Sunday, 15 August 2010

Filming Locations In Greater London

'The Borrowers' film set house which
was built in Sandycombe Road (Kew)
As a lifelong movie buff I was elated whilst living in Kew when a $30 million budget film called The Borrowers (1997) starring Hollywood heavyweight John Goodman built a movie set house on a plot of land opposite the office of Antony Roberts Estate Agents. Their car park and office was also part of the film bedecked with plastic ivy. The Borrowers' film set house was on the corner of Sandycombe Road and Ennerdale Road - just a short walking distance from the world famous Kew Gardens. Most of the movie was done at Shepperton studios and other external scenes were shot outside Ealing Town Hall and upon Ham Common.


Richmond Theatre
Richmond Theatre is a much loved venue by location scouts. Designed by celebrated theatre designer Frank Matcham, it opened in 1899. It has starred in a number of films such as Evita (1996), Johnny Depp's Finding Neverland, Bedazzled, the biopic Wilde (1998), Shooting Fish (1997) and the Mike Leigh-directed Topsy Turvy (1999). It became a nightclub in The Krays (1990) and staged the recreation of Abraham Lincoln's assassination in National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets produced by Jerry Bruckheimer. Former Petersham resident and actor Tommy Steele peddled a tandem outside the theatre in 1966 whilst doing a scene for Half A Sixpence and the interior featured in the much remade classic The Wolfman (2010), starring Benico Del Toro and Sir Anthony Hopkins. Television crews have also shot scenes at this handsome playhouse such as Birds of a Feather, Jonathan Creek and Drop the Dead Donkey. It was also used in the filming of the Beatles' Free As a Bird video. Not too far away a backdrop for TV's Poirot was filmed at Litchfield Court, an art deco block that has a grade II listing and the former Henry's Bar on Richmond's riverside was used in the TV series Thief Takers. A scene in Wild Geese (1978) was shot close to Richmond Lock. The film Iris (2001) starring Judi Dench used Richmond Green, and a wine bar just off Richmond Green featured in an early scene in Shirley Valentine (1989). Other movies using the local area include Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason filmed at a house in Kings Road (Richmond); and the film starring Glenn Close, 102 Dalmations.
On the TV documentary front, Trumpeters House, The Old Palace and The Green all featured in the Tony Robinson 'Time Team' archaeology dig - as did another episode featuring nearby Kew Gardens. Also shot in Richmond near The Green at the Sun Inn pub was a TV episode of Poirot, back in 2009.

Walkers Crisps' TV advert film
shoot on Richmond riverside
TV commercials have also chosen Richmond's area to film in as I found out personally twice when I stumbled on a crew filming a Walkers Crisp advert along the cobbled towpath just past The White Cross pub on Richmond riverside, where I even managed a quick chat with 'the face' of Walkers Crisps and soccer TV pundit Gary Lineker! This particular advert consisted of market stalls and a lady pushing a pram and there was an extremely brief glimpse of Richmond Bridge included. Just over the bridge on the East Twickenham side, another time I witnessed a film crew and vans outside the Laurel hairdressers at the foot of the bridge and on chatting to the crew & security guys it emerged that inside was comedy actor Paul Whitehouse (The Fast Show) doing a funny sketch as a hairdresser for his hilarious series of Aviva Insurance TV ad's. The comic genius was there to ham-it-up, playing a quirky crimper called Damien, with the fake temporary salon name of 'Damien & Jason' appearing on the building's front window. The hairdressers sits right on the corner of the main Richmond Road and junction of Cambridge Road which runs along the side of it, in line with the zebra-crossing. One can instantly recognise the salon from the TV advert by it's exqusite and tasteful interior decor.


City Barge pub where the
Beatles filmed 'Help'
The City Barge pub along Strand-on-the-Green was seen as well as Post Alley in the Beatles film Help  (1965) although it is believed that the cellar scene with the tiger was a studio set-up. Parts of this lovely Thames view pub date back to the 15th century. Further along the towpath here is Kew Bridge where scenes were filmed for The Jigsaw Man (1984) the British espionage movie where Michael Caine has problems with the law and he and Laurence Olivier pass the Bulls Head pub on the river nearby. (The pub lies opposite Oliver's Island in the Thames which holds the somewhat debatable claim that it was the hideout of Oliver Cromwell - hence the name). In the American musical Goodbye Mr Chips (1965), Petula Clark and Peter O'Toole are seen strolling along a stretch of Strand-on-the-Green. Just a short walk away is Kew Green which appeared in The End of the Affair (1999), starring Ralph Fiennes and Julianne Moore.
Another film crew I actually stumbled across whilst living in this area a number of years ago was outside Kew Gardens rail & tube station. I immediately recognised the familiar ex-face of The Bill, Chris Ellison whom was doing a scene hailing  a taxi in the TV series Ellington in which he played a tough-talking sports agent. The taxi was then seen heading off in the direction towards Kew Gardens itself , which I recognised  in the edited TV showing at a later date.


Syon House and Conservatory
The Madness of King George (1994) used Syon House in Brentford for this movie adaptation of an Alan Bennett play, whilst the award-winning Gosford Park (2001) also filmed here. My claim to fame with connection to the latter is that I bumped into - quite literally- Julian Fellowes and his wife in Hollywood the very day after he had picked up his Oscar for screenwriting Gosford Park in the doorway of Book Soup on Sunset Strip in Los Angeles - he is, I have to say, an extremely polite and modest gentleman! The original Bedazzled (1967) starring Peter Cook filmed in the conservatory of Syon House. The film version of The Avengers (1998) also used Syon House,although I have to admit bias in that I preferred the classic TV series. (Again I have cause to name-drop as in 1993 I was fortunate to get on an organised tour of all the most memorable locations used in The Avengers TV series in the 1960's around Hertfordshire and to top it off, met Steed (Patrick Mcnee), Tara King (Linda Thorson) and various villains of the series at a private party after to celebrate the launch of the show's release onto the then video format). The historic drama Daniel Deronda chose to film at Syon Park.

Horace Walpole's
Strawberry Hill
Strawberry Hill is the recently restored magnificent creation of Horace Walpole, the 18th century writer and eclectic collector, also son of Sir Robert Walpole, Britain's first prime minister. Not surprisingly this amazing gothic villa which Walpole first occupied in 1747, then extensively added to it over the next four decades has been popular with film crews, particularly television. As far back as 1968 it appeared in the classic TV series The Avengers in an episode entitled 'All Done With Mirrors', with John Steed's female sidekick Tara King (Linda Thorson) turning up in her Moke vehicle. It has since appeared in BBC TV's 'Restoration' series and in the critically acclaimed drama 'The Lakes', written by Jimmy McGovern, with John Simm playing the lead role of Danny Kavanagh. The BBC's cameras further rolled when the villa was chosen for the period drama series 'Wide Sargasso Sea', starring Rafe Spall and Rebecca Hall whom played a passionate heiress. Other popular TV series that have shot scenes here include John Thaw's 'Inspector Morse' and the subsequent crime caper spinoff 'Lewis' - the latter starred the now-promoted Inspector Lewis (Kevin Whately), Morse's former trusty sidekick.On a lighter note, Strawberry Hill even doubled as the Rembrandt House Amsterdam Museum in the 'Armstrong & Miller Show', the BBC 1 Bafta-winning character-based sketch series. It featured an hilarious scene in the villa where the hapless art history buff character Dennis-Lincoln Park is studying a valuable pen & ink Rembrandt drawing and clumsily sets fire to it.


'Leading Man' movie location
by Twickenham riverside
York House  and Gardens
Twickenham has never shirked in it's role on the small or silver screens. In the original film Alfie (1966), Michael Caine recuperates at York House and gardens which doubled as a sanatorium. This specific location can be seen by the public by access of the small park whose doorway is close to Twickenham museum down by the riverside overlooking Eel Pie Island and the park & gardens itself are worth seeing. TV crews have also filmed at York House for the original Avengers series and the BBC's Canterbury Tales. Further along the River Thames near The White Swan public house is a private house where female rock fans swooned outside when pin-up Jon Bon Jovi took star role in The Leading Man (1997) filming there, which is easily recognisable by it's white frontage and garden still intact as it appeared in the movie. In Shirley Valentine (1989) Twickenham's Waldegrave School for Girls doubled as Scouse Pauline Collin's school and Ringo Starr was in a pub called The Turks Head in Twickenham in Hard Days Night (1964). Whilst Ailsa Avenue in neighbouring St. Margarets was used for a scene where the fab four exit their Rolls Royce in the other Beatles movie Help (1965). St Margarets' rail station itself was used in the original Alfie (1966). Back in Twickenham, Church Street featured in the Gurinder Chadha-directed coming of age teen British comedy Angus,Thongs & Perfect Snogging (2008) and additionally in a Boots TV commercial. It is a quaint location with it's cobbled street, cosy restaurants and arty shops such as Par-ici with this thoroughfare actually once being the primary route through Twickenham until York Street was opened.


Ham House

Period dramas such as The Young Victoria starring Emily Blunt and Rupert Friend have chosen Ham House as a location as this historic building resembled Queen Victoria's childhood home of Kensington Palace. And on a Sunday walk in 2009 I came across a cluster of location vans and lorries outside Ham House to discover that a sci-fi drama, thriller movie called Never Let Me Go was filming there. Ironically it was starring Keira Knightley whom was educated a few miles away in nearby Teddington, together with  Golden Globe winner Sally Hawkins and Carey Mulligan.

Marble Hill House
On the opposite side of the River Thames lies Marble Hill House which ia a Palladian villa built in 1724-1729 by George II for Henrietta Howard, his mistress. It was used in the Shakespeare in Love (1998) movie starring Joseph Fiennes and Gwyneth Paltrow, as was Barnes riverside. Cameras rolled once again at Marble Hill for Nanny McPhee (2005) the fantasy movie starring Colin Firth as a widower and Emma Thompson as the strange nanny to his seven children.


Monty Python 'fish-slapping
dance' location & blue plaque
As well as being famously known for it's picturesque locks system, it's old TV studios once owned by American film giants Warner Bros and also the former residence of comedy genius Benny Hill, Teddington has also featured on the small and silver screens. St Albans church (now known as the Landmark Arts Centre) has been in a number of TV dramas, pop videos and commericials. It was also used in the peroid drama Elizabeth I film which starred Ralph Fiennes and former Manchester United bad-boy Eric Cantona. Aptly it also featured the local Richmond resident and much-loved luvvie, Sir Richard Attenborough. Just a short walk away over the Teddington footbridge and River Thames is the scenic Teddington Lock where the hilarious and classic 'fish-slapping  dance' sketch took place in Monty Python. Fans of the madcap series will recall John Cleese whacking Michael Palin into the lock with an oversized fish (If you visit the lock stroll over the tiny gang-plank style bridge onto the middle island lock and ask the lock-keeper to point you in the direction of the mock blue plaque which commemorates the scene where it took place. Also just below the Teddington footbridge is a mid-point island where fans of the classic Minder TV series might recognise the scene where Dennis Waterman got into a bout of fisticuffs on a boat over a briefcase.
Much older movie buffs might recall The Dam Busters (1954) which used Teddington's National Physical Laboratory's ship tanks in the movie which Michael Redgrave played the part of the real-life genius inventor Barnes Wallis whom actually carried out the essential tests to produce the development of  the bouncing bombs  at this very location which played a large part in the World War II efforts.
The TV comedy series Spaced used 'Diners Delight' in Church Road, just off the high street in Teddington for a scene which starred Simon Pegg.


Hounslow Tube Station was used in a scene in Bend It Like Beckham (2002)

Chiswick House featured in the Cole Porter biopic film De-Lovely. Also on TV in series such as New Tricks, Miss Marple and Kavanagh QC - whilst Chiswick Town Hall doubled as Peckham Town Hall in the Only Fools & Horses prequel called Rock and Chips

Fuller's Griffin Brewery at Chiswick
Fuller's Griffin Brewery cropped up in the BBC 1 drama series 'New Tricks' starring Dennis Waterman and Alun Armstrong. Fuller's actually doubled as the ficticious 'Felspar's Brewery' when the team investigate the death of the brewery's chief brewer, whom appropriately met his untimely  'bitter' end in one of the brewery's large copper tanks! The episode's title was a tongue-in-cheek  'Couldn't Organise One'. Other scenes were shot in the Hock Cellar, below ground level. Another crime caper TV series to roll it's cameras here  was 'The Bill' whom did scenes in Fuller's main warehouse. (Any history literary buffs might also wish to check out the brewery's on-site pub The Mawsons Arms whilst there. Besides an excellent pint, you will also notice the official blue plaque on the exterior of the old pub which states that this was the former home of famous writer Alexander Pope whom lived there between 1716-1719 with his parents, prior to Pope's move to his villa on Twickenham's picturesque riverside).

Gunnersbury Park Museum starred in a Peter Cook & Dudley Moore trampoline bouncing scene in the original Bedazzled film (1967); also the movie The Fruit Machine (1988) starring a fledgling Robbie Coltrane; and Bend It Like Beckham. Other filming that took place here included Maggie Smith in From Time To Time (2009); the TV serial Ballet Shoes and the Agatha Christie adaptation 4.50 From Paddington.

Osterley Park House
Osterley Park House (Jersey Road, Isleworth, Middlesex TW7)
This fine Elizabethan period stately home is set in over 350 acres of park and garden, also it is one of the country’s complete examples of architect Robert Adam’s style and work. There is an impressive curved stairs entrance on the west front and a delightful Tudor walled garden.
Osterley Park has been often used as the backdrop for movies, television, videos and photographic shoots. Back in 1960 the film ‘The Grass is Greener’ starring Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr chose the building as a setting. It also doubled as East Berlin Town hall for ‘Top Secret’ (1984), an Omar Sharif and Val Kilmer flick. In later times other movies have included the strange sounding ‘Kabhi Kushie Kabhi Gham’ (2001) and stood in for Buckingham Palace in ‘The Young Victoria’, starring Emily Blunt and Rupert Friend. Local Teddington-born actress Keira Knightly also donned period costume here for ‘The Duchess’ - when the entrance hall was converted into a ballroom scene, with further filming in the exterior parkland. I also understand that more recently the Simon Pegg drama ‘Burke and Hare’ movie had the cameras at the building. Osterley Park House has also been favoured by location scouts for television dramas and series. In the 1970's the cult TV series ‘The Persuaders’ with the A-listers Roger Moore and Tony Curtis, filmed here - as did Doctor Who in a 1973 episode. Latter day TV filming at this stately home has featured ‘At Bertram’s Hotel’ (2007) and the year prior to that, the house became a billionaire’s luxury pile in ‘Maxwell - Inside the Empire’.
My personal favourite discovery as a music fan of this classic album, was that back in 1973 the cover shot of ‘Wings’ sublimely brilliant LP ‘Band on the Run’ was photographed at Osterley Park. The album went number one globally and the said LP cover featured none other than famous faces such as James Coburn, Christopher Lee, Michael Parkinson, etc - in addition to the band ‘Wings’ themselves - all captured in the glare of the prison searchlight.

Brentford area, The Butts was seen in the biopic Miss Potter. And a scene featuring Hollywood's Nick Nolte was shot at the Kew Bridge Steam Museum in the movie The Golden Bowl (2000)

Barn Elms Running Track has been  used in BBC's Little Britain, Sky Sports; and super-snapper to the stars Marino Testino has also photographed Kate Moss for French Vogue magazine there

Hanwell Community Centre
(Charlie Chaplin's school)
Hanwell Community Centre; Westcott Crescent, Hanwell, W7: This imposing Victorian structure which opened in 1857 and sits high up on Cuckoo Hill, was originally the Central London District School designated for London’s poorest families. It’s most famous pupil was to become one of the world’s  greatest comedy icons, Charlie Chaplin. After his mother had a breakdown Chaplin was sent here between 1896-1898, but it was not a happy time for him because of the school’s rigid discipline and the fact that it was overcrowded with up to 1,000 pupils. In latter years the building was used as a community centre but sadly has a somewhat uncertain future. Fittingly the film Billy Elliot (2000) chose to film scenes here for it’s poor-boy-done-good storyline, where Jamie Bell initially flops in the boxing ring but is drawn to and excels in the less macho form of ballet dancing, so expertly tutored by the sympathetic Julie Walters. The exterior of the community centre also featured in a 1981 episode with the dodgy-dealing Del Boy (David Jason) in the classic Fools & Horses BBC comedy series.
It is quite ironic in retrospect, that whilst the building was still in it’s former educational purpose era, that the young male pupils were taught musical instruments and formed into bands which may later lead them to enrol as army musicians. Because many decades later a certain hard rock band called Deep Purple would rehearse here prior to the release of it’s phenomenally successful 1970 album ‘Deep Purple in Rock’. The said album would linger in the charts for 4 months with an equally triumphant world tour to promote it. Another supergroup to rehearse at the centre was The Who, prior to their 1969 tour of the United States.

Norbiton rail station can be recognised in the British sitcom called The Rise and Fall of Reginald Perrin, which starred the unforgettable comic genius Leonard Rossiter

Television crews and press besieged Richmond Register's Office in 1995 in what was described by many as the wedding of the year when former Pakistan cricket captain Imran Khan tied the knot with society girl Jemima Goldsmith. And in 2004 the wedding of actress Keeley Hawes and 'Spooks' TV actor Matthew Macfaden also took place at the same building.


The Guildhall

The Guildhall (High Street, Kingston): Impressive Grade II listed building, with splendid interiors. Filming scenes starring Robson Green took place in the Queen Anne Suite. Plus, situated in the lower ground level of the Guildhall is Kingston Magistrates’ Court, built in 1935. Court scenes have been shot here for the long-running TV cop show ‘The Bill’. Whilst the external of the building was a backdrop for a setting featuring the white whiskered, late comedy veteran Buster Merryfield in an episode of the classic sitcom ‘Only Fools and Horses’.

Surrey County Hall

Surrey County Hall (Penrhyn Road, Kingston): This delightful 1893 building has been the home to Surrey County Council for over 115 years. The original Grade II listed Portland Stone structure has been  expanded over the years - between 1930 and 1982, and has a whimsical clock tower. It’s former Victorian courts and cells has made it ideal for filming, as does it’s Committee Rooms and Council chambers. The latter indeed, has a House of Commons-esque look about it with it’s seating arrangement and shields upon it’s walls. Much has been filmed here and not surprisingly with it’s movie-friendly size ample parking facilities within it’s huge courtyard - where film location vehicles and trailers can safely encamp. Television filming has included - inevitably - ‘The Bill’, ‘Jonathan Creek’, ‘Silks’, ‘Midsummer Murders’, ‘Poirot’ and Billie Piper’s ‘Secret Diaries of a Call Girl’. ‘The Katherine Tate Show’ comedy series filmed a spoof ‘Gingers for Justice’ sketch here also.
A few movie productions have chosen County Hall, including ‘102 Dalmations’ (2000) - which starred American superstar Glenn Close, and the film ‘Vera Drake’ (2004). This was the Mike Leigh-directed Brit film with Imelda Staunton in the lead role as the infamous abortionist in the 1950s era. Phil Davis also co-starred. Sadly it was also a location for the last movie of the late Hollywood heart-throb Patrick Swayze, in a black comedy called ‘Keeping Mum’ (2006). Early into the film, actress Emilia Fox is seen being escorted by policemen from the courtyard area of County Hall where the door leads to the prison cells area. And in a court scene Fox is sentenced by the judge for manslaughter. Swayze plays the smoothie golf instructor lover of Kristan Scott Thomas whom is the wife of Rowan Atkinson - the humdrum village vicar of the equally dreary village of Little Wallop.

Kingston Market Place

Kingston Ancient Market Place: A favourite filming spot for the rubber-faced comedy genius Rowan Atkinson, is Kingston’s 800 year-old ancient market place. Several different scenes were recorded here for his hilarious festive affair - ‘Merry Christmas Mr Bean’ (1992). In which the hapless dimwit catches a pickpocket, conducts a Salvation Army band and manages to steal the town’s Xmas tree! Rowan Atkinson also shot another slapstick - but hilariously funny - sketch outside what was once a shoe store, on the corner directly opposite the market’s flower stall. Trying on a shoe outside the said store, the bungling Mr Bean stupidly puts his own shoe on the roof of a parked car, which subsequently drives off. Atkinson is then seen crazily hopping after the vehicle on one leg, in pursuit of his lost footwear. Other one-off filming events that have occurred around the market place include a Norwich Union Life Insurance TV commercial fronted by ex-Eastenders’ hard case Ross Kemp, and the TV series ‘Primeval’, which had it’s film cameras rolling here in 2009.

Kingston-upon-Thames Eden Walk shopping mall featured heavily in an episode of the long-running cop show The Bill when villains were spied on by police from the upper car park above Sainsburys supermarket. The Bill in fact filmed regularly around Kingston over it's 26 years as Britains top police drama with Cambridge Road Estates being a popular choice for their camera crews. And Kingston Crown Court has been used for a new BBC TV courtroom drama called Silk, which was also to be seen in movie Vera Drake.

'New Southern Belle'
(Culture Club Video)
Turk Launches (based at Kingston riverside). Turks family boat business dates back to an impressive 1710 as boat builders for the likes of Queen Victoria even and now operates tourist boat travel up and down the River Thames. The attractive double-funnelled boat called New Southern Belle doubled as a Mississippi steam boat in the 1983 hit single Karma Chameleon video with Boy George & his band Culture Club performing the song on board. In more recent times Turks Launches have featured in the Harry Potter movie series and the Jude Law film version of the sleuth Sherlock Holmes. Turks also proudly built a full-size reproduction of an 18th century British frigate and was famously seen in the ITV nautical series Hornblower.


Normansfield Victorian Theatre at
Langdon Down Centre

Normansfield Victorian Theatre (Teddington) appeared in a one-off documentary for TV which was excellently hosted by the much affable Madness singer frontman Suggs. Additionally this beautiful Victorian theatre which was built in 1879 was used for filming scenes for a BBC drama 'Miss Marie Lloyd: Queen of the Music Hall'. The theatre is part of the former home of the physician John Langdon-Down whom classified 'Down's syndrome' after whom it is named.

'The Bill' location on
the Brentford canal
Brentford Canal - Used by the long-running TV cop show The Bill for their first ever one hour episode which was called The Accomplice. I have extremely personal reasons for this one as the location was suggested by myself and my partner to the show's makers in May 1997. It was a run-down, graffiti-ridden corrugated metal depot structure along the Brentford canal which we discovered on a walk and felt it ideal for a gritty location which The Bill sometimes used and they loved it! The episode ended in dramatic fashion with a police chase on foot along the towpath into the said depot area and on being cornered the villain fell into the somewhat murky canal and drowned. He was then seen being hoisted up out of the drink by police frogmen in the final scenes. My partner and I spent the whole day with the film crew, seeing how it all works from TV monitors behind the director, talking to the cast, etc. Hence one of the reasons I suppose for my obsession with filming locations and aound seven trips to Hollywood to date!


Benny's Teddington home
Life: Born Alfred Hawthorne Hill in Southampton (Hampshire), later changing it to his stage name ‘Benny’ in homage to his comedy hero Jack Benny. On leaving school Benny had work spells at Woolworths and as a milkman which would later in life, inspire him to pen the hit comedy song ‘Ernie’ which made No 1 in the charts in 1971, with the haunting line ’Two-ton Ted from Teddington’ appearing in the lyrics. Then from a theatre stage’s general ‘dogsbody’ his comic genius and mastery of the double entendre would propel his meteoric rise to TV superstardom. On-screen he was a forceful perfectionist, but off-screen he was a shy, enigmatic figure whom shunned publicity.
Teddington Connections: Benny chose to live a short walking distance from the Teddington TV Studios where his shows were recorded. His accommodation was a modest rented first-floor flat in a block called ‘Fairwater House’ in Twickenham Road which was sparsely furnished, barring the two TV sets, 3 video recorders and scripts and newspapers scattered around them on the floor. He lived very frugally considering his accumulating wealth, but was well-loved by his neighbours and friends down at his local pub ‘The Kings Head’ in Teddington’s High Street. Another local connection was the former Normansfield Hospital where in the grounds the filming was shot for the often repeated speeded-up Benny Hill ‘chase scenes’ with scantily-clad ladies, which would be done to the iconic blaring signature tune of ‘Yakety Sax’, particularly at the end credits.
Success: His only real extravagance was his prolific travelling, explaining his mastering of up to 5 different languages. Ironically his TV shows travelled worldwide also, in fact to an estimated 97 different countries - from China to South America and pulling in up to 20 million viewers in the UK in the show’s prime. His celebrity fan following was as equally awe inspiring with devotees including the likes of Clint Eastwood, Mickey Rooney, Donald Trump to Michael Jackson. Whilst in Los Angeles once, he chose to decline an offer from Frank Sinatra to fly the comic over to Las Vegas to appear in the crooner’s show in favour of another mouth-watering invite from fellow Benny fan Hugh Hefner to visit his famous Playboy Mansion. A further indication to Mr. Hill’s global affection and much to his own personal astonishment, was when he was further invited to visit the estate in Switzerland, of his own comedy hero Charlie Chaplin to discover that the admiration was in fact mutual as the baggy-trousered ‘Little Tramp’ had accumulated a collection of Benny Hill’s own comedy work on video!
Death: It was therefore an extremely sad, emotional day for the world of comedy and his legion of followers when at the age of 68 years, it was announced that the comic genius had passed away at his modest home in 1992 due to heart failure. True to form this iconic funnyman expired in the humble way he preferred to live - slumped in front of his TV set in his armchair. He was buried in Hollybrook Cemetery in Southampton (Hampshire), his place of birth. With no immediate relatives alive and an old will, Benny Hill’s estimated £10 million estate was divided between his 7 nieces and nephews.


African Queen
Film 'Extra'
 Although part of the classic Humphrey Bogart & Katherine Hepburn movie African Queen was shot in Africa (Zaire and Uganda), many people might be surprised to learn that another chunk of the African jungle was actually recreated more local in 'deepest' Isleworth (Middlesex)! It was filmed to be more accurate, at the long defunct Worton Hall Studios, southwest London. The said recreation scenes included Robert Morley's church interior and huge studio tanks doubled as some of the river scenes that were deemed too perilous to be shot in Africa. My own personal claim to fame on this one however was 'meeting' the real star itself, the actual 1912 steam-boat, when I got within a barnacle-distance reach of it at the London Boat Show where it made an appearance at many years ago - it was much smaller in reality than I expected, compared to it's screen size presence in the John Huston-directed timeless movie. Unlike the trusty old vessel itself which met it's demise in the film exploding dramatically into the German gunboat, the actual original now happily resides in the Florida sunshine on public display to tourists at a small marina in Key Largo.
However like all good Hollywood stories, their could still be a legacy remaining from the African Queen movie in the shape of  thousands of parakeets. Sources claim that these birds of unmistakable bright green plumage are in fact descendants of the very parakeet 'extras' that squawked though their bit-part scenes in the film some 60 years ago and then abruptly escaped the film studios into the neighbouring wilds. Some sceptics however have another equally bizarre theory as to why up to 40,000 of these highly distinguishable birds now roam the skies over the greater London areas - their own hunch being that the said parakeets are in fact the offsprings of  a pair of the very same feathered species that Jimi Hendrix released into the air in Carnaby Street in the swinging 1960's as a 'gesture of peace'. One cannot deny that both stories are indeed (pardon the pun) extremely colourful to say the least?

In conclusion I would love to hear any comments from people reading my Blog, good or bad. Additionally if you have any personal knowledge of other filming locations used within the areas I have mentioned, or can elaborate further on the locations I have already covered  I would greatly appreciate your input. With many thanks.

by Austin Allen

  Sunday 24th October 2010

Austin Allen finds the plot!

Captain Vancouver's grave at
St. Peter's church (Petersham)
It’s surprising how many people such as myself whom may not be terribly religious, are extremely fond of visiting churches and old character graveyards. Over the years I was impressively surprised to discover how many notable people are buried within the local areas of Richmond.

Canadians in particular may be fascinated to learn that the intrepid 18th century British naval explorer Captain George Vancouver (1757-1798) to whom their famous city is named after, is buried in St Peter’s churchyard in Petersham.
Vancouver, whose explorations helped plot the north-west coast of America and at one point served under Captain James Cook, sadly died prematurely at 40 of ill-health having only lived in Petersham for a relatively brief period. Inside St. Peter's is a wooden lectern made from Canadian Redwood, presented by the Government of British Columbia to commemorate the founding of Vancouver city in 1886. St. Peter's still has it's old 1840 box pews and galleries and is where the Queen Mother's parents were actually married.

The incumbents of St Nicholas in Chiswick
           Frederick Hitch                 William Hogarth             James McNeill Whistler                            Ugo Foscolo
St Nicholas' churchyard in Chiswick Mall reads like an 'Who's Who' of luminary incumbents. Private Frederick Hitch (1857-1913) is buried in the middle in a monument-size grave with a sculpted helmet on top. Hitch was one of the 11 Victoria Cross winner's of Rorke's Drift which was so aptly immortalised in Michael Caine's 1964 classic 'Zulu' movie, where a mere band of around 100 British soldiers heroically fought off nearly 4,000 Zulu warriors whilst defending their South African garrison. Hitch was invalided out of the army due to a severe shoulder wound at Rorkes Drift and later becames a London cab driver, living in Chiswick. His funeral saw a massive turnout to honour this true hero, including an estimated 1,500 cabbies.
There is also a significant artistic presence in this graveyard. British satirical artist William Hogarth has an impressive tall tomb surrounded by railings close to the church itself, whilst American painter James McNeill Whistler (1834-1903) has a solid looking bronze tomb which is green with age, hugging the cemetery wall. Additionally there is a John Soane-designed mausoleum containing the landscape artist P.J. de Loutherbourg. Although the remains of one of Italy's most celebrated poets, Ugo Foscola (1776-1827) are now at Santa Croce in Florence, his former (now empty) tomb is still here. A tall cross and simple grave mark Henry Joy's  final resting place, he is the trumpeter whom sounded the legendary 'Charge of the Light Brigade'. In a shallow grave somewhere in the cemetery lies Sir Charles Tilston Bright whom was knighted by Queen Victoria for laying the first cable under the Atlantic Ocean to America. And whilst on a watery theme, the assistant purser on the famous 'Lusitania', Arthur Howell Burden whom sadly drowned in 1915, is buried here too.
And finally as if there are not enough famous occupants of this fine churchyard there is a sensational theory that Oliver Cromwell's headless body could lie in the vault of St Nicholas' church itself. It is rumoured that the said torso was exhumed by Cromwell's allies from the deep pit where it was unceremoniously dispatched to after his lifeless body was initially hung at Tyburn, then decapitated way back in 1660.

Charles Dickens (Junior)
There are two relatives of the great Victorian novelist and understated reformer Charles Dickens in the Old Mortlake Cemetery, just off the Upper Richmond Road West. They are the writer’s eldest son Charles Dickens, Jr (1837-1896) and his sister-in-law Georgina Hogarth. Dickens, Jr known as ’Charley’ by relatives and friends attended Eton, took business studies and went into banking. After a failed business enterprise he was taken under his father’s wing into the literary world as a sub-editor. Following the death of the great novelist, Charley re-published works of his father in collaboration with his own father-in-law whom was also Dickens senior’s former publisher.

Georgina Hogarth
Georgina Hogarth (1827-1917) was the sister-in-law and housekeeper of the celebrated writer. As sister of Dickens’ wife Catherine, she undertook housekeeping duties when Dickens and his wife embarked on an adventure to America. Georgina Hogarth remained in charge of the domestic affairs and children even after Catherine and Charles, Jr left when the family broke apart. Subsequent to the novelist’s death she edited two volumes of a collection of Dickens’ letters. On Georgina Hogarth’s grave there is an affectionate word ‘Aunty’ inscribed upon it.

Whilst at Old Mortlake Cemetery it is also possible to view one of the locality’s most extravagant resting places, that of explorer Sir Richard Burton in the cemetery of nearby St Mary Magdalen’s church, just a brisk 5 minutes walk away. Simply exit the rear gate of Old Mortlake Cemetery, turn left along South Worple Way and cross over the nearest railway footbridge into North Worple Way. Walk left again and the right-hand side you will see just a few hundred yards further, the cemetery walls of St Mary Magdalen. The tomb of Sir Richard Burton is absolutely unmistakable at the rear, against a brick wall in it’s leafy surroundings.

Sir Richard Burton (explorer)
One of the most fascinating characters buried in the locality, not to mention his tomb, is Sir  Richard Burton (1821-1890) whose elaborate stone mausoleum constructed in the shape of an Arab tent lies in the small graveyard of St. Mary Magdalen's in Mortlake. Burton was an English explorer, translator, linguist, soldier and writer. A sometimes controversial individual, he translated and printed the 'Kama Sutra' and also undertook a pilgrimage  to Mecca in a disguise.

Possibly Mortlake's most famous resident was Doctor John Dee whom is buried at St. Mary's in Mortlake. He died around 1608 and in addition to studying at Cambridge, being a founder member of Trinity College, he also had one of the country's largest personal libraries of over 3,000 books. He became Elizabeth I adviser on scientific and astrological matters when she came to the throne in 1558.

St Mary's church in Teddington High Street is the small but quaint location of the final resting place of one of the town's most celebrated inhabitants, Peg Woffington (1720-1760). The Irish actress born in Dublin moved to London where she performed at Drury Lane and became romantically linked with the leading actor of that era David Garrick, amongst other emminent lovers. It is thanks to Ms. Woffington's  generous will that a row of almhouses were built by her in the nearby High Street which exist today. She is buried in the vault of St Mary's and a plaque within the church commemorates the actress. Also buried within the church (under the reading desk) is Thomas Traherne (1636-1674), the english poet and religious writer, again there is a plaque within  the church in his honour on one of the walls.

R D Blackmore
('Lorna Doone' author)
Over in another part of the town in Shacklegate Lane is Teddington Cemetery and it is here you will find the writer  Richard Dodderidge Blackmore (1825-1900), the famous author of the classic book 'Lorna Doone, which was published in 1869 whilst living in Teddington. He was born in Berkshire and his early studies were in Devon, hence the inspiration for his most successful novel set in the West country. He eventually moved to Teddington and built a house on land (although it was then not yet in operation) directly opposite where Teddington Railway station's main entrance now lies. Whilst writing there, he also ran a  market gardening business from his home 'Gomer House' which was apparently named after his favourite dog. He died whilst living at Gomer House at the age of 74 years.
Keen philatelists may wish to visit Twickenham cemetery where Edward Stanley Gibbons (1840-1913) is buried, the publisher of the much revered Stanley Gibbons stamp catalogue. Ironically Gibbons was born in the very same year as the first issue of Britain’s Penny Black and he owned a property in East Twickenham, close to Marble Hill House.

Opposite the Ailsa Tavern on the St. Margaret's Road (St. Margarets, Middlesex) is where you will discover one of the borough's most elaborate tombs - the Kilmorey Mausoleum. Built in the 1850's in Egyptian style with  pink and grey marble, it houses the remains of the 2nd Earl of Kilmorey, Francis 'Black Jack' Needham and his mistress Priscilla Hoste. This exravagant mausoleum is actually open to the public several times a year on pre-arranged dates which are usually advertised locally.

East Sheen cemetery became the final resting place choice for two of television’s famous comedic characters. Roy Kinnear (1934-1988) whom starred in anything from ‘That Was The Week That Was’ to ‘Dick Emery’ has a plot there. And in the same cemetery you will find Scottish actor Fulton Mackay (1922-1987), most famously known for the stern, regimental prison warden role of ‘Mr. Mackay’ in the classic Ronnie Barker sit-com ‘Porridge’.

Alexander Pope is buried within
St. Mary's Church Twickenham
Alexander Pope (1688-1744) the 18th century poet and satirist is to be located at St Mary’s church in Twickenham, with a memorial to the left of the altar. Pope is actually buried under the next stone, marked by an engraved  letter 'P' along with his mother. Pope contracted an illness at the age of  12 years which considerably restricted his growth and in adulthood he was only 4 foot 6 inches in height. He lived in a splendid villa overlooking the River Thames at Cross Deep in Twickenham.

Felix Pissarro (1874-1897), the third son of impressionist artist Camille Pissarro lies in Richmond cemetery after briefly living in the area. It is also the resting place of Keith William Relf (1943-1976) whom tragically died young from accidental electrocution - he was the former lead singer and harmonica player of the legendary 'Yardbirds' band.

Thomas Gainsborough's grave
at St. Anne's church in Kew
Whilst at St Anne’s churchyard in Kew two other fellow artists are to be discovered. Thomas Gainsborough (1727-1788), highly regarded as one of Britain’s finest painters chose to be buried here in a somewhat modest grave. Whilst nearby lies Johan Zoffany (1725-1810), despite the alleged somewhat tumultuous relationship the artist had with the church itself.

Whilst considering that the majority of the aforementioned notables were not born in the immediate vicinity, surely it says a lot for the local region’s drawing power that they should choose their final resting places here?

Austin Allen  would appreciate any feedback or additions to this article.




The Inspirations for my Film Location Blog:

Originally born in the north of England, it is a place where one associates more with Lancashire hotpot than Hollywood hot-spots, to which my fascination has grown increasingly towards over the years. However I still believe my infatuation and intrigue with the movie & television world were definitely homespun and it stems from watching TV as a youngster  with my father whom loved the old western and gangster films that were more in vogue in that era.

Little did I realise then, that later in adult life that my other passion for travel and adventure would see me treading the actual wooden sidewalks of Tombstone and drinking in the bar that one of the real-life brother’s of Wyatt Earp was gunned down outside. Or indeed that I would visit the Los Angeles’ grave that Burt Lancaster, one of my father’s screen cowboy heroes was buried in. Nor would I envisage I would also in later years see the resting places of the real-life mobster Bugsy Siegel and actor Robert Stack whom so famously played the role of agent Elliot Ness in the classic TV series ‘The Untouchables’ - both also buried in separate  Hollywood cemeteries brimming with other final resting places of silver screen legends.

Manns Theatre (LA)                        'Top Gun' bar scene                     Alcatraz - 'The Rock'                      'Tootsie' film (NYC)

It was the uprooting from my northern surroundings to London in the mid-1980's that undoubtedly fuelled my love of the small and silver screens  even further. Initially living in upmarket Hampstead I would regularly see or even speak to established actors such as Ronnie Fraser, Robert Powell or Jeremy Irons around this leafy north London village. Then through business and a regular connection with the chat show ‘Jameson Tonight’ screened on the fledgling SKY TV channel at that time, I had the exhilarating opportunity to meet and even chat with some of the show’s celebrity guests in the private bar of the former Windmill Theatre where it was recorded 5 nights per week. Some of the big name guests included the likes of the late media mogul Robert Maxwell, actress Bridget Neilson and Hollywood producer Richard Zannuck whose films have included ‘Jaws’ and ‘Driving Miss Daisy’. Later I had similar connections with the early annual British Comedy Awards and met notable faces such as the host Jonathan Ross, comedian Paul Whitehouse and even Loretta Switt whom played ‘Hotlips’ in the hugely successful cult  American TV series ‘Mash’

There were a number of other memorable showbiz experiences to follow such as attending the red-carpet Bafta Awards in London and being in Los Angeles on two occasions to coincide when the Oscars took place. Remarkably on one of the latter trips  I was staying at the Hollywood Roosevelt hotel and A-lister Russell Crowe walked in and sat just a couple of tables away from me in the bar and this was just hours before he appeared at the Oscars as he was nominated for the film ‘A Beautiful Mind’ that year. Even whilst out sightseeing in Los Angeles I have on separate trips, stumbled across the filming on location in the streets of two movies - madcap comedy actor Jim Carrey’s film ‘The Majestic’ outside Mann’s Chinese Theatre and in the less glitzy downtown area of LA  witnessed the multiple car pile-upscene that featured in  ‘Transformers’ - also at close quarters.

     Russia: 'James Bond'              San Diego 'Some Like It Hot'           St Lucia: 'Superman'           Mexico: 'Titanic' movie

I have become so engrossed in the subject of filming locations that every holiday or even short trip I make, I meticulously plan an itinerary to find and visit where a film has been made in that part of the world. Such memorable discoveries include where ‘Rain Man’ and the George Clooney remake of ‘Oceans 11' shot scenes in Las Vegas; the actual boathouse on the shore of Lake Union that Tom Hanks resided at in ‘Sleepless in Seattle’ and I even ate at Katz’s Diner in New York, but wisely decided against re-creating the scene at the table where Meg Ryan had her famous orgasmic dining experience at in the most memorable scene of ‘When Harry Met Sally’! Further afield I stayed at the historic Rosarito Beach Hotel (Mexico) where my room overlooked the shoreline where they built the massive fully-working film set for the scenes for ‘Titanic’ which won a record 11 Oscars. I also followed the ‘Hemingway Trail’ in Havana (Cuba) which was so excellently presented by Michael Palin, drinking Mojitos in the haunts frequented by the famous novelist and still in the Caribbean on another adventure, I did a catamaran trip around the island of St Lucia to the idyllic Marigot Bay to see where they filmed beach scenes in the original version of ‘Doctor Dolittle’ (1967) and this stunning, feral island later appeared in 'Superman' (1978) starring the late Christopher Reeve. As a great admirer of the often exotic locations of the James Bond movies I have managed to track down (or should I say ‘espy’ on) some of the places where memorable scenes from the various Bond plots have been -  dare I say - shot? Exciting places that include Russia, Istanbul, Venice, Monte Carlo, Cairo, San Francisco and closer to home the somewhat less exotic Gibraltar Harbour.
I guess another memorable moment to inspire my love affair with all things Hollywood was a pre-booked visit to the recording of my beloved 'Frasier' TV show at Paramount Film Studios in Los Angeles, where I was lucky enough to see two back-to-back episodes recorded from a soundproof booth with the sound crew. On a separate visit to the same studios on a tour, I saw Eddie Murphy, sat in on a rehersal of a programme that heavyweight actor Brian Denehy was in and unbelievably chatted with the 'Cheers' star bartender Ted Danson whom was there also.

Whilst back in Britain, London in particular, I have visited the locations of where countless small and silver screen scenes have been filmed - be it a palatial style property in a grandiose setting for a blockbuster movie, or a grafitti-ridden rusting canal depot used in a TV crime show. The thrill is still there for me, just discovering and confirming that a location has been filmed there.
As for personal appearances on the small screen myself they have been mercifully extremely brief. A fleeting presence on SKY Sports; a chance to rant on BBC's 'Points of View' about how late the Beeb show movies in the evening; being interviewed on the medium Derek Acorah Show; a split-second glimpse on ‘The Dragons Den On Tour’ and a minuscule moment on Chris Evan’s cult show ‘TFI Friday’, but I did however have the unexpected bonus of chatting to ‘Friends’ Courtney Cox and Irish singer Sinead O’Connor backstage whom were guests on the same show! And I simply cannot forget on another occasion I had with a bit-part in a low-budget film for Channel Four, in fact so economically shot that  I never even got to see the final edited version in a promised video copy that never materialised by the film-maker to this day. It actually sticks in my mind for the fact that I had to rise at the crack of dawn for a two-day shoot up in snowy Hertfordshire, but in a hardly Bond-esque location - a basic local community hall when their heating system had broken down and this was in the midst of a severely cold winter spell and with outdoor portable loos to add to the freezing conditions!  So overall I must admit that I feel that I am far  more suited to being behind the film cameras, not producing or directing that is, simply writing about the many splendid locations that bring life to a movie or basic television series.

In Conclusion, through  my varied experiences I have encountered of  the film & TV world I would like to dedicate my film location studies to all the many unsung heroes that work alongside the actors themselves  - be it the film crews and lighting engineers - down to the location vehicle drivers or even the on-set catering staff, all of whom combine their respective tasks in all weathers and working  unsociable hours to bring movie and TV buffs such as myself, regular viewing enjoyment.

And I also dedicate this written piece to my dear late mother and father for those happy childhood memories simply by providing a television set which brought the surreal and exciting world of Hollywood into our humble sitting room at home that inspired my love of movies to this very day.