Lot 508


Estimate: £1,200 - £1,800
Hammer price: £800
Bidding ended. Lot has been sold.

A large quantity of production related paperwork, 1963 – 1971, contained within two green card filing cabinet hanging files, both files with original typescript tabs Alfie, containing letters from various correspondents, majority typescript, some signed, contracts, financial statements etc., various subjects include the film rights, casting the main character of Alfie, the film’s theme song, finances and contracts etc., the majority of the earliest correspondence from The Lew Grade Organisation, other correspondents include: Romulus Films, Paramount British Pictures, British Film Fund Agency, Paramount Film Service, Sonny Rollins and various solicitors, of note:

- A file copy of a letter from Gilbert to Lew Grade, 9 April 1964….”the only way to make this film is for a daring picture to be made…I don’t think we need a star for this… I think the quality of the play will go by the board unless we play a real Cockney…” 1p.;

- A typescript letter, signed from Grade to Gilbert regarding discussions with ‘Jimmy’ Woolf of Romulus Films who suggested casting Laurence Harvey as Alfie, and a subsequent letter, 15 June 1964 in which Grade suggests the Lew Grade Organisation back out of the project due to disagreements regarding casting and that Gilbert continue the project with Romulus Films, 2pp;

- A two-page agreement, 9 July 1964, between The Grade Organisation Limited and Lewis Gilbert setting out the …terms of the agreement reached between us regarding the rights and interests in the copyright in a) A Play entitled “Alfie” and an original radio play entitled “Alfie Elkins and his Little Life” both written by Bill Naughton and b) A Screen Play by Bill Naughton based on such Plays;

- A four-page agreement (first page missing), 22 July 1964, between Paramount British Pictures Limited and Sheldrake Films Limited stating that The Picture shall star Mr. Terence Stamp;

- A typescript letter, signed, from R. Howard Harrison on Paramount British Pictures Ltd. Stationery, 12 February 1965, to Sheldrake Films Ltd., confirming that …we have agreed to substitute Mr. Terence Stamp with Mr. Michael Caine, 1p;

- A typescript letter, signed, from George Weltner on Paramount Pictures Corporation headed stationery, 6 April 1965, telling Gilbert….There is more excitement about ALFIE than I have seen here or felt for a long time….the Exhibitors in the United States are beginning to pressure us about the picture.  As you probably know, Europe is agog… 1p;

- An autograph letter, signed, from Sonny Rollins, undated but circa April 1964, on The Windsor Arms Hotel, Toronto, Canada headed stationery, Rollins thanking Gilbert for The very fine way in which you treated me throughout our acquaintance…, enquiring after Hylda and telling him….Both you and she have been so important to my work and to myself, not only in ‘Alfie’ but you have inspired within me a deep respect and appreciation of a ‘worth while’ life…1p. on either side of a single sheet; with a file copy of Gilbert’s reply, 4 May 1966, telling him….I cannot say how much your music has contributed to the success of “Alfie”……Of course, in the long run, “Alfie” will be forgotten, but the affection which I and my family have for you, will be something much more lasting 1p.;

- A small collection of material relating to the premiere at the Plaza Theatre, Piccadilly Circus, 24 March 1966 comprising two tickets for the ‘Gala World Premiere’, one for the Royal Circle, an invitation for Mrs A. Gilbert and Guest to the after party at The Cockney Pride; a mimeograph typescript list of the guest list for the premiere; and an original black and white press still of the exterior of the Plaza on the night of the premiere, the verso ink-stamped P.I.C PHOTOS LTD.; a Paramount Studios booklet for 1966, the cover featuring Alfie, with the news that the film Smashed The Plaza’s All-Time Weekly Record!;

- A telegram from Howard Koch, Vice-President of Paramount Pictures, undated….I have just screened “ALFIE” and there are not enough superlatives to tell you how wonderful the picture is.  Michael Caine, in my estimation, emerges as a big star and your direction has made the picture seem like you are living it rather than watching it….;

- An autograph letter from Jane Asher, signed, undated, sent from the Theatre Royal in Bristol, telling Gilbert the film was….beautifully directed…..Vivien Merchant’s performance…was absolutely BRILLIANT, on either side of a sheet of paper, with a file copy of Gilbert’s reply, 31 January, 1966, and a colour snap-shot of Asher with cast members Michael Caine, Shelley Winters, Shirley Ann Field and Julia Foster, and another of Asher with Gilbert’s son John, both – 9 x 13 cm.;

- A typescript letter, signed, from John Woolf on Romulus Films Ltd headed stationery, 1 September 1966, sent to Gilbert at the Hilton Hotel in Tokyo during the filming of You Only Live Twice, congratulating him on the success of Alfie….John [Gilbert] tells me that Paramount say it will gross ten million dollars at least.  What a bit of luck for your Tax Inspector!, the letter also refers to the early discussions regarding the film Oliver!, Woolf telling Gilbert with regard to the casting of Richard Burton as Fagin….I have your reservations well in mind…..I know how Burton would play the part and you need have no fear that it would in any way compare with the Guinness Fagin, 1p. with corresponding Air Mail envelope;

- A typescript letter, signed, from Dick Van Dyke on personalised stationery, 14 November 1966, congratulating Gilbert on the film….A lot of scripts and stories come into my office; perhaps one day I will be lucky enough to find a piece of material like ‘ALFIE’ bearing a ‘Lewis Gilbert’ label….1p.; with a file copy of Gilbert’s reply;

- A telegram from Joseph Freidman of Paramount Pictures to Gilbert at the Hilton Hotel, Tokyo, undated but circa November 1966, giving news of rave reviews and box office records; and a folder of material relating to various awards, most notably the 1967 Academy Awards, including: two programmes for the 39th Annual Academy Awards Presentation, Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, April 10, 1967; an unused ticket for the ceremony, a used ticket for the Board of Governors Ball following the ceremony with corresponding envelope; a seating plan for the auditorium; two typescript letters on Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences headed stationery, one from Executive Director Margaret Herrick, signed, detailing arrangements for the ceremony, the other from the President of the Board of Governors regarding restrictions with regard to use of Academy Award symbols; an invitation from Ruth and Howard W. Koch to a cocktail party to welcome Hylda and Lewis Gilbert to America for the Academy Awards; and an elaborate silk-screened card from Hylda to Lewis, signed and inscribed My Personal ‘Oscar’ in all categories, Hylda, with corresponding envelope inscribed in Hylda’s hand To Lewis Gilbert ‘ALFIE’; and related material  (a lot)

With regard to John Woolf’s letter sent to Gilbert in Tokyo, 1 September 1966, discussing the casting of Richard Burton as Fagin, much to Gilbert’s regret, it later transpired that he was unable to direct Oliver! due to other contractual obligations and had instead to direct The Adventurers, which he described in his autobiography as “a big picture but it was a big picture about nothing”.  Richard Burton, amongst other unlikely candidates such as Peter O’Toole and Peter Sellers, had been briefly considered for the role of Fagin, as well as Julie Andrews and Elizabeth Taylor for the role of Nancy. 

Condition Report: Overall good

Footnote: Lewis Gilbert regarded Alfie as his ‘breakthrough’ film.  The chapter devoted to the film in his autobiography is entitled ‘The Film That Changed My Life’.  In it he recounts how it was his wife Hylda who, following a chance encounter at her hairdressers with the actress Margaret Courteney (who was appearing in Alfie at the Mermaid Theatre), went to see the play and immediately realised it would be a great vehicle for a film.  Gilbert saw the play on the strength of his wife’s recommendation and recalls…. the subject fascinated me….because Alfie was a new kind of hero….he had a cockiness and an energy that was mirrored in the real life of the 1960s….

Alfie broke numerous box office records on its release and was lauded by the critics as a result the film shot Lewis Gilbert and his unknown lead Michael Caine to international stardom. Alfie was nominated for 5 Academy Awards including: Best Picture for Lewis Gilbert and Best Actor in a leading role for Michael Caine. It won 3 BAFTAs including Best British Actor for Michael Caine; and was nominated for 3 others including Best British Film for Lewis Gilbert. At Cannes Lewis Gilbert won the Jury Special Prize and was nominated for the Palm d’Or. The film also won 4 Golden Globes including Best Director for Lewis Gilbert and Best Actor for Michael Caine and was nominated for 3 others.

 In a recent interview for The Guardian  newspaper with Xan Brooks, 18 October 2021, Michael Caine’s remarked: “Alfie is probably the best film I ever made”.

Literature: GILBERT, Lewis All My Flashbacks The Autobiography of Lewis Gilbert, Sixty Years A Film Director, Reynolds & Hearn, London, 2010


Bellmans is grateful to Wallace and Hodgson for their assistance with cataloguing the Lewis Gilbert Film Script and Production Archive.

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