Alfie (1966)

Michael Caine sealed his screen stardom with this memorable portrayal of a cockney womaniser whose exploits seemingly typified the sexual freedoms of Swinging 60s London.

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“It remains Michael Caine’s most effective film in the way it defines a type who was specific and universal – and above all, human.”
Alexander Walker, Hollywood England, 1974

Writer Bill Naughton’s best-known creation, smooth-talking and seemingly cynical ladies’ man Alfie Elkins, originated in a radio play and then generated a theatrical hit, before providing charismatic leading man Michael Caine with one of the most famous roles in 1960s British cinema.

This cocksure working-class East Ender beds a range of women, intermittently addressing the audience with his self-centred world view. Yet while the film revels in its sexual openness and then-fashionable London settings, it also exposes the limited human insight that proves Alfie’s undoing. Viewed from a later perspective shaped by changed social values, Alfie’s language and attitudes are open to accusations of misogyny, though director Lewis Gilbert clearly depicts the negative consequences of his protagonist’s misadventures.

Other notable films that reflect aspects of the spirit of Swinging 60s include A Hard Day’s Night (1964), Darling (1965) and Blowup (1966).

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