At the movies · Notes from West London

“A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square”

Last weekend, at 1.35am on Sunday, BBC2 screened the little-known 1979 movie “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square”. I say “little-known” but at least 20 people know about it thanks to my efforts over the years. It was filmed all around the part of West London where I, and many of my friends, grew up, so it has real nostalgia value for us. Some of my friends have given me a hard time for making them watch something that they thought was rubbish. It’s not rubbish, but even if it were it’s worth 106 minutes of our time to see places like Mylo’s ice cream shop captured forever on film, and to try and identify some of the less obvious places. It also features Gloria Grahame, one of my favourite actresses, in one of her last roles. She died in 1981 and her relationship with a young actor, Peter Turner, is recorded in his book “Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool”. You’re likely to hear a whole lot more about her in the months ahead. A film based on the book is about to be released, and Annette Bening is being tipped for an Oscar for her portrayal of Ms Grahame.

Last Sunday morning, having recorded “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square” on our multi-channel box overnight, I fast-forwarded through parts of it to show my daughter some of the locations that she too has known for most of her life: the road I was born in, our local church, the George IV pub, Turnham Green Terrace, Barley Mow Passage. We had about 20 minutes before heading off for her 2km parkrun.

I didn’t trouble her too much with the plot. Pinky (played by Richard Jordan) is released from prison, having trained as an electrician while inside. Inevitably, for something filmed around West London, Wormwood Scrubs is the prison in question. He gets a job with an American bank but is blackmailed into helping local villain Ivan (David Niven, in his last speaking part) and his gang to execute “The Biggest Bank Robbery” (which was the title of the movie when I first saw it in early 1980s).

On two of the last four nights I have stayed up rather late watching the movie again on my Mac Book Pro and taking screenshots of the local landmarks that feature throughout, zooming in and out to confirm specific locations. I didn’t need to zoom in to see the sign for the Marital Aids shop, which appears in the first few minutes. The sign features in this story, from my Memories Menu. One of the members of David Niven’s gang is played by Brian Protheroe, and I wrote about him and his 1974 single “Pinball” in this piece last year. There’s even a pinball table 22 minutes into the movie, so I’ll have to update this piece from earlier this year.

Last year I wrote about the Vincent Price comedy-horror movie “Theatre of Blood” and recorded how each of the characters came to a sticky end based on deaths in Shakespeare plays. I’ll use the rest of this piece to document where each scene in “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square” takes place. It might take a while, so it’s offered here initially as a draft. If you have not spent time in West London, or seen the movie, it’s quite likely that this will be of no interest to you, in which case you can stop reading now. Otherwise, for those of us who want a record of the locations, where they first appear in the film, and a few other things that caught my eye, here goes. (There are over 900 words here to describe the first 55 minutes of the movie.)

Times, Locations, things that caught my eye

00:00:00 Movie starts / Wormwood Scrubs exterior / prison governor says goodbye to Pinky, gives him a toaster to fix. It looks like the interiors are filmed in the same offices as later used for scenes set in the Global Group HQ and the Police Station.

00:01:52 Pinky leaves Wormwood Scrubs, is collected by his friend Foxy in a Fred Fox Catering van as the opening credits roll / brief shot of Ducane Road outside the prison

00:02:33 Ivan’s Travel and other shops bearing his name, at the junction of Goldhawk Road, Askew Road and Paddenswick Road, near the old Seven Stars pub (currently called The Oak)

00:02:44 Ivan’s Turf Accountants and Olympia School of Driving, Goldhawk Road sign visible if you pause and zoom in. There’s an Ivan sign above the Olympia sign

00:02:59 Ivan Cut & Blow Dry (replaces sign for Cosmos hair stylist)

00:03:06 Hair styling by Panos

00:03:08 Rendell Marital Aids

00:03:16 Ivan’s Motors Ltd, same corner as above (00:02:33)

00:03:23 Linden Gardens, looking north towards the High Road, Dolcis Shoe Shop and First Avenue clothing both visible

00:03:59 Inside the Flower Shop on the High Road (which is still a flower shop); you can see the following shops on the other side of the road: Victoria Wine, Lilley & Skinner, Brook Street World of Work, Circle Dry Cleaners. A 267 bus drives past.

00:04:28 Interior of a house (not a studio location), could be a house in Linden Gardens or elsewhere in Chiswick, no clear way of knowing

00:05:59 “Global Group” International Security sign, on the side of the office block beside Hogarth Roundabout, where the Cherry Blosson Factory was, possibly called the Axis Centre at the time; The Feathers pub is briefly visible in the background and so are the blocks of flats at the end of Devonshire Road a few seconds later

00:06:31 Inside “Global Group”, these interiors are almost certainly the offices in the block by Hogarth Roundabout (as used in the opening scenes set in the prison, and later as parts of the police station)

00:07:32 “Atlantic and Pacific Bank” on Berkeley Square, at Berkeley Square House

00:12:32 South-east corner of Berkeley Square looking down Berkeley St

00:12:52 East side of Berkeley Square looking towards Berkeley Square House and the Lloyds Bank

00:13:24 The same corner of Goldhawk Road seen in the opening credits (at 00:02:33), looking west

00:13:26 The same corner of Goldhawk Road seen in the opening credits (at 00:02:33), looking east

00:13:30 The same corner of Goldhawk Road seen in the opening credits (at 00:02:33), looking east, David Niven in the shot

00:13:33 “Ivan’s General Store”, the charity shop that was on the corner of High Road and Fisher’s Lane, formerly Boots the Chemist [currently this is Gail’s Bakery]

00:13:35 Same again (“Ivan’s General Store”, the charity shop that was on the corner of High Road and Fisher’s Lane, formerly Boots the Chemist), seen from the other side of the High Road, David Niven leaving the store

00:14:22 South east corner of Berkeley Square looking west, Pinky being followed by members of Ivan’s gang

00:14:50 Centre of Berkeley Square the covered building, David Niven and crew quiz Pinky

00:22:07 Unknown bar, Pinky playing pinball

00:24:30 Another unknown bar, could be the old Seven Stars on Goldhawk Road, could conceivably be the Duke of York Devonshire Road? Ivan & co playing pool

00:25:55 Brief shot of Leicester Square

00:30:02 Brief shot, possibly stock footage, of St Paul’s Cathedral

00:28:45 Bruce Boa as Morgan Stanfield [He’s the actor who asks for a Waldorf Salad in the “Fawlty Towers” episode of the same name]

00:34:10 The Brighton Centre

00:34:14 Grand Hotel Brighton

00:41:24 Another unknown bar, Pinky testing his eyes

00:41:56 The shop full of old stuff, out the back (no idea where it is)

00:42:12 Pinky enters shop

00:42:41 Still in the shop, the bus outside looks suburban rather than a regular London Bus

00:43:21 Still in the shop, looks like the shop opposite might be called Charles House

00:43:26 Back to Chiswick, corner of Turnham Green Terrace & High Road, Dervish Kebab House in background

00:43:27 Same, Lychee Garden and Sturgis Estate Agents in background

00:43:28 Same, 91 bus in background

00:43:33 Same, looking towards Barclays Bank

00:43:35 Same, looking towards Sound of Music piano and organ shop

00:44:34 Inside the pool bar again, frosted glass makes it hard to distinguish anything outside

00:45:58 Outside Ivan’s Motors again, looking east

00:46:12 Outside Ladbroke’s, Chiswick High Road

00:46:18 Same, looking towards George IV, the tower of Our Lady of Grace church in the background

00:46:51 Car pulling into a house in Barrowgate Road, the side of the old ballet school clearly visible

00:47:14 Unknown McDonalds, definitely not Chiswick, Acton or Hammersmith

00:47:18 Same, sign opposite, legible in reflection, ends with –TE AID PHARMACY

00:47:38 Back outside the house in Barrowgate Road, looking towards the south side of the road

00:47:41 Same, looking straight down the north side of road (odd numbers)

00:48:25 Interior, McDonalds, still no clue to where it is

00:50:22 Berkeley Square, looking south towards Piccadilly

00:51:14 Chiswick High Road, looking south from Adamou; Annapurna and Wool House clearly visible

00:51:16 Same, Pinky & Ivan entering Adamou’s

00:51:22 Inside Adamou

00:52:12 Riverside, near Eel Pie Island

00:52:18 Same, footbridge in background

00:52:23 Same, boats in background

00:52:49 Same, Rowing Club in background [Twickenham?? Rowing Club?]

00:53:09 Same, entering a pub, sign looks something like Barmy Arms

00:53:31 Same, outside the pub again

00:54:12 Same, pub car-park, Renault 16 in background

00:55:09 Same, car pulling away, road-sign reads something like Bell Lane

[To be continued]



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