One of my favorite films of all time is The Family Way, a comic drama from the mid-1960s about a newlywed couple from the north of England whose honeymoon plans fall through and who struggle with the fact that, a few months after the wedding, their marriage remains unconsummated, possibly because they are compelled by economic necessity to live with the husband's parents. In one scene, the husband and wife go for a stroll through the town, where they are increasingly turned off by various public displays of affection as well as the nudge-nudge nods to sex that they see in the storefront-window advertisements. When they finally have a moment to themselves, the husband, frustrated by his impotence, reminds his wife of a time when they almost did have sex, before they were married; perhaps, he says, they should have done it then, just to break the ice, and she replies that, if she had lost her virginity then, she would not have been able to wear white at their wedding.
So, what's that have to do with Alfie? Two things. First, The Family Way was based on a play by Bill Naughton, who also wrote the original stage and screen versions of Alfie, also back in the mid-1960s. Second, because it helps to put the original Alfie into its original context, at a time when the so-called sexual liberation was just beginning to go mainstream, even as traditional morals, gender roles and social customs continued to hold sway. The 1966 Alfie may have embodied, to some degree, the time and place known as "Swinging London," but it also took place at a time when abortion was illegal and pregnant single women had to pretend to be married when they checked into the maternity ward. And Alfie himself, as played by Michael Caine, was not so much a charmer ...1
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