Sir Michael Caine
(1933 - )
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Icon of British cool in the 1960s, leading action star in the late '70s, and knighted into official respectability in 1993, Michael Caine has enjoyed a long, varied, and enviably prolific career. He remains one of the most established performers in the business, serving as a role model for actors and filmmakers both young and old.

The son of a fish-porter father and a charwoman mother, Caine's beginnings were less than glamorous. Born Maurice Micklewhite on May 14, 1933, in the South London neighborhood of Bermondsey, he got his first taste of the world beyond when he was evacuated to the countryside during World War II.

After Korean War service, he joined a rep company as an assistant stage manager and took easily to acting. He changed his name to Michael Caine after seeing ‘The Caine Mutiny’. He had walk-on roles in TV and films, including ‘Sailor Beware’ and ‘A Hill in Korea’ (both 1956), but plodded on largely unnoticed, often uncredited, for nearly a decade.

Caine's big break occurred in 1963, when he was cast in a leading role in the epic, star-studded historical adventure film ‘’Zulu. Not overawed by the already established Stanley Baker he played the part of Bromhead well and gave the sense of a man on a journey. Suddenly finding himself bearing a modicum of importance in the British film industry, the actor next played Harry Palmer, the bespectacled secret agent of ‘The Ipcress File’ (1965); he would go on to reprise the role in two more films, ‘Funeral in Berlin’ (1966) and ‘The Billion Dollar Brain’ (1967).

He went on to gain international fame in his next film, Alfie (1966), in which he played the title character, a gleefully cheeky, womanizing cockney lad. For his portrayal, Caine was rewarded with a Golden Globe award and an Oscar nomination. However next came the film for which he will probably be best remembered that of the loveable rogue Charlie Croker in the 1969 comedy ‘The Italian Job’. This was in many was considered by many to be the celluloid manifestation of all that was hip in Britain at the time).

Next was Joseph L. Manckiewicz's Sleuth (1972), in which he starred opposite Laurence Olivier and won his second Oscar nomination. He then went back to his roots with the critically accailmed Mike Hodges ganster movie ‘Get Carter’ (1971). Later in the 70’s he would star with Sean Connery in a couple of films – the first was John Houstons ‘The Man Who Would Be King’ (1976). This adaptation of the famous short story by Rudyard Kipling tells the story of Daniel Dravot and Peachy Carnahan, two ex-soldiers in India when it was under British rule. They decide that the country is too small for them, so they head off to Kafiristan in order to become Kings in their own right. Kipling is seen as a character that was there at the beginning, and at the end of this glorious tale.

His international status was further confirmed with his role in the much-acclaimed California Suite (1978), in which he headlined a cast including Jane Fonda, Maggie Smith, Walter Matthau, Bill Cosby, and Elaine May.

Caine had two of my favourite roles in the seventies, firstly as Col Steiner in the John Sturges film ‘The Eagle has Landed’ (1976). He played a non-nazi German Officer enlisted to kidnap Churchill with the help of Donald Sutherland playing an IRA agent. Caine's first scene where he debates the morality of killing Jews with an SS General is not easily forgettable. In another military role Caine played an Irish Guards Colonel in Attenborough's ‘A bridge too far’ (1977). For any of you who have seen the film may well remember the line,

‘you don’t know the worst of it…but this part here…it’s the wide bit’







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