HE WAS the boy from Bermondsey touted as England's answer to Elvis Presley, the homegrown rock 'n' roll star whose picture had been pinned to the bedroom walls of a whole generation of teenagers.
But while Tommy Steele won fame in the 1950s as Britain's first teen idol with hits like Singing the Blues, when he arrived in the Pantiles to begin filming Half a Sixpence in the 1960s, his pop star days were far behind.
The energetic musician, whose trademark teddyboy-style hair and rock star pose had driven teenage audiences wild a decade earlier, had moved into family entertainment.
The musical comedy, adapted from HG Wells' 1905 novel Kipps, had been written specially for him as a showcase for his talents as an all-round performer. It was an immediate hit in the West End and had enjoyed equal success when it transferred to Broadway in 1965.
"When we heard that Tommy Steele was filming in the Pantiles, we all went down to have a look," recalled Rosemary Rafferty who, like many who had grown up in the postwar years, had followed his career since his early chart hits with his group, the Steelmen.
"Modern shopfronts like Guys and Dolls had been covered over to make them look Edwardian, and the small garden in the gap between the buildings was hidden behind painted hoardings. There were lots of vintage cars driving around too."
However, many of the Pantiles shops needed only cosmetic alterations before the cameras started to roll.
Jupps' sweet shop, visible behind Steele in the Courier photograph taken during filming, looked much as it had for generations, and Binns' corner house next door was also little changed.
Further along, the old Swan Hotel and the Duke of York, Dust's drapery stores and Ashby the butcher, all trading within the grand architectural flourish of the colonnaded walkways, provided the perfect backdrop for a multimillion-pound musical film which would prove one of the bestknown of the era.
However, the movie version of the story of Arthur Kipps, the drapery assistant who comes into a fortune, loses it then regains it, along with the love of faithful chambermaid Ann, played by Julia Foster, left some critics less than enthusiastic when it appeared on the screen.
No-one doubted Steele's talent in the lead role - one even compared him to Singing in the Rain dance legend Gene Kelly, and another commented 'He takes hold of his part like a terrier and never lets go' - but at a time when traditional musicals were beginning to lose their magic, one New York critic seemed to capture the mood of the times when she wrote: "I cannot imagine that there will be many more musicals that are so lavishly, exuberantly out of touch with the world of rock and the music of our time."
For by the time Tommy Steele was dancing his heart out on the Pantiles, the golden age of the musical, the era which produced hit after hit like South Pacific, My Fair Lady and West Side Story, was drawing to a close. The world was changing fast in the 1960s, and songs and sentimental storylines which had captured the imagination a few years earlier seemed out of tune with modern ways.
Audiences wanted something different, and it wasn't until the explosion of 1970s rock musicals like Hair and Godspell that they returned to their seats, ready to be shocked and dazzled in equal measure.
But while that New York critic dismissed songs like Half a Sixpence as "trite, gay and thoroughly meaningless", she praised the film's location shots as "quite beautiful to watch". At the end of the day, it seems fair to say it was the Pantiles which stole that particular show.
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