Friday 14 March 2014

Britain is still a country for and says "Happy Birthday" to an old cockney actor called Michael Caine

Michael Caine, who has appeared in over 100 films, is 81 years old today.

What you possibly didn't know about Michael, that he :

* was born 'Maurice Micklewhite', of part Romani and Irish blood, in Rotherithe, the South London borough next to the one where I was born, Lewisham, and the one in which my Father's brother, 'Uncle Bill,' once lived and where Michael's mother was a cook and charlady while his father worked as a fish market porter.

* at the age of seven in 1940, was evacuated to Norfolk from London during the Second World War German bombing of London docklands and then, back in London, was educated at Wilson's Grammar School in Camberwell, which he left at the age of 16.

* lived with his family in a prefabricated council house at the Elephant and Castle
and later said : "The prefabs, as they were known, were intended to be temporary homes while London was reconstructed, but we ended up living there for eighteen years and for us, after a cramped flat with an outside toilet, it was luxury."

* 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 in 1952 and served in Germany and then on 'active service' in the Korean War in 1954 which had a profound effect on him : ' I was nearly killed. There were four of us on patrol in a valley in the middle of the rice paddies. The Chinese were closing in on us .... I faced a moment when I knew I was going to die and I didn't run, I wasn't a coward, and it affected me deeply. I was at peace with myself and that's guided my life, not just in terms of whether someone's going to kill me, but in everything.'

* got a job at the Horsham based 'Westminster Repertory Company' to play 'small butch parts like policeman' and in his first role walked on stage to arrest the villain of the piece, but with his trouser flies undone, was greeted with audience laughter and forgot his "come along with me".

* developed malaria stemming from Army Service in Korea and by the time he had recovered, the theatre company had 'gone bust' and years later, sent its then destitute and dieing owner a cheque, which was returned 'uncashed' after the old man had shown the hospital staff his 'proof' that he had given Michael his first job.

* after dozens of minor tv parts and first role in a feature film in 'A Hill in Korea', entered the public eye at the age of 31 as the upper class British Army officer, 'Gonville Bromhead VC', in the 1964 film 'Zulu' after the director, Cy Endfield, offered him a screen test after Michael assured him that he could do a 'posh accent' and believes that, as a London cockney, he was offered the role of an aristocrat because Cy the American, did not have British class-prejudice.

* 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 Londoner and title character :

* made his first film in the USA in 1966, after an invitation from Shirley MacLaine to play opposite her in 'Gambit'.

* at the age of 37 in 1970 worked on The 'Italian Job':

and played the lead in, in my opinion, his best film, 'Get Carter' in 1971 and the street used for filming in Gateshead.

* 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' (below) 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 :

* resurfaced in 'Miss Congeniality' in 2000 followed by 'Last Orders' in 2001:

* launched 'Harry Brown', in 2009 : in which he played an ex-Royal Marines, decorated NCO and 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".

My earlier posting on Lewisham, the London next to Rotherhithe where Michael was born : Britain is a country with a London borough called Lewisham where Jude Law and I both saw the first light of day :;postID=7665023835226528681

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