Flame In The Streets | 1961
Hot Summer Night, a TV play by Ted Willis (socially concerned creator of the long-running Dixon Of Dock Green TV series) is adapted for the screen but transposed to a cold winter night, as it’s set on November 5th, Bonfire Night in the UK.
Pre-dating Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner? By 16 years, Flame In The Streets follows a similar but grittier pattern as union leader Jacko Palmer (John Mills) defends co-worker Gabriel Gomez (Earl Cameron) against racial discrimination at work, then having to face his own racism when he discovers his daughter Kathie (Sylvia Syms) wants to marry Jamaican teacher Peter Lincoln (Johnny Sekka).
Kathie and Peter both work at Hawley Secondary School, now Camden Centre for Learning, Harmood Street at Clarence Way, Chalk Farm NW1.
Not far away, the Palmers’ house is 60 Clarence Way, the same street that became ‘Coronet Grove, Bethnal Green’ in It Always Rains On Sunday.
Surprisingly close (since the Palmer family doesn’t seem to know him) lives Peter Lincoln, just across Clarence Way at 60 Hawley Road.
This house, too, featured in It Always Rains On Sunday, and oddly was also home to struggling actor Dexter King (Jeff Goldblum) in Mel Smith’s 1989 comedy, The Tall Guy. In Flame... it’s a run-down boarding house rented to black and mixed-race families, in the days when discrimination was rife and immigrants were shockingly limited in their choice of accommodation.
The area has, like Notting Hill, become unrecognisably gentrified in the last decades. Many of the surrounding streets have been demolished. The derelict space where the locals gather around the bonfire, and the racist youths are determined to stir up trouble, is now Castlehaven Open Space.
In the background, as Gabriel Gomez patiently explains the tradition of Guy Fawkes Night – presumably for US audiences – stood The Stag’s Head, 35 Hawley Road at Hawley Street, which closed its doors in 1995 and has since become flats.
Surviving rather better, a little further along the road, though not seen in the film, is the Hawley Arms, which sprang to fame as a hangout for rockstars, wannabe rockstars and starry-eyed tourists, then as the regular hangout of singer Amy Winehouse, who could occasionally be found pulling pints behind the bar.
Dreaming of a future in Montego Bay, Kathie and Peter walk along the muddy towpath of the Regent’s Canal, between Royal College Street and St Pancras Way, Camden Town NW1. The terrace of rundown houses has been replaced with modern flats, but The Constitution pub, which you can see by the bridge, is a survivor (having recently celebrated its 150th birthday).