Arrowhead [1953-????] | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

Arrowhead [1953-????]

Current condition: 
Demolished / No longer exists
Date Place completed: 

Marco Lobo has written in with some interesting memories of this house, which was used as one of the locations in Love is a Many-Splendored Thing:

The house in Deep Water Bay, where so many scenes were filmed was a property called "Arrowhead". It was owned by Portuguese architect Alfredo Alvares. Both my 'Uncle Al' and his wife May have passed away, but I recall them talking about the filming and meeting the stars. It's even possible that the stars were their houseguests for a time. It was a pretty big place.

The main entrance was off Island Rd., which led into the top level as seen from the picture:

Suyin's friend's house, "Arrowhead"

From there they used ramps instead of stairs, and sliding doors rather than swinging ones. It was quite a place.

The large flat platform that you can see at the base of the house on the right was a swimming pool, part was open to the sky and part was under the house. As kids we could jump into the pool from the upper verandah, from where I think several scenes in the movie were shot from.

I think (but can't be certain), that the name "Arrowhead" came from Uncle Al's racehorse...or then perhaps he named the horse after the house?

I've set an approximate location on the map based on the description and photo.

Photos that show this place


I've set the completion date to 1953, as the clipping above from Nov 1953 says the building was "newly completed".

The Nov 1953 clipping is an excellent find. Thanks.

Am I correct in assuming the clipping shows the front of the house? Is that why I do not see the large platform / terrace?  I seem to recall Elliot (William Holden) and Suyin (Jennifer Jones) had to walk up quite a few steps to reach the platform where her friends were.

I worked for Alfredo Alvares in HK. when I lived there.  Been to his house.  Yes the movie stars lived there when they made the film Love is a many Splendour Thing.  He loved to entertain.  His mentor was Frank Lloyd Wright, and the design of the house was influence by FallingWater/ Kaufmann Residence designed by Wright, except water did not flow through.  His son was also called Alfredo.

Hi art maher:

I'm doing a research on the Credit Foncier d'extreme orient (C.F.E.O.) and am interested in the history of Alfredo Alvares (the father). Do you know more about his works/ life in Hong Kong, and in relation to the C.F.E.O.? Also, how did you know Frank Lloyd Wright was his mentor? That information is very interesting. Thanks!

An auction of the house was publicized in a newspaper advert in late-1981.  The advert did not include the actual address. 

The current development on this site is comprised of four houses and the address is 34 Island Road.  It was only completed in 2002, so perhaps Mr. Alvares's Arrowhead did not see the wrecking ball until the late-1990s.  Mr. Alvares was shown in old directories as residing at 'Arrowhead, Deep Water Bay', with no mention of street name and house number.

Sometime after its use in Love is a Many-Splendored Thing, a house was constructed right next to it and the two almost look as if they share the same lot.  Both can be seen in the bottom left corner of Antoine 49's picture: .  The Deep Water Bay Sewage Screening Plant is No. 30 and first structure from the left. 


I thought Arrowhead had to be No. 34 as well, until I found a late-1950s directory listing that showed otherwise.  That directory had the occupant as a Chinese merchant and the house was not referred to as Arrowhead.  

Also, I find it unlikely that Mr. Alvares sold so quickly after the 1953 completion because he was still very active in Hong Kong in the late-1950s.

I didn't save the link, but the directory only included the address and name of the occupant.

Arrowhead was definitely extended in the 1980s pictures and perhaps the house left of it (with the pool) was also owned by Mr. Alvares.  Just a wild guess on my part, but the houses look so close together and it even appears as if they share a driveway.  Maybe it was a pool house / guest house.

In 1981 the lot number of Arrowhead was R.B.L. 702 but I cannot find that lot today.

I could not recall the name in the directory, but the address was definitely 34 Island Road.  I didn't think it would be so difficult to find the address using the old lot number RBL 702.  However, I agree that it is most likely No. 34.

The satellite image from 2000 makes me wonder how two houses could have fit on that site without sharing common areas like the driveway.  The house left of Arrowhead really looked quite small.

Was the original pool from Mr. Alvares's 1953 design demolished to create the platform that elevated the property from the newly built Seaview Promenade?  If it was, I think that explains the second smaller house.

From Marco Lobo's write-up at the top of this page about 'Uncle Al' : "The large flat platform that you can see at the base of the house on the right was a swimming pool, part was open to the sky and part was under the house. As kids we could jump into the pool from the upper verandah . . ."

That platform Marco referred to is gone in and .  However, the pool under the smaller house that was added to the lot looked to have a very similar design.  Part of this new pool was open to the sky and part was under the house, just as it was with the original.  I bet it was possible to jump into that new pool from the house as well. 

I once saw a magazine feature of an elevated pool house (in Los Angeles) with a floor that opened to allow guests to dive directly down in the pool.

The directories often have a time lag and a misprint cannot be ruled out.  It is odd that the actual street address did not appear to have been used with that house. 

I am wondering how famous Arrowhead became after the film.  William Holden is one of my favorites, though the film is not.  Did locals, pre-internet, actually refer it to the Love is a Many-Splendored Thing villa?


88hk - have a read of this comment:

It explains why no dialogue scenes were filmed in HK.

What about the scenes on the terrace of Arrowhead or the scene where Suyin (Jennifer Jones) finds out that Elliot (Holden) had died?  The house, or perhaps it was a Hollywood soundstage set, had a series of ramps and no stairs.

Off-topic, but I just remembered that 20+ years later Jones and Holden reunited in The Towering Inferno and it was her character that died (dramatically) thanks to Holden's shoddily constructed building.  Holden's daughter had a beautiful house in that, albeit not set in Hong Kong of course.  I saw the movie in Hong Kong and to this day I think it remains the biggest cast of legendary actors/actresses ever put together for a film.

I read somewhere that Mr. Alvares left Hong Kong at some point and lived in the Philipines until his death in 1992.  Perhaps that is why he sold, although it appears the new owner retained the house for close to 20-years before redeveloping. 

I think Island Road might have been re-numbered in 1961.  The directory that listed a Chinese merchant's address as 34 Island Road was from before '61.  Haven't confirmed this myself, but I read from one source that what is now Aberdeen Main Road used to be named Island Road.

Perhaps Arrowhead was not No. 34 when Mr. Alvares first constructed it.

Apparently Alvares and Holden became very good buddies and Holden went on to buy the penthouse of an apartment block on RobinsonRd that Alvares had also designed. Does anyone know which building it might have been?

I have been to Arrowhead many times in the 1970's.  Indeed it was 34 Island Road.  The second house was a stylized Japanese Guest House that was 1/2 over the swimming pool.  you had to enter the house through a japanese bridge that traversed the swimming pool and mechanical water fall.  The entire set up was larger than life.  The rest of the pool was exposed to the outdoors, so we could climb up to the roof of the guest house and dive into the pool.

If you look at Google Earth and backdate to 2000. It shows 11/23/2000 and an excavated site where Arrowhead was located.

I am a motoring historian and have a record of A.V. Alvares of 34 Island Road buying a new Jaguar XK140 coupe in 1957. The car was a mid green colour. I understand it may still be in Hong Kong. Any further information about it would be gratefully received!

My mother was Mr. Alvares’s (Uncle Al to us kids) secretary. I remember he also had a huge American coupe but unfortunately I don’t remember (or never knew) what make it was. Uncle Al was a pretty flashy guy and was great friends with William Holden. Once my mother had to take Capucine shoe shopping when she visited Hong Kong with Bill Holden and for years she would tell us how the shoe salesmen would remark to her in Chinese that they had never seen such big feet on a woman before!

The flat Bill Holden owned was in the Robinson Garden Apartments at 3-3G Robinson Road (access on Conduit Road). He also owned a chunk of Commercial Radio.

Many thanks for that information, Peter. Phil

My Grandfather Alfred V Alvares (I knew him as Dad Dad) car was a 1969 Barracuda in silver with red leather interior. He purchased it in Australia and had it shipped to Hong Kong. I knew your mother whom I used to call Aunty Violet as you know, worked for my Grandfather for many years. William Holden and Stephanie Powers used to visit him and my Grandmother, May, at their residence 20 Repulse Bay road (Brenda Anne Apartment) named after my Mother. This property is also demolished to make way for larger condominiums.

Please forgive the method of trying to make contact, I've not managed to find a link to message a member of the group directly. I believe I might own Mr Alvares Jaguar sports car from 1957 and would like to make contact with any relatives who may remember it. Kindest regards, Daniel Salter.

Daniel:  I am at present finishing off a book that will include the history of the Alvares XK140 ("The Jaguar XK140 in the Southern Hemisphere" - also with Asia included).

The last owner I knew of for this car was in 1994. Would love to know more!  

Regards, John Elmgreen

Hi John, great to make contact. I'm familiar with your publications. I assumed we'd have car friends in common and have sent a message to you via Facebook.