Film-makers resurrect love affair with Café de Paris
Thursday 13 March 2008
The Café de Paris built its reputation among the upper echelons of fashionable society largely due to the patronage of a certain Edward, Prince of Wales. But the Piccadilly nightspot continued to lure celebrities even after his abdication. Cole Porter was a regular, as was the Aga Khan.
During the Second World War, well-heeled nightclubbers used the dance floor as a refuge from the Luftwaffe – until two 50kg bombs landed on the venue killing 80 revellers and blowing up the legendary Ken "Snakehips" Johnson, who was performing on stage at the time.
With a series of resurrections and revamps that saw the venue emerge as a rich man's playground once during the 1950s, again in the 1980s and once more in the late 90s, few British nightspots can boast quite the same heritage as the Café.
Perhaps it is unsurprising then that UK film-makers have taken up virtual residence in the venue, using its ballroom, bars and VIP suites as backdrops for movies, television shows and pop videos. Having just hosted Keira Knightley and Sienna Miller for the filming of The Edge of Love, which details the shenanigans of the poet Dylan Thomas, it is undergoing redressing as a backdrop for the other great British film hope of this year, An Education.
The screenplay, by Nick Hornby, is an adaptation of Lynn Barber's fictionalised coming of age memoir set in 1960s London and stars Rosamund Pike, Olivia Williams and Emma Thompson.
According to Andrew Birnie, Café de Paris events and sales director, film-makers are queuing up. Last year, he said, it featured in the adaptation of How To Lose Friends and Alienate People and in 2006 hosted scenes from the The Queen's Sister, based on the life of Princess Margaret. "People say we are very film friendly and the venue is so authentic," said Mr Birnie. The venue also features in Strictly Come Dancing, How to Look Good Naked and in a recent Girls Aloud video. It is only open to the public at weekends.
In the 1980s it featured in two other British classics: Absolute Beginners and The Krays. In 2004 the VIP rooms which played host to Frank Sinatra were remodelled in red velvet and fitted with vast beds.
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