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"Alfie," is considered one of the most influential movies of the 60's. It's credited with introducing London to the world, just as it began to swing. Also with making a big star of its star, Michael Caine, although by this time Caine had already starred in "The Ipcress File," and stolen "Zulu," a dandy war movie, out from under Stanley Baker. No matter, "Alfie" is still considered the sexy, handsome young Caine's star-making turn. The part, that of a London cockney lad about town, is one he was born to: he was, in fact, born to be a Covent Garden barrow boy (that is, a man selling fruits and vegetables from a wheelbarrow in the open-air market), as was his father before him.

Alfie (Caine) is a London limo driver, a job that enables him to meet girls, girls, girls, and he does. Uses them, abuses them, moves on.

Terence Stamp, cockney himself, and possibly the handsomest man alive at that time, was playing the title role on Broadway, but refused the movie, as he thought it "too immoral." Denholm Elliott has one unforgettable scene; Sydney Tafler and other cockney types provided Caine with excellent support; some of the women in Alfie's life were played by Shelley Winters, Jane Asher, Shirley Anne Field, Vivien Merchant, and Eleanor Bron.

When the movie first opened, it was accompanied only by a jazzy Sonny Rollins score. To sweeten things up a bit, the famous, award-winning song, "What's It All About, Alfie," was commissioned from Burt Bacharach and Hal David. The song, done by Cher for the American market, and Cilla Black for the English, was spliced into the movie. (Of course, Dionne Warwick had the big hit with it, on both sides of the Atlantic.) The song, however, is not an accurate summation of the movie, as it is generally considered. The song famously asks, "Is it just for the moment we live? Are we meant to take more than we give?" Well, Alfie, as Caine plays him, knows that he's been trying to live only for the moment, and that he's been taking far more than he's been giving, and he knows where it's gotten him.

He knows that he dislikes women -- calls them "birds," and occcasionally, jarringly, "it." But he knows their power. He knows he has no education, money or position, and a woman such as the doctor Eleanor Bron plays has no interest in him. He knows he's alone, and getting older; were he to forget, Shelley Winters, in the part she was born to play, a rich American, is there to remind him. He knows that he's lost two sons, one by a second-stringer of his who married a nice man to get the support she needed. One by the character played by the greatly-admired Vivien Merchant, a married woman who feels an abortion is necessary.

The scene where Alfie recognizes just what abortion means is the most powerful in the movie. "You reap what you sow," is the lesson he's forced to relearn, and it's a painful one. At the end of the movie, he stands and faces the camera, says he's gotten the better of the many women in his life, and yet, they've moved on, presumably to happiness, and he has nothing, not even his "peace of mind." Our Alfie has been forced to learn what it's all about.

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PA06604 Alfie DVD (1966/Michael Caine/Shelley Winters) $14.96 $13.49