Alfie is a 1966 romantic comedy-drama film directed by Lewis Gilbert and starring Michael Caine. The film tells the story of a young womanizing man, who leads a self-centered life, pretty much for his own enjoyment, until events force him to question his uncaring behavior, his loneliness and his priorities. He cheats on numerous women, and despite his confidence with them, he treats them with disrespect and refers to them as “it,” using them for sex and domestic purposes. Alfie often breaks the fourth wall by talking directly to the camera and justifying his actions.
Alfie Elkins is a handsome Cockney chauffeur enjoys the favors of women, while avoiding any commitment, He ends an affair with a married women named Siddie, just as he gets his submissive and single girlfriend, Gilda pregnant. Even though Alfie refuses to marry Gilda and constantly cheats on her, Gilda decides to have the baby and name him Malcolm, and keep him, rather than give him up for adoption.
Over time Alfie becomes attached to his son, but his refusal to marry Gilda, causes her to break up with him and marry Humphrey, a kind bus conductor who loves her and is willing to accept Malcolm as his son. She eventually bans Alfie from having any contact with his son, forcing him to watch from a distance, Humphrey take over the roll as Malcolm’s father. When a health check reveals that he has tubercular shadow on his lungs, the diagnosis and the separation from his son cause him to have a mental breakdown.
The stress from two women, one he meets at a convalescent home he stayed at for a while, named Ruby, the other woman he picks up as a hitchhiker named Annie, Alfie decides to change his non-committal ways and settle down with the rich Ruby. However, when visiting Ruby, he finds a younger man in bed with her. He meets Siddie again, but she has lost interest in him and returns to her husband. Alfie is left lonely, but then asks the camera “What’s it all about?”
This was the first movie to receive the “suggested for mature audiences” classification by the Motion Picture Association of America, which turned into the modern PG rating.
This film, like The Graduate, is quite racy for PG. Michael Caine is outstanding as Alfie Elkins and does a much better job than Jude Law does as Alfie in the 2004 remake. Although I have said Jude Law is today’s Michael Caine, but that’s a different story. Caine portrays the womanizer and lady-killer with such excellence, combining wit and sensuality in a flirtatious manner. Each woman in the film is well acted, Shelly Winters, Jane Asher and Eleanor Bron, to name a few. Graham Stark delivers a rather boring Humphrey, so to me this is not his best role.
The music in this film is all performed by jazz artist Sonny Rollins and fits the film well, giving it a humorous and sensual feel. The title track “Alfie” written by Burt Bacharach, has the perfect lyrics and is sung by Cilla Black in the original UK release of the film and Cher for the original US release. I prefer Cilla’s version, Dionne Warwick’s version I like as well.
This film is filled with deadpan humor, sensuality and cleverness. This is definitely a classic and one of the greatest films I’ve ever seen. This is one I can watch over and over and never get tired of it. This quick-witted film, I give two thumbs up. 5/5