The Ladykillers 1955 – Directed by Alexander Mackendrick
In Ealing Studio’s final production, Mackendrick and the film’s writer Wiliam Rose chose to set their black comedy in post war King’s Cross. Although not the prevailing theme, Mackendrick and Rose used The Ladykillers to ironically comment on the condition of postwar Britain.
“Though at no time did Bill Rose or I ever spell this out, look at the characters in the film. The Major (played by Cecil Parker), a conman, is a caricature of the decadent military ruling class. One Round (Danny Green) is the oafish representative of the British masses. Harry (Peter Sellers) is the spiv, the worthless younger generation. Louis (Herbert Lorn) is the dangerously unassimilated foreigner. They are a composite cartoon of Britain’s corruption. The tiny figure of Mrs Wilberforce (Wilberforce was the name of the 19th-century idealist who called for the abolition of slavery) is plainly a much diminished Britannia. Her house is in a cul-de-sac. Shabby and cluttered with memories of the days when Britain’s navy ruled the world and captains gallantly stayed on the bridge as their ship went down, her house is structurally unsound. Dwarfed by the grim landscape of railway yards and screaming express trains, it is Edwardian England, an anachronism in the contemporary world.”
The fictional location of Mrs Wilberforce’s house was at the end of Argyle Street looking towards St. Pancras station. However, the house was actually a constructed set built at the end of Frederica Street over the mouth of Copenhagen Tunnel.
Billion Dollar Brain 1966 – Directed by Ken Russell
In the height of the 60s obsession with spies (spy films, spy novels, spies on the TV), Billion Dollar Brain was intended to be an antidote to the glamour of Bond movies. Michael Caine plays the film’s scrappy reluctant hero Harry Palmer, who is tasked with foiling the plans of a far-right general in the midst of the Cold War.
The film begins at 297 Pentonville Road, the location of Palmer’s shambolic office/residence. The grittiness of King’s Cross is a firm opening statement by Russell that Billion Dollar Brain will be a great departure from the slick and unrealistic world of 007.
Alfie 1966 – Directed by Lewis Gilbert
Although only featured minorly, King’s Cross is used again for its gritty aesthetic to set a seedy tone at the beginning of Alfie. Within the industrial surroundings of the gas holders just north of KX Station, our first glimpse of Alfie is as a silhouette through a steamed up window as he makes love to Siddie in his car.
The gas holders were erected in the 1850s and located at the junction of Cheney Street and Battle Bridge Road, however they were torn down when KX was redeveloped.
Elizabethan Express – 1954
Opening the LNER Cinema Carriage, 1935
Mr JH Thomas opens a new service running from KX, the Pathe Cinema Carriage. Rather than playing film, the carriage was used to screen newsreels made by Pathe Gazette.
Here is a poster showing the programme for May 16th 1938 and a link to a page containing the newsreels featured.