloping full speed up the riverside steps. Each footfall a satisfying squish, as his size elevens slam down into the green/brown amalgam and I am generously sprayed each time!
Just time to gather a handful of blue and white eighteenth and nineteenth century pottery fragments, a glass stem and a tooth from the muddy strand.
There seems to be a lot of china . Do you think that the locals have been chucking their old plates in the Thames for the last few hundred years?
And we are off to the next stop….
Googie Withers, Richard Widmark and Gene Tierney in...‘Night and the City’ 1950
This film is a real cracker, good story ,well acted and for ‘Reel Streeters’
a wealth of exterior London shots.
I was lucky enough to see Ms Withers on stage last year in ‘Lady Windermere’s Fan’. She was word perfect (unlike some of the cast) .
Only a month or two later the massive chandelier in The Theatre Royal Haymarket threatened to crash down on the paying public. They were coated in a layer of crystal drops and ceiling plaster, I understand.
What a good job Ms Withers and I missed that performance!
Now where am I?
Yes, Hammersmith Bridge this time. We manage to find several locations by the mansion flats adjacent to the river. A scene off ,what was a side road and the steps to the bridge.
The area is much the same as in the fifties. Just a lot more cars and everywhere seems to have had a lick of paint.
More ‘then and nows’ of ‘Night and the City’ will have to wait for another day,