The Knack... And How To Get It | 1965
Oh, how achingly, fabulously cool it all was – director Richard Lester, hot from the Beatles’ first film, A Hard Day's Night,; hip young stars Rita Tushingham and Michael Crawford, in a flashy, surreal filming of Ann Jellicoe’s stylised stage play. And all set in a very swinging Sixties monochrome London.
It’s inevitably dated, and some attitudes are disturbing today (particularly the idea of rape as a bit of a joke), but countless music videos still show the influence of its ground-breaking, bleached-out, rapid-fire pixilated style.
The titular ’knack’ is the ability of smoothie Tolen (Ray Brooks) to seduce every female in his immediate vicinity. Gauche schoolteacher Colin (Crawford) is eager to acquire this skill, until naive Northerner Nancy Jones (Tushingham) puts a spanner in the works.
She arrives in London at Victoria Coach Station, Buckingham Palace Road, SW1. On seeing Buckingham Palace, she wonders if it might be the YWCA she's looking for. Given the look of this dullest of royal palaces, you can hardly blame her.
The street scenes are around west London, in Shepherd’s Bush and Notting Hill Gate. Colin teaches at Holland Park School, Airlie Road, of Campden Hill Road. Along with Nancy and their mate Tom (Donal Donnelly – who you might recognise as Archbishop Gilday in Godfather III), he wheels an iron bedstead through London (how very Sixties).
Orsino Restaurant, Penzance Place, used to be a pub. Here, Nancy and Colin push the bedstead around the exterior of the bar, while Tom nips through the pub, acquiring a stack of bottles and ashtrays. This sight gag, and even its location, are leftover from Richard Lester’s previous film, A Hard Day’s Night.
Clifton Villas, alongside Warwick Avenue Underground Station (Bakerloo Line), is where Nancy feigns pregnancy, by shoving her shopping into her coat, in order to get to cross the busy road.
The waterskiing at the swimming pool is Ruislip Lido, an artificial reservoir and beach in Ruislip, west London. This is also where scenes for A Night To Remember, the excellent 1958 British account of the Titanic disaster, were filmed.
The wildly sexist fantasy, with queues of fabulously Sixties ‘dolly birds’ queuing up for the attentions of Tolen’s rival, is at the Royal Albert Hall, Kensington Gore, South Kensington for the privilege of his attentions. See more of this Victorian gem in Alfred Hitchcock’s own 1956 remake of The Man Who Knew Too Much.
The famous ‘White Pad’, where much of the movie is set, and which was taken over as the film’s base, is 1 Melrose Terrace at Shepherd’s Bush Road, London W6. As ever, do remember this is a private home.