Premiering 40 years ago on 3 November 1980 at the London Film Festival, John Mackenzie’s The Long Good Friday is one of the quintessential London films. It features Bob Hoskins as Harold Shand, the powerful head of an association who is overseeing a visit to the capital from the American mafia led by Charlie (Eddie Constantine).
The idea is to persuade Charlie’s organisation to invest in the new development of the docklands, but on the day of the visit things begin to go wrong, as Harold’s colleagues and interests come under attack from an unknown enemy. While the visiting gangsters are being looked after by Harold’s wife, Victoria (Helen Mirren), Harold must get to the bottom of who is attacking him and why before the day is out. Has he upset some of his villainous old Stepney acquaintances or is the reason behind the violence much closer to home?
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Shot on location in London, The Long Good Friday explores a mixture of luxurious and post-industrial settings, but most vitally it is a last document of the docklands around the Thames before the developers – as dramatised in the film – bought the land to make way for the more monolithic towers that line the river today.
Here are 6 locations from Mackenzie’s gangland classic as seen today.
The Boulevard restaurant
Although only seen for a few minutes early in the film, the scene at the Boulevard restaurant hints at the key to the entire drama. Colin (Paul Freeman) is sitting outside enjoying himself when he is accosted by a woman. The building in question is on Wigmore Street, not far from Bond Street, and is today still a restaurant, now called Ask Italian.
Harold’s mother (Ruby Head) is a devout believer and we see her heading to church on Good Friday. Not all goes to plan, however, with her chauffeur Eric (Charles Cork) about to meet an unfortunate end. We see the church from a number of different angles, but the most memorable shot is when Eric comes down the outer stairs and heads towards his car for the final time. The church’s exteriors are St George in the East, between The Highway and Cable Street in Shadwell, though this particular shot is from the side entrance seen looking out from Cannon Street Road.
One of the few attempts at harming Harold’s businesses that doesn’t quite come off revolves around his casino. A bomb is found on the site, but the mechanism has failed, leading to the identity of Harold’s real enemies to be slowly revealed. The building in question is not far from Buckingham Palace at 15 Catherine Place, a road away from Number 6’s house in TV’s The Prisoner (1967). The arch of the building shows which one was used in the film, and the road is unchanged today.
The Lion & Unicorn pub
We barely get to see Harold’s pub, The Lion & Unicorn, before it meets an untimely end. The pub looks like a typical East End boozer from the shots we see in the film, though it was actually faked, and the spot has since been heavily developed and built on. However, the general layout of the road can still be made out on Scandrett Street in Wapping, not far from the docks where much of the film’s other scenes take place.
The Long Good Friday has one of the most memorable endings in any British crime film, and Mackenzie couldn’t have chosen a more luxurious location than the Savoy Hotel on Embankment. We see the hotel’s own private driveway and its lavish architecture as Harold gets into a car before realising his final mistake. The hotel remains one of the most respected and extravagant in London, and the location has little changed.
The docks play an integral role in The Long Good Friday and Mackenzie’s film is a time-capsule of how they looked before the many buildings associated with the industry were pulled down or redeveloped (ironically by businessmen like Harold). In one scene, we see Victoria say farewell to Harold’s mother on a wharf just by Tower Bridge where Harold’s boat is moored. The exact location is difficult to pinpoint, but it was clearly somewhere parallel to St Katherine’s Way and near where the Royal Navy’s HMS President now floats today, though sadly access is restricted.
An easier location to spot is the bridge that Eric’s car is seen driving over on his way from this wharf to the church. The distinctive red bridge can still be seen in the heart of the expensive dockland development. If one thing can be said for Harold, he had an eye for future property investment.