A Fish Called Wanda | 1988
This neatly crafted dark comedy, directed by Ealing Films veteran Charles Crichton (who helmed such classics such as The Titfield Thunderbolt) is set in London, though for some scenes, the city of Oxford stands in for the capital.
‘Kipling Mansions’, the home of animal-loving Ken Pile (Michael Palin), and home to the titular Wanda, is Aubrey House, 7 Maida Avenue, W2, on the Grand Union Canal in the rather posh Maida Vale district of West London. There’s quite a bit of cinematic history around here. Next door, at 6 Maida Avenue, is the house in which Chicago cop John Wayne stays in his only English film, Brannigan.
2 Maida Avenue sports a blue plaque marking it as the home of much-loved character actor Arthur Lowe, most famous as Capt Mainwaring in classic TV series Dad’s Army, but also memorable as Horace Sprout, the theatre critic decapitated by Vincent Price in Theatre Of Blood.
The jewel robbery is staged in Hatton Garden, EC1, north of Holborn, where Wanda Gershwitz (Jamie Lee Curtis) checks out Diamond House, 37-38 Hatton Garden.
It’s hardly surprising that, as the centre of London’s diamond trading business, Hatton Garden provides a backdrop for heist movies, including Guy Ritchie’s Snatch and the not-so-successful High Heels and Low Lifes. Less predictably, the street became home to The Guardian newspaper office for The Bourne Ultimatum, and was even transformed into ‘Greenwich Village’ for Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut.
The getaway filmed quite a distance away, in Clerkenwell. Moustachioed Wanda waits with the car on Clerkenwell Green, EC1, where she’s unfortunately spotted by Mrs Coady (Patricia Hayes), who’s walking her dogs.
The flight of steps where the robbers swap cars can be seen between Roberts Place and Clerkenwell Close, just to the north of Clerkenwell Green. The gateway where Pile disposes of the evidence is St John’s Gate on Clerkenwell Road at St John’s Square.
Near the steps on Clerkenwell Close is the spot where the travelling show was set up in Terry Gilliam’s The Imaginarium Of Dr Parnassus. This scene, sadly, was the last ever filmed by Heath Ledger. The area around Clerkenwell is the setting for much of 2002’s About A Boy.
Mrs Coady seems to have been taking the dogs for quite a long walky. Her house, where Pile makes a disastrous attempt on her life, is 69 Onslow Gardens, South Kensington. The pet cemetery, where the little doggie get buried, is a real one: Silvermere Haven at Cobham in Surrey.
The legal scenes were filmed around London’s famous courthouse, the Old Bailey, EC4; and the olde worlde legal offices of Lincoln’s Inn (previously used as a backdrop for the Boulting brothers’ comedy Brothers In Law). The office of barrister Archie Leach (John Cleese), where Wanda breaks all the rules by calling on him, is 2 New Square, in the southeast corner. Alongside the elaborate arch in the background you can see the taxidermist shop from Mr Holmes, with Ian McKellen as the great detective. New Square also provided the streets of 19th century London in Tony Richardson’s rumbustious 1963 film of Tom Jones.
The interior of the ‘Old Bailey’ court, however, is actually Oxford Town Hall, St Aldgate’s at Carfax, in the centre of town. The prison, too, is in Oxford.
The rusticated entrance to HM Prison Oxford, where Otto (Kevin Kline) and Wanda first catch sight of barrister Leach, is on New Road, alongside Castle Mound. The side street, where Wanda makes her move on Leach, you can find a couple of blocks west behind Morrell’s Brewery. It’s Osney Lane between Woodbine Place and The Hamel.
‘St Trevor’s Wharf’, where Leach borrows the luxurious pad for an ill-fated tryst with Wanda, is the New Concordia Wharf, Bermondsey Wall West, one of those renovated riverside warehouses south of the Thames, with a terrific view of Tower Bridge. The window, out of which Archie is dangled, was filmed a couple of blocks east, in then undeveloped Reed’s Wharf.