Notting Hill in film
Adam Moon and Harry Fogg

With the possible exception of Soho, no other part of London has attracted such full and frank treatment on film as Notting Hill. Though criticism of Richard Curtis’s 1999 blockbuster Notting Hill centred on its ‘whitewashed’ portrait, the area – in the wider context of a prolific screen career – has largely been typecast as depraved and deprived, trading on a reputation for social, spiritual and structural contrast. Notting Hill’s history and transitions have been extensively documented on celluloid.

With its proximity to the studios at the Gaumont, Ealing and subsequently the BBC, Notting Hill has always been a natural choice for location filming. It was here in 1948 that Powell and Pressburger shot The Red Shoes. Since then the area has been cast as the backdrop for films by some of the world’s most ambitious and reputed directors. Most recently Woody Allen, substituting London for his beloved Manhattan, described the district as ‘the perfect location’.

The Westway, a controversially iconic Notting Hill landmark since its erection in the late Sixties, trampled many cinematic locations in its path. One such victim was the old Paddington Green police station, from which the local bobbies in The Blue Lamp (1949) embark on an atmospheric car chase, taking in the sights of Ladbroke Grove and Latimer Road…

Whether or not Richard Curtis’s Notting Hill amounted to a denial of the area’s past or not, it did, for the first time, present Notting Hill as an idyllic, if rather quaint, London village. For all its former representations as slum-central, a freak-show or a disaster area, it was now being recognised as one of London’s prettiest areas and presented with something of a lifetime achievement award – the title role in a blockbuster. The blue doorway was Curtis’s own and the bookshop was modelled on that owned by this book’s editor, in Blenheim Crescent. The film has renewed international interest in the area, and, rather less happily, spawned a wave of forgettable British comedies set in and around the district.

This is an extract from the article on film in the book.