Alpines on the Silver Screen

Originally by Rex Funk

Updates by Alpines mailing list members

How many car marques can lay claim to starring in three academy award winning movies as well as launching a highly successful genre of action movies? Sunbeam Alpines have conveyed such superstars as Grace Kelly, Cary Grant, Liz Taylor, Sean Connery, and Arnold Schwartzenegger. Hollywood was seldom kind to its Alpine car-stars, however, and they often became fodder for spectacular crash scenes.

To Catch a Thief (1955)

This Alfred Hitchcock suspense yarn featured Cary Grant as an ex jewel thief trying to protect his honor and stay out of jail by catching a thief whose jobs mimic his style. Grace Kelly is the American femme fatale who drives a blue Sunbeam Talbot Alpine fast enough to give Grant sweaty palms. Set in the beautiful French Riviera, the movie won an Academy Award for Cinematography. There are great shots of the car in action, complete with squealing tires and nice sports- car sounds, and the viewer gets a feel for how these cars could maneuver on twisty mountain roads such as found on the Alpine and Monte Carlo Rallys. Kelly and Grant are well matched, and the lively dialog and plot make this an entertaining suspense/mystery tale with a generous dose of romance. The sleek blue Alpine adds a touch of class to the movie, and there are good exterior and interior views of the car, which appears to survive the movie.

Butterfield 8 (1960)

Liz Taylor won a "Best Actress" Oscar for her role as a high-priced call girl who is pursued by Lawrence Harvey, a married man. She drives a red Series I high fin Sunbeam Alpine with wire wheels and a hard top. This is a dreary little melodrama that is tedious in most spots. The Alpine meets with a bad end in a chase scene when Taylor runs out of road and plunges off an elevated highway section into a rock quarry. I was saddest about the car. Taylor's character is forgettable, and it is said that she was a sentimental favorite for the Oscar that year, having narrowly missed in previous years.

Doctor No (1963)

This is the first James Bond movie featuring Sean Connery. As a kickoff to the very successful series of 007 movies, it's a little rough in spots. Connery is mounted in a Series II "high fin" Alpine for his debut as Bond. There is a chase scene on a winding dirt road in Jamaica. The bad guys, driving what looks like some sort of old hearse (hence the subsequent Bond line: "I think they were on their way to a funeral."), swerve off the road to avoid a crane blocking the road (Bond drives under it), then crash and burn. Jack Lord and Ursula Andress round out the cast, and Connery even has a brief, but embarrassing, vocal number.

Get Carter (1971)

Michael Caine drives a Series IV in this tough little British gangster drama. Rival hoodlums later push the Alpine off a tall pier into the drink. Caine stoically watches it disappear, not knowing that his girlfriend has hidden in the trunk!

Commando (1986)

Arnold Schwartzenegger and Rae Dawn Chong star in this adventure flick in which Arnold's 11 year-old movie daughter is kidnapped by a South American dictator. Arnold's character, John Matrix (sounds like a good Austrian name), goes on a violent murder and mayhem spree to get her back, and one of the casualties is Chong's Series V Alpine. Arnie rips the seat out and runs the car into a tree (at least it's not off a cliff- - - we're making progress). Chong, of course, forgives him for trashing her car, and joins him in getting his little girl back. There must be over 100 bad guys who bite the dust in this flick, and we learn that you don't mess around with the likes of a one man army like John Matrix -- Boy Howdy!

The Impossible Years (1968)

David Niven plays a psychiatrist, and a young Chad Everett plays his daughter's love interest. The daughter is played by Christina Ferrare (who later married John DeLorean). Niven's character is supposed to be an authority on raising teenagers, who can't manage his own daughters. The Alpine in the film is Carnival Red with wire wheels. It's driven top-down, and we see some hard cornering in the chase scene, where the Alpine develops a stuck throttle. The pedals, including the accelerator, don't look anything like an Alpine's. The daughter finally defeats the stuck thottle by turning off the ignition, and everyone lives happily ever after. Except, of course, the audience who had to sit through this dumb movie. Ferarre is nice to look at, but couldn't act her way out of a wet paper bag. She probably didn't need to, after a generous divorce settlement from DeLorean. Niven's talent is wasted on the sophomoric script. It's a period peice, complete with '60s protest marches and an offbeat hippie artist. If you want to see the Alpine in action, it is at the very end of the movie. This is when "Fast Forward" is worth its weight in gold.

Charly (1968)

Cliff Robertson (Charly) is driven home in a red Series V Alpine by Claire Bloom's character. There is a brief shot where the car pulls around the corner and parks in front of Charly's apartment, and some dark interior shots where they are talking in the car before he goes in. This film won Cliff Robertson an Oscar for Best Actor in 1969, and Sterling Silliphant a Golden Globe in 1969 for best screenplay. That makes 3 Oscar-winning movies with Alpines ("It Takes a Thief", "Butterfield 8", and "Charly").

Here are some more Alpine movie/television references that were pulled from the Alpines mailing list:
"Casino Royale" David Niven in a Tiger (source: Steve Cseplo)
"Secret Agent" (1966 episode) Patrick McGoohan chased by early Alpine
"Dobie Gillis" (a 1959 episode) Dobie gets a new Alpine
"Power and Glory" A tv series on racing, showing Alpines at Le Mans
"The Return of Get Smart" Max back w/ his Tiger (source:Larry Snyder)
"Viva Las Vegas" Elvis in a green Tiger (source: Jim Fuerstenberg). But Dick Sanders asks: "Isn't this the one with Elvis, driving a Cobra, racing with Ann Margaret in the opening scene?" When somebody finds the answer, let me know. -- TJH
"McVicker" Roger Daltry of the Who in an Alpine trunk (source: Russell Best)
"Bachelor Flat" Terry Thomas in an early series Alpine.
"Pretty Poison" Tuesday Weld and Anthony Perkins star with a blue Alpine
"Curse of the Demon", a 1957 horror flick with Dana Andrews. 1950 Alpine

Panic in the City - Howard Duff on the trail of left-over Nazi's trying to build an H-Bomb in LA. Bad guys try to outrun the cops in a Series V. Cheesy crash.

The Avengers (TV) "The Danger Makers" Head of gang of "dare-devils", planning to steal Crown Jewels, takes the delectable and unflappable Emma Peel for a fast ride in a Series V. This episode first aired Feb 12, 1966. (Note: The A&E Network, which sometimes airs The Avengers, cut out this entire sequence to make room for more commercials. Boo!!)

Norwood Glen Campbell, in his first movie role, plays a country hick who unknowlingly transports -- stolen cars across state lines -- including a 1969 Alpine GT. Unbelievable premise - who would STEAL an Alpine fastback? Includes goofy chase scene with police. Turn it off after the Alpine "crashes", as movie gets even worse with introduction of midget and dancing chicken.

Get Smart (TV) KAOS plans to blow up top US space scientists with "the old bomb-in-the-snack-truck-trick." Includes FOUR classic Sunbeam scenes, including a crash, a chase, two ejector seats, and demonstrations of EVERY spy gadget known to man! Every gadget!! Well....would you believe....ALMOST every gadget? As in almost all of the episodes, a Series V Alpine substitutes for the Tiger. Look for a quick glimpse of a Series II early in this episode.

Get Smart (TV) Max shows off all of the Sunbeam's goodies to a national magazine writer. KAOS has booby-trapped it.

Charlie's Balloon Gramps (Jack Albertson) takes his grandkid on a ballon ride across the country. Mom and a "free-lance TV-reporter" try to keep up in his Series IIIB Minx convertible. Seduced by a Minx?

Anna Lee (TV) Imogene Stubbs as a private investigator. She drives a light blue Series IV or V which has been modified with an Escort engine and automatic transmission. Apparently Imogene Stubbs can't drive a manual transmission!

Paul Simon was interviewed for a PBS documentary a few years ago, and at one point said he was parked in his car ("A Sunbeam Alpine) talking to Art Garfunkel when they heard over the radio that their song the "39th Street Bridge Song" or "Feelin' Groovy" had just hit the top of the charts launching their careers.

And congratulations to our very own Don Lepore! His Series V appears in the music video (long version) of "For the Good Times" by Aaron Neville.
Thanks to all who contributed. Send corrections to

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