Director: Lewis Gilbert
Screenwriter: Bill Naughton (from his own play)
Starring: Michael Caine, Jane Asher, Shelley Winters, Denholm Elliott, Shirley Anne Field, Vivien Merchant, Millicent Martin, Eleanor Bron
Release details: Paramount Pictures, UK 1966, 114mins
Full details: IMDb
Genre: Comedy drama
Rating: 10 out of 10

It's hard to imagine now that anyone else could have been Alfie, yet it was a role Michael Caine almost didn't play, as Paramount executives originally wanted Caine's former flatmate, Terence Stamp, who was the Broadway lead in the original play. In fact, Caine claims that "the role was turned down by every actor in England". But director Lewis Gilbert persuaded them to take a chance with Caine and he rewarded them with a performance of astonishing confidence and conviction.

There's not a lot of plot, as Alfie is, above all, a character study and Caine breezes through the film, charming the women and the audience in equal quantity. His straight-to-camera confessions were a revelation at the time and, although such a conceit is commonplace to modern cinema-goers, they are still refreshingly candid. Despite being rooted very deeply in the Swinging Sixties, the issues of the film - love, betrayal, unwanted pregnancy - are still very much current.

The film often has to cope with large swings in emotion, combining humour with pathos. In fact, it's a testament to Gilbert's skill as a director that the scenes with Denholm Elliot's abortionist, though harrowing, are not totally at odds with the light-hearted tone of the first half of the film, but serve to underline the moral of the tale.

The women in Caine's life - and there are many - don't always fare so well, but are all very much a product of the time. Jane Asher as the teenage hitchhiker Alfie picks up at a truck stop cafe has little to do except look sulky and whine a lot, while Shelley Winters (who supposedly drank straight vodka throughout the shoot, so afraid was she of her sex scenes with Caine) adds an over-the-top cameo as the older lover who ditches Alfie for an even younger toy-boy.

Alfie won a Golden Globe for Best English-Language Foreign Film and a Special Jury Prize at Cannes, while Vivien Merchant received the BAFTA for Most Promising Newcomer. In addition, the film was nominated for five Oscars - Actor, Supporting Actress (Merchant), Original Song, Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay - and six BAFTAs - Actor, Cinematography, Film, Screenplay, Editing and Most Promising Newcomer.

The stats

UK release date March 1966
US release date 24 August 1966
US box office $18,871,300
UK box office -
Worldwide box office -
UK cinema certificate X
UK VHS/DVD certificate 15
US rating (1966) not applicable
US VHS/DVD rating PG

Alfie was re-released in the UK in 2001 by the BFI as part of their Classic Cinema for the 21st Century season.

UK re-release date 11 May 2001
UK certificate 12

Sources: IMDb, BFI, BBFC, The Numbers, MPAA
About ratings and certificates.


Jane Asher, who was engaged to Paul McCartney at the time, has a scene where she appears wearing only Alfie's dress shirt. McCartney objected and insisted that an additional foot of material be added to the bottom of the shirt to protect Miss Asher's decency.

Alfie started out as a BBC radio play Alfie Elkins and his Little Life. The role of Alfie was played by Bill Owens, who would later play Compo in the BBC's Last of the Summer Wine. Although Alfie is meant to be a young man, Owens was in his 50s at the time.

The UK soundtrack featured Cilla Black singing the title tune, but the US version had Dionne Warwick. While it was usually Cilla who re-recorded Dionne's collaborations with Burt Bacharach for the UK singles charts, in this case it was the reverse. Cilla had not been initially keen on the song, as she didn't particularly like the lyrics. Thinking that the studio would refuse, she only agreed to record it if Burt arranged it for her and accompanied her on piano during recording. Burt agreed and it was recorded with Burt playing piano and Sir George Martin producing. It, if course, the song that people most identify with Cilla.


It was rumoured back in 1999 that Natural Nylon, the production company once owned by horrendous luvvie couple Sadie "Dumped by a Kemp brother" Frost and her totally over-rated then-husband, Jude Law, as well as their best celebrity chums Sean Pertwee, Jonny Lee Miller and the god-like Ewan McGregor, would be remaking Alfie, with McGregor in the title role.

Jude Law as Alfie

Brad Pitt was due to start filming in the lead role in spring 2003, but had to drop out due to pressure of work. Incredibly - horribly - CitizenCaine's least favourite actor, Jude Law, finally won the role. Sienna Miller, Susan Sarandon, Marisa Tomei, Nia Long and Renée Taylor play the women in his life. The film was released in October 2004.

External Reviews

For a distillation of Caine at the top of his game look no further... DVD Review

Both a minor British classic and a valuable record of the hedonistic Swinging 60s... BBC Online


The British Film Institute [BFI] have an Alfie mini-site from the 2001 re-release.

Jane Asher has gone from actress to Britain's answer to Martha Stewart, except without the insider dealing allegations. To find out more about her cake business, try the official website. For more on Jane's career, there's a brief profile at the Beatles' First Wives' Club.

There's an excellent Shelley Winters site with a very thorough theatre section and plenty of high-quality photos throughout. Coming Soon! Coming Soon!

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