Tuesday, November 24, 2015

What It's All About

I've never been a big fan of Michael Caine, but I recognize he's done a lot of interesting work. (My favorite film of his is probably The Man Who Would Be King.) I saw his autobiography The Elephant To Hollywood in the library and checked it out.  He wrote it five years ago, and it's actually his second memoir. The first he wrote about 25 years ago, when he figured his Hollywood career was coming to a close. How wrong he was, so he wrote another, though its still covers his life from the beginning.

Born in London in 1933, he saw both poverty and war in his childhood.  At a certain point, he figured he wanted to be an actor--couldn't see himself doing anything else.  There was some involuntary time off for national service and fighting in the Korean War, but aside from that he spent over a decade working in theatre, movies and TV to become an overnight success. His actual name was Maurice Micklewhite, but that wouldn't do.  For a while he was Michael Scott, but when he wanted to join the union, that was taken, so he changed in to Michael Caine in honor of The Caine Mutiny and his favorite actor, Humphrey Bogart.

His first big break was in the 1964 film Zulu, where he played an upper class British lieutenant, even though cockney came more naturally to him.  Tall, handsome and talented, he was soon offered lead roles, and made The Ipcress File and Alfie one after another.  Before you knew it he was an international star. The womanizing Alfie is still one of the roles he's most identified with.  These were British productions, and he was next invited to Hollywood, by Shirley MacLaine, to costar with her in Gambit.  Now he was really big time.

One thing about Caine--he believed in working.  For most of his career he's appeared in at least two films a year, perhaps figuring if this one doesn't work, the next one will.  He often played in action roles and crime dramas, but being in so many movies, there's hardly a genre he hasn't tried.

He's done a lot of memorable work, really too many titles to mention here.  So let me just list his Oscar nominated lead performances--Alfie, Sleuth (1972), Educating Rita (1983) and The Quiet American (2002).  Then there are his two Oscar-winning roles, both for Supporting Actor: Hannah And Her Sisters (1986) and The Cider House Rules (1999).

For years he was a leading man, but as he approached his 60s, he more and more played character roles.  Over the past couple decades, he's been, for instance, quite a few fathers of the lead.  Perhaps he's best known to young people today as Alfred the butler in Christopher Nolan's Batman movies.  So he went from Alfie to Alfred.  Quite a life.


Anonymous Denver Guy said...

Caine is the actor I most identify as willing to be in anything. I'm not sure if this is a lack of discriminating taste, a love of being any film he can get into, or a desire to rake in as much money as possible. How else to explain roles in "Beyond the Poseidon Adventure". "The Hand", "Jaws, the Revenge", "Bewitched," etc.

My favorite role of his is also in "The Man Who Would be King."

9:01 AM, November 24, 2015  
Blogger LAGuy said...

No one sets out to do a bad film, but Michael Caine certainly likes to get a paycheck. He does write in his book that in later years, after too many bad films, he decided to work only on material he believed in.

9:53 AM, November 24, 2015  
Blogger New England Guy said...

I believed in that shark.

Actually I liked him in Zulu best and his ensemble part in A Bridge Too Far ("Have you ever been liberated before?")

There was a war movie set in World War 2 where he had to runs across a field while Japanese machine gunners took target practice on him. Forget the name but I saw that on the Late Night movie several times back when they had the Late Night Movie

10:49 AM, November 24, 2015  
Blogger New England Guy said...

Too Late the Hero (1971) a/k/a Suicide Run (which was the preferred name for late night TV)

10:55 AM, November 24, 2015  

Post a Comment

<< Home

web page hit counter