Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments



Alfie (1966)

 



Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions
Screenshots

Alfie (1966, UK)

This was the original Alfie film - Lewis Gilbert's sex-comedy/drama about a hedonistic, misogynistic, Cockney ladies' man title character (Michael Caine in his first major lead role, an Oscar-nominated one). The romantic drama/comedy was reflective of the spirit of the Swingin' 60s in England, along with other similar films including A Hard Day's Night (1964), Darling (1965) and Blowup (1966).

It was also unusual that Alfie often candidly and amusingly addressed the audience directly (breaking the so-called 'fourth wall') - beginning with the opening title.

[Note: The film was followed by Alfie Darling (1975) with Alan Price as the title character, and remade as Alfie (2004), starring Jude Law.]

Alfie Elkins (Michael Caine) was portrayed as a smug, working class anti-hero playboy/Casanova who was employed as a chauffeur, and considered himself an uncommitted "free agent." Although the film was a wall-to-wall compilation (with a running commentary) of Alfie's many amorous affairs and one-night stands (with lots of sex-related dialogue), there was no nudity in the film.

Alfie (Michael Caine)

He bedhopped, loved (and left) many women (or "birds") throughout the course of the film, including:

  • Siddie (Millicent Martin) - young and married (Alfie's frequent sex partner in parked cars), although she was on her way out: "She's on her way out. When a married woman gets too hot on, it's time to cool off. Next thing she'll want is to introduce me to the husband. I can see it coming"; eventually, Siddie returned to be with her husband
  • Gilda (Julia Foster) - he described her as his mistress - or "stand-by": ("I told Gilda from the start that I ain't the marrying sort. Do you know what? She don't mind. She's a stand-by and she knows it. Any bird that knows its place in this world can be quite content"); however, he fathered a child (named Malcolm Alfred) with her and was forced to become responsible and care for the child for a time
Alfie's Child with Gilda
  • Carla (Shirley Anne Field), a pretty sanitarium nurse Alfie met when he was was being treated for TB (with "shadows" on his lungs)
  • Lily Clamacraft (Vivien Merchant), a middle-aged, frumpy wife of Harry Clamacraft (Alfie Bass) - another sanitarium patient (Alfie's roommate during treatment); when alone with her, he rationalized sleeping with her ("Well, what harm can it do? Old Harry will never know. And, even if he did, he shouldn't begrudge me. Nor her, come to that"); she became pregnant after a one-night stand ("a moral lapse"), and it ultimately led to the seeking of an abortion (off-screen)
  • Annie (Jane Asher, Beatle Paul McCartney's girlfriend at one time), a red-head who met Alfie as a naive hitchhiker, and became Alfie's live-in homemaker for a short while, until they had a vicious argument and she left him - and never returned; he regretted forcing her to leave
  • Ruby (Shelley Winters), an older, rich and widowed American, voluptuous and promiscuous like Alfie, as he noted: ("The thing I like about Ruby, she's a mature woman. You can feel a lifetime of experience in her fingers...She's had two husbands. Both dead. And I've a good idea what they died of. She don't keep asking do you love her like these young birds do. She don't never mention love. She knows what she wants and she's gonna get it"); while kissing her, he rated her: ("You're a little sexpot, ain't you?...You're a little lust-box, ain't you? My little lust-box! I might settle down with her. With a wife like Ruby, you wouldn't want nothing on the side, ya know what I mean?")

It was considered daring and shocking in its time, with an examination of taboo subjects and the consequences of the sexual revolution in the swinging 1960s. Some of Alfie's romantic and physical setbacks included his bout with tuberculosis, his slight mental breakdown following his permanent separation from Gilda, his abrupt breakup with Annie, and the revelation that Ruby had taken another younger lover (or "bloke") - she told him: "He's younger than you are" - devastating to his ego.

The most controversial and devastating scene for Alfie was Lily's illegal (post 28 days) abortion, performed by an 'Abortionist' (Denholm Elliott) (the word was never explicitly mentioned in the film) in Alfie's apartment for 25 pounds. Alfie tried to explain the reason for the end of the pregnancy as a "moral lapse," since Lily was married and he was single: "She needs helping because her marriage would look very dodgy if her husband came out at this stage of the game. Got me? And she's got three other kids as well." Alfie expressed his concern (to the camera) for the predicament he found himself in:

I hate anything like this. My understanding of women only goes as far as the pleasure. When it comes to the pain, I'm like every other bloke. I don't wanna know.

After the abortionist left, Alfie was forced to slap Lily across the face when she began to scream in pain. Alfie briefly left and discovered that Gilda had been officially married to her long-time beau - bus conductor Humphrey (Graham Stark) (he had assumed adoptive custody of young Malcolm Alfie) in order to establish a normal family life - and he watched in a church as they baptized their newborn baby daughter together. When he returned to his apartment, he viewed the stillborn child's fetus in his kitchen (off-screen) - the unexpected shock caused tears and sobbing.

Shortly later, he described his surprise at the sight to his pal Nat (Murray Melvin) - and felt self-pitying for his wasted opportunities:

I could have dropped on the spot with the shock. All I was expecting to see was - Well, come to think of it, I don't rightly know what I was expecting to see. Certainly not this perfectly-formed being. I-I half expected it to cry out. It didn't, of course. It couldn't have done. It could never have had any life in it. I mean, not a proper life of its own.....Still, it must have had some life, of course. And, as it lay there so quiet and so still, it quite touched me. And I started praying or something. Saying things like, uh, 'God help me!', and, uh, things like that. And then I starts to cry. Straight up. The tears were running down my face. All salty. Like I was a kid myself.

...no, not (crying) for him. He was past it. For me bleeding self! You know, it don't half bring it home to you what you are when you see a helpless little thing like that lying in your own hands. He'd have been quite perfect. And I-I thought to myself, 'You know what, Alfie? You know what you done? You murdered him.'

In the final scene after all of Alfie's earlier conquests had now moved on (including recent revelations by Ruby and Siddie), Alfie spoke these last words - asking the viewer at the end of his reflections: "What's it all about?" when he began to seriously consider the consequences of his artificial existence and the trail of emotional devastation he had left behind - and he decided to befriend a stray dog next to him:

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 all 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 don't know. 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 me-self - what's it all about? Know what I mean?

(To a stray dog) Come on, boy, come on.

His monologue was followed by the title song performed by Cher (Cilla Black in the UK release) during the end credits (without a title), beginning with the catchphrase words: "What's it all about, Alfie?"


Siddie (Millicent Martin)


Gilda (Julia Foster)

Carla (Shirley Anne Field)

Lily (Vivien Merchant)


Annie (Jane Asher)



Ruby (Shelley Winters)


Alfie Addressing the Camera - His Reaction to the Abortion


After the Abortion Procedure, Alfie's Slap of the Pained Lily to Silence Her


Alfie's Reaction to Aborted Fetus


Ruby's Revelation to Alfie About Her New Love: "He's younger than you are"


Alfie's Final Monologue to the Camera

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