Michael Caine Remembers

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John F
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Michael Caine Remembers

Post by John F » Sun Oct 31, 2010 6:28 am

Besides his movies, Michael Caine has also made a video and a book about acting in the movies - full of technical information and advice, and practical tips - and two best-selling books of odd facts under variants of the title, "Not Many People Know That." Not many people know that. But this is none of the above.

October 24, 2010
What It Was All About for Alfie, Now a Grandpa

By Michael Caine
Illustrated. 304 pages. Henry Holt & Company. $28.

Michael Caine’s “Elephant to Hollywood” is an unabashedly old-school celebrity memoir. Its tales sound oft-told because they probably are. Mr. Caine is a charming raconteur, specializing in anecdotes packed with famous names. In these stories all the famous people do their famous-people things, whether it’s Jack Nicholson grinning “with that wolfish Nicholson grin” or John Wayne striding into the lobby of the Beverly Hills Hotel in full cowboy regalia.

“You’re gonna be a star, kid” was the first thing Wayne said to Mr. Caine that day. Then “Call me Duke.” Then a funny off-color punch line.

Mr. Caine has trod this territory before. He wrote about his life in an earlier book, the 1992 “What’s It All About?” But he is now Sir Michael Caine, so he has at least one new thing to talk about. Naturally, he has stories to tell about the day on which he was knighted. He noticed that in the queen’s handshake “there is a very slight push towards you in case you have forgotten it is over.” He also reports that there is a back room in Buckingham Palace where those who will be kneeling before the queen can practice a very important part of the ceremony: getting up again.

Mr. Caine, 77, writes with a quality that has grown rare among memoirists: good cheer. His stories aren’t saccharine, but they aren’t mean spirited either. “Beverly Hills is a long way from my childhood home in the Elephant and Castle in south London,” he says early on, referring to a working-class neighborhood there. It may have been a long way, but he makes the journey sound like smooth sailing despite a few comedic comeuppances here and there. A producer once wanted to fire him from “Zulu,” claiming that “Michael Caine doesn’t know what to do with his hands.” But he was imitating what Prince Philip does with his hands, since the role called for an authority figure of military bearing.

When he gets from the Elephant to Hollywood, as per the title, Mr. Caine writes sunnily: “So off I went to the land of my youthful dreams. My expectations were so high that I thought the reality would be a disappointment. I was wrong — it was better than the wildest of those dreams.”

This book starts with a vague promise of showbiz schadenfreude. It says it will trace the arc of a movie career that started big (“Alfie,” “The Ipcress File”) and then hit the doldrums. There did come a time when Mr. Caine began to notice that he was being asked to play fathers instead of leading men and that he was being sent well-worn scripts that bore coffee stains; he took these as danger signs. But he has always seemed so indispensable on screen that it’s hard to picture him in trouble. And the trouble, if that’s what it was, didn’t last. Once he got into the “Batman” business (with “Batman Begins” in 2005) and became sought after by its director, Christopher Nolan (“Inception” this summer), the comeback was official.

Mr. Caine appreciates what it takes to have an indelible screen presence. He’s surprised that it is now possible to be a leading man who stars in vampire pictures. His idea of a star — and that’s one of his favorite words, along with “glamorous” and “luxurious” — is Humphrey Bogart or Cary Grant. (Originally named Maurice Micklewhite, he took “Caine” from “The Caine Mutiny,” Bogart’s hit.)

So he tells lots of stories about this old guard, even one about a Beverly Hills hardware store. Luckily he heeds the advice of Elmore Leonard and leaves out the boring parts. So even his hardware store anecdote has a point. In the same store where he spotted beloved notables like Fred Astaire and Danny Kaye, he was startled to see Klaus Kinski — a man scarier than anything teenage vampire fans can imagine — buying an ax.

Most of the events described in this book have a lot more glitter than hardware errands. Mr. Caine likes that glitter even though he knows how pernicious the workings of show business’s status-based culture can be. “As the new boy in town I found myself in great demand as party fodder,” he writes about his first days as Los Angeles royalty. And on the evidence of this book, he’s been going to very A-list lunches, dinners, restaurants, parties and nightclubs ever since.

But Mr. Caine can be wittily self-deprecating in describing the places he’s been. The London discothèque Tramp was a favorite haunt for him and a group of his friends, he claims, “for many nights until we started meeting our own grandchildren there.”

Actually, his own three grandchildren are very young. And he writes as warmly about devotion to his family as he does about his career. He has lovely stories about his wife, the former Shakira Baksh, a woman so beautiful that Mr. Caine fell for her after seeing her in a Maxwell House coffee ad. And he successfully presents himself as a man whose domestic life means much more to him as his public life does.

He loves the fact that Paul Scofield, who won the best actor Oscar for “A Man for All Seasons” the year Mr. Caine was nominated for “Alfie” (both were released in 1966), was fixing the roof of his barn while the Academy Awards were being given out. “What did he say?” Mr. Caine asked Mr. Scofield’s wife. Her reply: “Oh, you know — ‘Isn’t that nice, dear?’ ” As for the two wins (“Hannah and Her Sisters” in 1987 and “The Cider House Rules” in 2000) and many nominations that have brought him to the Oscar show many times, “whenever I see the tears and tantrums at today’s ceremony, I always think of Paul and smile.”

It takes one class act to recognize another.
John Francis

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Re: Michael Caine Remembers

Post by jbuck919 » Sun Oct 31, 2010 3:52 pm

There are people in their 40s and 50s who will chuckle at the idea of 77, and now a grandpa.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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