Where Alec Guinness meets his end
Castles and churches come and go, to be replaced by car parks and Arndale Centres. Changing Places is an occasional series which will draw on old paintings, maps and photographs to show the fleeting face of Britain. The first is the King's Cross railway bridge, famously featured in the Ealing film The Ladykillers. By Andrew John Davies
Saturday 15 February 1997
It starts innocently enough, with Professor Marcus (played by a fang- toothed Alec Guinness) and his gang of four - amongst them a distinctly plump Peter Sellers - planning a robbery. Pretending to be the leader of a string quintet needing somewhere to practise, the Professor rents a room from dear old Mrs Wilberforce, but things quickly go wrong and the gang turn murderously upon each other. None of them survives to the final credits.
Apart from the marvellous script by William Rose, the direction of Alexander Mackendrick and the performances of the cast, the real star of the film is the King's Cross location where it was filmed. Steam trains, cobbled streets, bomb sites, friendly neighbourhood bobbies, a barrow boy (played by Frankie Howerd) selling fruit and veg - this is a nostalgic if shabby London long-since destroyed by the motor car and the drugs culture which now infests parts of the area.
Electrification means that the grime and dirt of steam has long gone, and, should you visit it today, you will also find - in a development Rose and Mackendrick would surely have loved - a stables complete with horses and a fierce Vietnamese pot-bellied pig which noisily attacks visitors he doesn't like. But the railway bridge, from which the corpses are tipped into passing coal trucks, still spans the Copenhagen Tunnel, and the second bridge glimpsed in the background continues to carry the North London railway line (some of its tatty carriages were probably at work in 1955). Mrs Wilberforce's house was a specially built wooden set (40 years on, locals still recall the fun everyone had during filming), but the signal which causes Professor Marcus's own shocking demise is also authentic.
Sadly, Ealing Studios didn't survive.They were sold to the BBC in December 1955, the very same month that The Ladykillers itself was released.
Photograph by Andrew Yale
Life & Style blogs
Google Photos tags black people as 'gorillas', puts pictures in special folder
What is Lyme disease, what are the symptoms and is treatment readily available?
Optical illusion turns blue demon into brunette
What do the emojis on Snapchat mean?
What happens to your body when you drink too much water during exercise?
The moment a Queen's Guard soldier lost it and drew his gun at annoying tourist
Greece crisis: IMF was pushed around by Angela Merkel and Nicholas Sarkozy – and now it is being humiliated
Greece crisis: The wider lesson is that it’s time to abandon this failed experiment in currencies
'I wish the BBC would stop calling it Islamic State' – David Cameron unleashes frustration at broadcaster
They are neither a 'state' nor 'Islamic': Why we shouldn't call them Isis, Isil or IS
Girl, 7, stares down hate preacher at Ohio festival with pro-LGBT rainbow flag gesture
- 1 Tunisia hotel attack: Locals form 'human shield' to protect hotel from gunman Seifeddine Rezgui
- 2 Optical illusion turns blue demon into brunette
- 3 German ethics council calls for incest between siblings to be legalised by Government
- 4 Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal to donate entire $32bn fortune to charity
- 5 Mystery sea creature - with 'fur' and 'a beak' - washes up on remote Russian beach, baffling scientists
£27000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Edinburgh city centre scho...
£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for o...
£35000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leader provides c...
£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Project Coordinator is requir...