Home > Films > S > Sapphire

Sunday June 23rd 2024

Sapphire | 1959

Sapphire film location: Oakford Road, Tufnell Park, London NW5
Sapphire location: the home of the Harris family: Oakford Road, Tufnell Park, London NW5

A sort of companion piece to the same director's 1960s Victim, with a similar structure, using a police investigation to highlight social issues – with a liberal older detective (Nigel Patrick) taking to task his younger, prejudiced colleague (Michael Craig).

The setting is London where the stabbed body of Sapphire is discovered on Hampstead Heath, and a simple murder investigation becomes muddied as the victim turns out to have been mixed-race and passing for white.

Sapphire is a student at the Royal Academy of Music, Marylebone Road, NW1, where her fellow students, including fiancé David Harris (Paul Massie) are worried by her non-appearance.

‘Foscari’s’, the groovy coffee bar where the music students hang out, is now restaurant Siam Central, 14 Charlotte Street at Windmill Street in Fitzrovia, W1.

Much of the story is centered around Gospel Oak and Tufnell Park, NW5, north of Camden Town in northwest London.

The Harris family home, where David, his father Ted (Bernard Miles) and sister Millie (Yvonne Mitchell) all seem to be behaving a bit shiftily, is 2 Oakford Road at Lady Somerset Road in Tufnell Park, NW5 (it’s renamed 'Oakland Road' for the film). Alongside stands Oakford Yard, where Ted Harris runs his signwriting business and a vital clue is discovered.

Ted learns of the murder as he plies his trade painting signage on the window of second-hand store ‘TC Hornsby & Sons’, which is still just about recognisable as S&S Wines off-licence, 58 Malden Road on the corner of Rhyl Street, Belsize Park, NW5.

Sapphire film location: York Rise, Gospel Oak, London NW5
Sapphire location: the dairy shop where Millie works: York Rise, Gospel Oak, London NW5

‘Oakland Park Dairy’, where Millie Harris works, is 14 York Rise, NW5, just off Chetwynd Road.

The police investigations take them to the surgery of Dr Burgess, 15 Church Row, Hampstead, NW3. Its extravagant doorway is directly opposite the home of Jane Wyman's parents in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1951 Stage Fright.

Sapphire film location: Tufnell Park, London NW5
Sapphire location: the police check David's alibi: Boston Arms, Tufnell Park, London NW5

The police question the constable who provided David with an alibi on Dartmouth Park Hill outside the Boston Arms pub, Junction Road, in Tufnell Park in front of Tufnell park tube station. The Boston also housed the Dome music club, which became one of the 'Hamburg' venues where the Beatles play in Iain Softley's 1993 Backbeat, about the early days of the band.

Sapphire film location: Hogarth Road, Earl's Court, SW5
Sapphire location: Sapphire's old boarding house: Hogarth Road, Earl's Court, SW5

The investigation moves for a while to southwest London, where the old boarding house in which Sapphire had once stayed is, as it is claimed, in Earl’s Court, SW5, then a rundown bedsit area. It’s Hogarth Road at Knaresborough Place.

Sapphire film location: Knaresborough Place, Earl's Court, SW5
Sapphire location: the 'International Club': Knaresborough Place, Earl's Court, SW5

Nearby, 10 Knaresborough Place became the multi-national ‘International Club’ frequented by Sapphire before she realised she could pass for white.

The police station was the old Chelsea Police Station, which stood at 385 King’s Road at Milman’s Street, World’s End in Chelsea, SW3. The premises became a community centre but was replaced by a modern office block in the mid-80s. The Globe pub you can see alongside became The Water Rat for many years, but it’s now an Italian restaurant. Just across the road, by the way, is the World’s End shop, which used to be Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren’s notorious Sex/Seditionaries store – the centre of the 70s punk fashion explosion.

The same police station was used again in Victim.

The road alongside Hampstead Heath, where David is observed disposing of a piece of evidence down a drain, is East Heath Road at Well Walk. In the background you can just glimpse The Pryors, the apartment block where An American Werewolf In London chomped on one of his victims.

Much of the area around Notting Hill W10, where the police investigate seedy boarding houses, has long been demolished. It’s the area now overlooked by famous high-rise block Trellick Tower.

The ’Ritz’ cinema, where David claims he spent he spent the evening of Sapphire’s murder, will be recognised by fans of North London’s music scene as the Forum, OK, now rebranded as the O2 Forum, 9-17 Highgate Road, Kentish Town, NW5.

The art deco venue was indeed built in 1934 as a cinema (though even then it was the Forum, not the Ritz). Like many cinemas, is suffered the fate of becoming a bingo hall, before getting a whole new lease of life as live music venue The Town & Country Club in the mid-80s, and in 1993 the Forum.