A BRIEF BIOGRAPHY OF MICHAEL CAINE

 

Michael Caine was born on Tuesday 14th March 1933. His real name is Maurice Joseph Micklewhite.

He was born with a mild, non-contagious but incurable eye disease called Blefora which makes the eyelids swell and his heavy eyelids give him a rather sleepy and distinctive look. His Dad was a porter at London's Billingsgate fish market and his Mum worked as a Charlady. Michael has a brother called Stanley who is some 3 years younger than him. Michael did two years National Service in the Army and saw active service in Korea.

 

In 1952 Michael decided he wanted to become an actor and went on to spend many years in repertory theatres and same parts. Michael was married in the 1950's to Patricia Haines, one of his leading ladies in "rep". And they had a daughter called Dominique (known as Nikki). Michael's first film role was in 1956 in 'A Hill in Korea' - filmed in Portugal and Michael not only had a small part but was also technical advisor as he really had served in Korea.

 

Michael's original stage name was "Michael Scott" but when he landed a television role with a good speaking part in a play called 'The Lark' he had to join Equity, the British actors' trade union, and there was already a Michael Scott on their books. Michael needed a new name. Michael's agent gave him 30 minutes to come up with a new surname. Michael rang back from Leicester Square, where all around him were cinemas and one was showing the film, "The Caine Mutiny" starring Humphrey Bogart, one of his all-time favourite actors. Michael decided his new stage name should be "Michael Caine". He jokes now that if he had been looking the other way, he would be called Michael 101 Dalmatians!

 

In 1964 Michael had his big break. After 10 years in bit parts and small roles he was cast as Lieutenant Gonville Bromhead in the film 'Zulu'. Michael had gone for the role of Private Hook but found that James Booth had already been cast. The producer, Cy Endfield, asked Michael is he could do an upper-crust English accent and decided to screen test him. Michael was later told by Cy Endfield that it was the worst screen test he had ever seen but he still gave him the part. "I have a feeling there was something there ........" he said. 'Zulu' was a huge smash hit film and Michael was paid 4000 for his role.

 

Shortly after 'Zulu' was released, Michael happened to be in a restaurant at the same time as Harry Saltzman (who with Cubby Broccoli, was responsible for producing the first nine James Bond films) and was called over to his table. Harry Saltzman and his wife had just seen 'Zulu' and told Michael that he could be a big star. Harry asked Michael if he had ever read a book by Len Deighton called 'The Ipcress File'? Would he like to play the lead? Would he like a seven year contract? The answer was yes to all the questions. Michael was on his way to film stardom.

 

Michael's next big role was in the film 'Alfie' for which he was nominated for an Oscar. Shirley Maclaine saw Michael in 'The Ipcress File' and decided that she wanted him to star with her in her film 'Gambit'. This was Michael's first Hollywood film. He was then offered a part in Otto Preminger's film 'Hurry Sundown'

 

Michael's career really took off. He made a number of memorable films, such as 'The Italian Job' and 'Too Late the Hero' (which incidentally, Michael says was his worse ever film location - in the Philippine jungle) and 'Get Carter' which was the first film Michael co-produced). One of my favourite films of Michael's at this time was 'Kidnapped'. This is not a favourite of Michael's though, as he was never paid for his role in it!

 

In 1972 Michael saw Shakira Baksh in an advert for Maxwell House coffee and decided then and there that he was in love with her. He immediately made enquiries to find out who she was, expecting to have to travel to Brazil to meet her. Actually, she lived only a short distance away from him in London. Michael got her telephone number and asked her out and on 8th January 1973 they married in Las Vegas. They have now been married 28 years and they have a daughter called Natasha.

 

Michael then went on to a major career triumph with 'Sleuth' - a film which effectively had only two actors in it, Michael and Lord Laurence Olivier. Michael's acting in this film was tremendous and Lord Oliver said to him "When we started on this film, I thought of you as a very skilled assistant ....... I now see that I have a partner". Michael was nominated for another Oscar for his role in this film.

 

Shakira starred with Michael and Sean Connery in one of his best films, 'The Man who would be King' directed by John Huston. Huston was originally going to be make the film with Humphrey Bogart and Clark Gable in the lead roles, but both actors died before it got off the ground. Michael played "Peachy Carnehan", which was the role that Bogart was going to play and Sean Connery played "Daniel Dravot", Gable's intended role.

 

In 1979, Michael moved from England to the United States to escape the penal taxes that were imposed on high earners in the late 70's. He then made a number of movies which were less than successful, such as 'The Swarm', 'Ashanti', 'Beyond the Poseidon Adventure' and 'The Island'. However, he had a major smash hit when he played a transvestite in the film 'Dressed to Kill' which is one of his most financially successful films of all time. Michael then went on to play a homosexual in the film 'Deathtrap' in which he had a particularly difficult scene where he had to kiss Christopher Reeves on the lips. Michael told him "If you close your eyes and raise one leg in the air, I'll know your in love ...."

 

Michael's next big critical hit was 'Educating Rita' and he was nominated for yet another Oscar for his role, but that year's Oscar went to Robert Duvall for the film 'Tender Mercies'. Michael did however win the Golden Globe and the British Academy Award for his role in this film. In 1986 Michael made 'Hannah and her Sisters' for Woody Allen. This time Michael did win an Oscar - but as Best Supporting Actor.

 

In 1987, Michael and his family moved back to England. Michael's Mum died in 1989 and he then found out that he had a half-brother who had been born, illegitimately, in 1924, called David. David had been born with epilepsy, which was very hard to treat in 1924 and had spent his entire life in an institution. His mother had secretly visited him every Monday without any of the family ever knowing about him. David died in 1992.

 

The mid to late 90's were rather a lean time for Michael, although he had a number of critical hits, most notably with 'Blood and Wine' and 'Little Voice'. It appeared to some that his star was waning. However, the year 2000 has seen Michael Caine back on top. He won another Best Supporting Actor Oscar, this time for the film 'The Cider House Rules' and the Queen knighted him. Michael was actually knighted as Sir Maurice Micklewhite as he has never changed his real name and he said he wanted to do it for his father, whose name he has. However, Michael can still be known as Sir Michael Caine. Michael also received a British Academy lifetime achievement award for his work.

 

It's been an astonishing career and it's not over yet! I am looking forward to seeing more brilliant Michael Caine films in the 21st Century, and at the rate that Michael makes films .............. WATCH THIS SPACE!

 

Roger Harris - January 2001