Location London, 1959: Sapphire

25th January 2013

Basil Dearden and Michael Relph‘s 1959 British noir Sapphire is a fascinating and fractured tale of the murder of a young ‘coloured’ woman who has been passing for white. She is found murdered on Hampstead Heath and the police superintendant Robert Hazard (Nigel Patrick, exceptional) has to solve the case. The film aspires to an impeccable liberalism but it seems unable to help itself falling for racial stereotypes, especially in a frenzied musical interlude in a Shepherd’s Bush ‘dive’ called Tulip’s. Watching the film this evening (it is released on DVD by Strawberry Media), I was struck that among its many pleasures, along with terrific performances by Earl Cameron and Gordon Heath, Bernard Miles and Yvonne Mitchell, is the glorious Eastmancolor cinematography of Harry Waxman. Almost accidentally the film seems to have captured wonderfully the dingy drabness of London in the late 1950s, as I hope is demonstrated by the framegrabs that follow. 

Sapphire 001

Sapphire 002

Sapphire 003

Sapphire 004

Sapphire 005

Sapphire 006

Sapphire 007

Sapphire 008

Sapphire 009

Sapphire 010

Sapphire 011

Sapphire 012

Sapphire 013

Sapphire 014

Sapphire © ITV Studios 2011, released on DVD by Strawberry Media.


  1. Teresa mackintosh says:

    I love the late 1950/60′ films and always like to know locations. As you say thesee films capture perfectly the “colours”of that period. I love to see the streets and wonder if they are still there or been knocked down, to see the fashions, cars and the interior of the houses which I well remember. Thank you for this brilliant channel. I told my 95 year old uncle and he loves it too, he always says that time was the best before the 60’start kicked in about 1965 and all England was ruined.

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