Absolute Beginners | 1986
Julien Temple’s series of pop promos, vaguely inspired by Colin MacInnes’ cult novel of West London life in the Fifties, was the great hope of Goldcrest Films, but in fact helped sink the company.
The terrific sets (and it’s almost totally set-bound), including a garishly stylised Soho and a meticulous recreation of Napoli, Notting Hill’s gloriously seedy bedsit area, were built at Shepperton Studios.
Out in the real world, Colin’s (Eddie O’Connell) Have You Ever Had it Blue number was filmed on the Albert Bridge, SW11, between Chelsea Embankment and Battersea Park.
Smooth Henley (James Fox) hosts a très chic fashion show in the Café de Paris, which stood at 3 Coventry Street. Positively oozing mirrored glamour, the nightclub opened in 1924, and secured real cachet when the then-Prince of Wales became a regular. Lord and Lady Mountbatten dined on oysters here, Cole Porter entertained and Merle Oberon – Cathy in the classic 1939 film of Wuthering Heights – started her career here.
During the Blitz, when most of the West End closed down, the club remained open on the assumption that it was bomb-proof. Tragically, this turned out not to be the case, and a direct hit killed 34 people.
Rebuilt, it continued to provide entertainment for the glitterati until it hit a slump in the Eighties, when it found fame as a movie backdrop, for Scandal, The Krays; and the Café slummed it a little as the ‘Soho’ strip club where John Goodman relaxed in King Ralph. It bounced back as a glamorous nitespot in Lone Scherfig’s 2009 Oscar-nominated An Education and as a decadent 'Vegas' club in X-Men: First Class. In 2020, following the Covid lockdown, it finally closed its doors for good. It had to be recreated in the studio for the Sixties scenes of Edgar Wright's Last Night In Soho.