Michael Caine, who has appeared in over 100 films, was 78 yesterday.
What you possibly didn't know about him is, that he :
* was born Maurice Micklewhite in Southwark, London, where his mother was a cook and charlady and his father, a fish market porter who was part Romani with Irish blood.
* was evacuated from London to Norfolk during the bombing in the Second World War in 1944 and then, back in London, educated at at a Grammar School in Camberwell which he left school at the age of 16.
* worked as a filing clerk and messenger for a film company in London until he was 'called up' to do his 'National Service' in the Army and served in Germany and then on 'active service' in the Korean War in 1954.
* started his acting career with walk-on roles at the Carfax Theatre and then, after dozens of minor TV roles, entered the public eye as the upper class British Army officer, 'Gonville Bromhead VC', in the 1964 film 'Zulu'.
* followed 'Zulu' with 'The Ipcress File' in 1965, in which he played the spy, Harry Palmer and 'Alfie' in 1966 where he played the womanising title character.
* made his first film in the USA in 1966, after an invitation from Shirley MacLaine to play opposite her in 'Gambit'.
* in 1970 worked on The 'Italian Job':
and played the lead in the British gangster film 'Get Carter' in 1971 :
* made 'Sleuth' opposite Laurence Olivier in 1972 :
and 'The Man Who Would Be King' with Sean Connery, which is the film he wishes 'to be remembered for after his death.' :
* played the the commander of a Second World War Luftwaffe brigade, disguised as Polish paratroopers, whose mission was to kidnap or kill the British Prime Minister in 'The Eagle Has Landed' in 1976 :
* by 1980, had moved to the USA and made a number of 'forgettable' films and also better ones like 'Educating Rita' in 1983, 'Hannah and Her Sisters' in 1986 and 'Dirty Rotten Scoundrels' in 1988.
* had a lean time in the 1990's as he found good parts harder to come by but had a high point when he played Ebenezer Scrooge in the critically-acclaimed Muppet Christmas Carol in 1992 :
* rehabilitated his reputation in 'Miss Congeniality' in 2000, 'Last Orders' in 2001: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wut-VoNdzgs
and 'The Quiet American' in 2002.
* released 'Harry Brown', in 2009 :
and in 2010 appeared alongside Leonardo DiCaprio in 'Inception'.
Michael's views about Britain are reflected in the fact that, he :
* left Britain in the 1970's, citing the 82% tax levied on top earners by the Labour Government and returned several years later when taxes were lowered.
* said "I was never going to come back. Maggie Thatcher came in and put the taxes back down and in the end, you know, you don't mind paying tax. What am I going to do? Not pay tax and drive around in a Rolls Royce, with cripples begging on the street like you see in some countries?"
* voted for Maggie Thatcher " because I thought we needed a change from that long period of socialism; I voted for Tony Blair because we had a great long period of Conservatism."
* in 2009, openly criticised the Labour Government's proposed new 50% tax on top earners saying : "The Government has taken tax up to 50% and if it goes to 51I will be back in America...... We've got 3.5 million layabouts laying about on benefits, and I'm 76, getting up at 6am to go to work to keep them. Let's get everybody back to work so we can save a couple of billion and cut tax, not keep sticking it on."
* following the launch of his film 'Harry Brown', called for the reintroduction of 'National Service' in the Armed Forces to give young people "a sense of belonging rather than a sense of violence".