Portobello Film Psychogeography
By Tom Vague
Bedknobs and Broomsticks Robert Stevenson 1971 ‘Portobello Road, Portobello Road, street where the riches of ages are stowed. Anything and everything a chap can unload is sold off the barrow in Portobello Road. You’ll find what you want in the Portobello Road.’ In a Disneyland Portobello market scene, set in 1940, Angela Lansbury and her evacuee kid charges search for a magic book and get involved in a proto-Carnival song and dance routine.
The Blue Lamp Basil Dearden 1950 (filmed in 1949) After Dirk Bogarde’s delinquent spiv character murders ‘Dixon of Dock Green’, he’s pursued in the climactic car chase along Ladbroke Grove and Lancaster Road to Latimer Road – where his car crashes and he runs across the railway lines to the White City stadium.
The Lavender Hill Mob Charles Crichton 1951 After a police car stolen by Alec Guinness and Stanley Holloway is reported heading along Portobello Road, the car chase concludes with the pursuing police cars converging in a pile-up at the junction of Bramley Road and Latimer (now Freston) Road, in front of the Bramley Arms.
10 Rillington Place Richard Fleischer 1971 Adaptation of Ludovic Kennedy’s book about Notting Hill’s most notorious address, where John Christie murdered several women and concealed their bodies in the 1940s and early 50s. The first floor tenant Timothy Evans was executed for the murder of his daughter 3 years before Christie. The film, starring Richard Attenborough and John Hurt as Christie and Evans, features the old street and the interior of another house in the row.
Absolute Beginners Julien Temple 1986 Musical adaptation of the Colin MacInnes novel featuring the 1958 Notting Hill race riots; starring Eddie O’Connell, David Bowie and Patsy Kensit. Riot incidents on Bramley Road and Blenheim Crescent, where Totobag’s Caribbean Café was attacked, are dramatised as a ‘West Side Story’ dance sequence.
West Eleven Michael Winner 1963 The year of the Profumo affair, ‘The Furnished Room’ novel by longstanding Portobello market trader Laura del Rivo was adapted by Winner as the film ‘West Eleven’, partly set on Colville Terrace. Alfred Lynch stars as the archetypal local anti-hero who is offered £10,000 to commit a murder.
Scandal Michael Caton-Jones 1989 ‘Christine’s fallen out with Lucky, Johnny’s got a gun, Please Please Me’s number one.’ As put into song by Dusty Springfield and the Pet Shop Boys, in 1963 the Profumo affair political sex scandal rocked the nation, with accompanying slum housing revelations about the Notting Hill landlord Peter Rachman. Christine Keeler, played by Joanne Whalley, meets Lucky Gordon at Frank Crichlow’s El Rio Caribbean Café at 127 Westbourne Park Road.
Quadrophenia Franc Roddam 1979 The mod revival film of the Who’s ‘Quadrophenia’ album set in the mid-60s features several Freston Road scenes. The mod is beaten up by rockers after his scooter breaks down on the Bramley Arms corner, where the police cars crashed in ‘The Lavender Hill Mob’.
Installation on Portobello Rd featuring local films and cover artworks from over the year's festivals
A Hard Day’s Night Richard Lester 1964 The Beatles appear on Heathfield Street in Notting Dale on the poster. Ringo Starr is chased by screaming girls along Lancaster Road from St Luke’s to All Saints Road, where he goes into a second-hand shop and comes out in beatnik disguise. His ‘parading’ sequence concludes with all the Beatles running in and out of a school (acting as the police station) on Walmer Road.
Blow Up Michelangelo Antonioni 1966 In the definitive Swinging 60s London film, David Hemmings (as David Bailey/Terence Donovan) uses Johnny Cowan’s studio on Prince’s Place to photograph Vanessa Redgrave, Verushka and co. The exterior is 77 Pottery Lane.
Otley Dick Clement 1968 Tom Courtenay stars as the antiques market trader Otley, who gets caught up in a spy caper. In the opening continuous long shot, he walks down Portobello by Henekey’s (the Earl of Lonsdale) on Westbourne Grove. He’s evicted from his bed-sit above the Trad shop at 67 Portobello Road.
Performance Donald Cammell/Nic Roeg 1970 (filmed in 1968) “I need a Bohemian atmosphere.” 25 Powis Square appears as the exterior of Turner’s house, which becomes the hideout of gangster on the run Chas, played by James Fox; co-starring Mick Jagger as the reclusive rock star landlord Turner and Anita Pallenberg as his girlfriend.
The Italian Job Peter Collinson 1969 In the most famous Hollywood W11 scene, Michael Caine appears round the back of Alice’s antiques shop in the Denbigh Close mews.
Withnail and I Bruce Robinson 1987 In the cult classic set in 1969 Camden, Richard E Grant and Paul McGann as Withnail and I are chased out of the old Tavistock Hotel pub on Tavistock Crescent, towards the footbridge under the Westway and Trellick Tower. The pub was subsequently named the Mother Black Cap in reality after its role in the film. Their house is off Freston Road.
Pressure Horace Ove 1976 The first black British feature film depicting life in the West Indian community before the 1976 Carnival riot, with scenes on Portobello Green by the Westway and in the market. The film, co-written by Ove and ‘The Lonely Londoners’ author Sam Selvon, focuses on the second generation black British identity crisis; featuring a ‘Blood and Fire’ reggae soundtrack, the Caribbean store at 194 Kensington Park Road, Ram John Holder and Norman Beaton.
The Squeeze Michael Apted 1977 Stacy Keach and Freddie Starr search the area for a kidnapped girl, on an extended pub crawl featuring the Apollo on All Saints Road, the Bevington Arms, the Bramley Arms on Freston Road – outside of which the shoot-out finalé takes place – and the early stages of the 1976 Carnival.
Sammy and Rosie Get Laid Stephen Frears 1987 Hanif Kureishi’s 80s state of the nation address starring Roland Gift (of the Fine Young Cannibals, who went on to play Johnny Edgecombe in ‘Scandal’); featuring a hippy travellers camp by the Westbourne Park curve of the Westway on the site of Westbourne Studios and the Muslim Cultural Heritage Centre.
London Kills Me Hanif Kureishi 1991 The Notting Hill acid-house film features scenes in Portobello market, under the Westway, in Portfolio on Golborne road (also in ‘Notting Hill’), and the First Floor bar (now the Distillery). The Chepstow Villas acid-house squat was a former property of the Tory MP Michael Heseltine, between residences of Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits and Jason Donovan.
Notting Hill Roger Michell 1999 Hugh Grant walks through the market as the seasons change from his shop at 142 Portobello Road, which was based on the Travel Bookshop at 13 Blenheim Crescent (now the Notting Hill Bookshop). The blue door of his house on Westbourne Park Road is no longer the one in the film. The house was previously occupied by squatters. Grant and Julia Roberts climb into Rosmead Gardens off Ladbroke Grove.
Kidulthood Menhaj Huda 2006 A gritty urban day in the life of disaffected west London youth set on and around Ladbroke Grove, starring and written by Noel Clarke; followed up by ‘Adulthood’, ‘Anuvahood’ and ‘Brotherhood’.
Adulthood Noel Clarke 2008 Follow-up to ‘Kidulthood’, filmed on Portobello at the Tavistock Road square, Ladbroke Grove at Dub Vendor, Lancaster West estate and St Charles Square. Noel Clarke reappears in front of Trellick Tower on the poster.
Paddington Paul King 2014 Paddington Bear visits the Hungarian antique dealer Mr Gruber at Alice’s antiques shop on the corner of Denbigh Close (which also appears in ‘The Italian Job’). Michael Bond based his fictional address near Portobello, 32 Windsor Gardens, on Lansdowne Crescent, as he created the character whilst living on Arundel Gardens.