Biography - The man and the movies
This Biography was compiled from Michael Caine's autobiography "What's it all about?"
Michael Caine was born Maurice Joseph Micklewhite in South London on March 14th 1933.
Michael has a younger brother Stanley Micklewhite born 1935. His father worked as a Billingsgate Fish Market Porter and his mother was a Charwoman.
At the age of sixteen he left Wilson's Grammar School with 3-4 passes in his exams and the nearest job to Hollywood he could manage was as an office boy for Peak Films.
In 1951 Michael was to join the Queens Royal Regiment and the Royal Fusiliers and serve in Germany and Korea.
He completing National Service 2 year later and went to work at Westminster repertory in Horsham Sussex and then at Lowestoft Repertory where Michael met his first wife Patricia Haines.
Once married Michael and Patricia decided to go to London to pursue their acting careers. Unfortunately this proved hard and Michael had to take a lot of soul destroying jobs.
Financial circumstances were bad and to add to it Patricia became pregnant and gave birth to Michael's first daughter Dominique. Although this was a happy event Michael found it hard to cope and after 2 and a half years of marriage Pat took Dominique back to her parents’ Home. Michael suffered with a huge amount of guilt and in the end, out of work and penniless returned home to his family. Michael's father was unable to work, as he was bedridden with rheumatism of the spine, so Michael was forced to take a job in a steel yard. Unfortunately Michael's father died and shortly after Michael lost his job in the steel yard.
Michael chose to go to Paris after his mother advised him to go away and sort himself out. While there Michael survived living in a fleapit room in a fleapit hotel and working in a snack bar. Eventually Michael felt ready to return home.
On arriving home he found that a telegram had been sent the day before from his agent stating that there was a job for him, a part in a film “A Hill in Korea”. Unfortunately the film was not a success and Michael decided to find a new agent, however the work still did not pour in. Michael was then sent to the Theatre Workshop in the East End of London where he played a part in the show of Charles Dickens "The Chimes".
After Theatre workshop Michael was forced to visit a casting agency, where he was chosen to play the part of a Policeman in a small film the very next day. This was the first of many small jobs like these.
After Four years Michael was very close to giving up the business when his agent found him a job on TV in a play called “The Lark”. At this time Michael was known as Michael Scott, however there was already another actor of that name so Michael's Agent suggested that he should change his last name. After a lot of consideration Michael chose the name Caine after the film “The Caine Mutiny” which was showing at that time.
Over the next few years Michael's situation remained much the same, living hand to mouth, being helped out by friends, with the occasional Film or TV bit part.
As the end of the 1950's approached, Michael's Agent Josephine Burton unfortunately died which meant that Michael was forced to find a new Agent. One of the biggest Movie companies in Britain at that time was Associated British Pictures, who ran their operations like an old Hollywood Studio, with a rota of actors under contract. Michael was sent to see their Chief Casting Director, where he was told to give up acting. This just made Michael even more determined to succeed.
Michael then appeared in the TV version of “The Caine Mutiny Court Martial”, and the TV plays “Requiem for a Heavyweight” and “The Day The Earth Caught Fire”.
In 1959 Michael was offered the job of understudy in a play called “The Long and the Short and the Tall”. The play opened and it was an instant smash, mainly due to the great cast and especially Peter O'Toole. Peter went off to make “Lawrence of Arabia” so Michael stayed behind and went on tour in his role in “The Long and the Short and the Tall” for the next few months.
On Michael's return to London he was arrested for the non-payment of maintenance to Patricia and Dominique Micklewhite and he was ordered by the court to pay 3 pounds 10 shilling per week, which was all Michael had on him at that time, or go to jail.
1960 came with a rocky start but financially it was Michael's best year so far. Michael played a small part in a BBC Book Programme in which they dramatized a section of the book under discussion. This was not an earth shattering job but it meant that Michael met the director John McGrath who became a good friend. Michael also met the play write Harold Pinter, who wrote the play “The Room” in which Michael appeared.
Michael got to know John McGrath even better which then led to Michael staring in his TV play called “The Compartment”. This play proved to be a success in many ways for Michael as it proved to many people that he could remember 45 minutes of dialogue. But the most satisfying and beneficial sign that the play and Michael were a success came a little while after it was broadcast when Roger Moore, who was already famous for the series Ivanhoe, walked up to Michael and told him that he was going to be a big star.
That year Michael had five major parts on TV thanks to “The Compartment” and he was in a play by Troy Kennedy Martin who later wrote the film “The Italian Job”.
Michael now had a new agent Dennis Selinger who had taken Michael on after seeing “The Compartment”. Dennis was the biggest agent in England and he sent Michael a play from a producer called Michael Codron. The play was called “Next Time I’ll Sing to You” by James Saunders. The play was a big hit with the critics and ended up moving from the Arts Theatre to the Criterion Theatre in Piccadilly. Michael was at last in the West End.
One night at the end of a performance of “Next Time I’ll Sing to You”, Stanley Baker, one of the biggest stars in the British Cinema, came backstage and told Michael about a part in the film “Zulu”. It was now 1963 and “Zulu” was to be shot in the Drakensberg Mountains in northern south Africa. “Zulu” took 3 months to film and Michael was very homesick, as the plane took off from Johannesburg airport there was a load cheer.
Michael returned to London with most of his £4000 fee intact as accommodation and meals had been free and there was nowhere else to spend money. Michael immediately went to see Dominique who was now eight years old and crazy for Horses, so Michael bought her one.
Michael’s mother was his next concern, he was not happy with her living in a prefab in such a rough area so moved her into a flat in Brixton. This was ideal at it was a big house divided into flats and some of the other people living there were his mother’s age. Michael’s mother now felt safe and secure and had company. Michael saw the happiness that his money could bring and it was a source of tremendous joy.
In order to get the part in “Zulu” Michael had to sign a 7 year contract with Embassy Pictures. This was to protect their investment in Michael; however the option was on their side only. The day came when Michael received a call to say that Joe would be in London and would like to see Michael. However Joe told Michael that they would not be taking up his option.
The reviews for “Zulu” were good and from this Michael got to play the lead part in a film called “The Ipcress File” and received a 7 year contract. Michael was now 32 years old and at last life was really changing. Suddenly Michael was able to indulge himself in all the material things that had been missing so far.
After the director Lewis Gilbert saw a rough cut of “The Ipcress File”, Michael was offered the part of Alfie in the film “Alfie”. The reviews for “Alfie” were great and it very definitely established Michael as a star.
Suddenly Michael ended up in New York to publicise “Alfie” and “The Ipcress File” and his impossible dream had come true.
“The Ipcress File” had been a big success and the studio decided to film Len Deighton's third novel in the series, “Funeral in Berlin”.
Michael was then offered a part in Otto Premingers new film “Hurry Sundown” for which he needed a Southern accent as the action took place in Louisiana.
After “Hurry Sundown” Michael went from Louisiana, where the temperature rarely dropped below 80 degrees, straight to Helsinki in Finland, where the temperature never went above zero. Michael's trip to Finland was in order to make the third in the Harry Palmer series of spy films, “Billion Dollar Brain”.
Somewhere along the line Michael had picked up a two picture deal with Twentieth Century Fox and the time had come to do the first one called “Deadfall”.
Michael had now settled into a period where he had no social life at all, but just went from one film to another. The moment Michael finished Deadfall in the Studio in London, he was on a plane to Spain to start another film, a Harry Saltzman production, a war film called “Play Dirty”.
Finally it was back to London for a short respite before returning to Majorca to make The Magus which, along with “Deadfall” was the second of Michael’s disastrous two picture deal with Twentieth Century Fox.
It had been 3 years and Michael was finally home in London again and his priority was to find a new flat. He found a beautiful flat in Grosvenor Square which had 3 bedrooms, 2 large lounges, a big hall, an office, a vast kitchen in which you could dine, plus a dining room which Michael immediately turned into a little cinema with a sixteen millimetre projector. Michael also filled the place with state of the art stereo and TV equipment bought all new furniture and gave his old flat to Stanley with everything in it. Stanley was now working in the book department of Selfridges where he was very happy. Michael, now comfortably ensconced in his new abode, looked at his life to see if there was anything missing. After great consideration Michael came to the conclusion that now at the age of 35 it was time to acquire a car, Michael could not drive but decided that he had enough money for a chauffeur.
Michael’s next film, “The Italian Job”, started shooting in London directed by a young newcomer called Peter Collinson. This was followed was with an all-star cast blockbuster movie, “The Battle of Britain”.
Michael went on to film “Too Late the Hero”, a world war two story of a battle between a small unit of British Soldiers and one American against the Japanese. It was to be filmed in the Philippine Jungle and took 22 weeks in temperatures of 120 degrees every day.
It was now 1970 and Michael decided he wanted his mother to have her own house. She was still living in the block of flats in Brixton along with various relatives. Therefore Michael bought a big house in a south London suburb called Streatham and split it into flats so that everyone could move there.
Michael’s next plan was to become a Producer and went into partnership with a friend called Michael Klinger who was a producer by profession. Michael had the rights to a book called “Jacks Return Home”, which together they filmed under the title of “Get Carter”. Unfortunately when the film came out it was slammed by most critics for the violence, it was just too realistic.
The next film Michael made was the only one for which he was never paid. It was called “Kidnapped”, and was based on the novel by Robert Louis Stevenson and filmed on location in Scotland. After 3 hard months of filming, Michael knew “Kidnapped” was going to be a dud, he was now drinking very heavily and smoking about 80 cigarettes a day and consequently not in the best of spirits. He decided to take himself off to the countryside to attempt rehabilitation.
One evening Michael was at a party when he felt someone reach into his pocket remove his cigarettes and throw them in the fire. This person turned out to be Tony Curtis, he said “I’ve been watching you, that’s the third cigarette you have lit since you entered the room and you have only been here 20 minutes”. Tony then proceeded to give Michael a lecture on the dangers of cigarette smoking, this he did with such skill that Michael gave up there and then.
Michael decided to look for a new home and found a beautiful 2 hundred year old water mill in a little village just outside Windsor, called Clewer. It had a hundred yards of frontage to the Thames, a small stream running through the middle of it, and the actual house stood right on the main side-stream and millrace with the millwheel in it. It was not in a good state and the garden was derelict which was exactly what Michael was looking for, he decided that his garden would be his Therapy, it was perfect.
Michael then received a phone call from Dennis saying that he was sending a script for him to read to star in a film with Elizabeth Taylor. It was called “Zee and Co” and was written by Edna O’Brien.
One night in 1971 Michael and his friend Paul were watching TV when an ad for Maxwell House coffee comes on. There was the most beautiful girl Michael had ever seen. The effect the girl was having on Michael was extraordinary. Michael’s friend Paul asked him what was wrong and Michael replied “that girl, she’s beautiful” “I want to meet her”. The following evening, at a club, Michael bumped into Nigel Politzer who worked for the company that made the commercial. Nigel told Michael that the girls name was Shakira Baksh and that she was Indian not Brazil. He mentioned that Shakira lived somewhere in the Fulham Road, which was only a mile away. Nigel agreed that he would phone Shakira for Michael the following morning.
After a restless night Michael was woken by a phone call from Nigel informing him that Shakira had agreed to a call from him. Michael decided that he would take the bull by the horns and and called her asking her out for dinner. Shakira said that she was busy for the next week and asked Michael to ring her in 10 days’ time.
For the next 10 days Michael was in a trance. He phoned Shakira again and she said agreed to go for a meal but said she would pick him up. Shakira arrived at 8 o’clock and Michael could not believe how beautiful She was. As he took her hand he could feel vibrations through his hands and he thought of something the French say about love: L’amour, c’est une question de peau: love is a question of skin… Michael suddenly realised that he had not spoken yet and asked Shakira to come in, but no actual sound came out. Michael cleared his throat and had another go, Shakira at last got came into Michael's flat and into his life forever.
After that evening Michael saw Shakira constantly, until she had to go off and do a modelling job in Mexico and Michael had to go to Malta to make a movie called “Pulp”. Michael and Shakira talked as often as they could by phone and the moment Shakira finished working she joined Michael in Malta and they have remained together ever since.
Back in England Michael invited Shakira to move into his flat and they settled down to a sort of married life without the ceremony. Very soon the lease was up on the flat and they decided to live in Windsor full time without a London base. Shakira at this time pointed out to Michael that he was drinking 2 or more bottles of vodka a day. This came as a complete surprise to Michael and was such a shock that he gave up drinking altogether for a year. Life was suddenly completely different and absolutely perfect, and to top it all Michael received an invitation to star opposite Lawrence Oliver in the film version of Anthony in the film version of Anthony Shaffers play “Sleuth”.
In January 1973 Michael and Shakira decided to get married in Las Vegas, they decided that they didn’t want a big fuss and they chose the romantically named “little chapel on the green”.
On July 1973 Shakira gave birth to a baby girl of 6lb 12oz which they called Natasha.
Michael next movie in England was called “The Romantic English Women” and was Michael’s first foray into the realms of “artistic films”. The film was not only very convoluted it was also downright grim. Michael decided to do it because the director Joe Losey had a tremendous reputation for being “artistic”. “The Romantic English Woman” not only flopped financially but the critics didn’t like it much either.
Michael and Shakira spent mini honeymoons in Paris, usually over a long weekend every three or four months. During one of these trips Michael received a phone call from John Huston, he nearly dropped the phone. John was the one director whom Michael actually idolised. John asked Michael to come and see him at his hotel, he wanted Michael to be in the film of a short story by Rudyard Kipling called “The Man Who Would be King” and it was to be shot in Morocco.
The night before they started shooting they were having dinner when John Huston dropped the bombshell that the girl who was to play the part of the beautiful Indian princess was no longer available. Shakira was sitting at the table and suddenly said firmly “I am not going to play the Part”. Over the following days John persuaded Shakira to play the part. Michael is very proud that he is in “The Man Who Would be King” he feels that it is one of the finest films he has been in.
It is now 1976 and Michael's next movie was in England on location in a place called Mapledurham. The film was called “The Eagle Has Landed,” the story of a band of German commandos who were sent to England during the war to assassinate Winston Churchill.
One of Michael's dreams had been to open a Restaurant and one day he was introduced to Peter Langam who already owned a restaurant, and he told Michael to come and see him when he was ready. When Michael next saw Peter he told Michael that he had taken on a lease of a very well known “society” restaurant called Coq D’or. He offered Michael a third share of the action for twenty five thousand pounds. Langan’s Brasserie opened very quietly on a Monday night with just a few friends and passers-by. The restaurant soon became the place to be seen.
On a different Monday morning Michael’s accountant asked to see him as a matter of urgency. It turned out that Michael and Shakira would either have to cut their standard of living or leave England, as Michael was paying so much tax he was being left penniless. Michael and Shakira made the decision to move to Los Angeles, the only trouble was the houses were very expensive. Michael immediately accepted a role in the film “The Silver Bears” followed by a film called “The Swarm” and returned to England with a quarter of a million towards his house in America.
On the 3rd January 1979 Michael and Shakira flew to Los Angeles after selling the Mill House to Jimmy Page of the Rock group Led Zeppelin for three quarters of a million pounds. Michael and Shakira settled into their new home quickly and soon were receiving invites from many people. Michael's work situation, however, was not quite so rosy.
Before they left England Michael had done a short stint on a brilliant movie called “California Suite” by Neil Simon. For the first time Michael was playing a homosexual. “California Suite” got good reviews and so did Michael. Once Michael was living in Hollywood, he was rescued by his old friend Irwin Allen again, who invited him to star in “Beyond the Poseidon Adventure”, a sequel to his successful “The Poseidon Adventure”. The story was about an ocean liner that had capsized at sea.
Professionally Michael’s luck was still running cold and unfortunately he ended up with four clunkers in a row. Michael needed a miracle and this came in the shape of a film entitled “Dressed to Kill”. Michael’s role was somewhat bizarre; he was a transvestite psychiatrist murderer.
Michael and Shakira had now been in America for three years and it was now time for Michael to go off to Hungary and start a new film called “Escape to victory”.
Although Michael was enjoying his life in Los Angeles he knew deep down that his heart was still in England. Michael could now legally spend ninety days per year in England and tried to use them up every year.
Michael found that he had become a sort of British Social Ambassador whenever royalty or the aristocracy came to visit America. On one occasion Michael attended a big affair when her Majesty the Queen came to visit. Michael found himself his mind wondering, pondering over something when he heard a familiar voice, it was the Queen. She asked Michael if he knew any Jokes, Michael replied “yes but very few that I could tell you”. “Have a go” she said “and then I will tell you one”. For the rest of the evening the swap jokes.
Michael turned down the picture “Norma Ray” in favour of “Educating Rita”. “Educating Rita” is about a working class girl who tries to better herself with education, and her relationship with the professor who becomes her mentor.
Michael went off on his own to Mexico to shoot his next film. He hated leaving without his family but Natasha was happy at Marymount School in Westwood and Shakira was deliriously content with her life in Hollywood. The Film was called “The Honorary Consul” in which Michael plays the Consul himself. The picture was not well received in America. The nail in the coffin came when the title was changed to “Beyond the limit”.
Michael and Shakira had now been in Hollywood for 5 years and made some tremendous friends and enjoyed a happy, comfortable life. However, Michael had been unhappy for some time and Shakira had noticed this. They made a deal that if Michael's performance in “Educating Rita” didn’t get an Oscar, there was no reason to stay in America. Robert Duvall won the Oscar for best actor and Michael was going home.
“Blame it on Rio” was Michael’s next project which was a risqué comedy about a man who is seduced by his best friends’ young daughter.
In the summer of 1984 Michael and Shakira decided to look for a home in England. After a long search they eventually found an ideal property in Oxfordshire and agreed to rent it for the summer and then buy it. The property was in a mess and would need a lot of renovation to make it as Michael and Shakira wanted.
In November 1984 Michael went to New York to film “Hannah and Her Sisters”.
In June 1985 Michael's friend Marty Bregman invited him to play a small but smashing part in his new film “Sweet Liberty”. The following February Michael went back to England to film Freddie Forsyth’s novel “The Fourth Protocol”.
After working on a small budget movie called “The Whistle Blower” in the South of France Michael and Shakira fled back to Los Angeles to do more packing.
Michael was then offered a small part in the fourth of the “Jaws” series of films. Whilst filming the picture in Nassau Michael was informed that he had won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for the film “Hannah and her Sisters”.
The house in Oxfordshire was finally finished in the summer of 1987.
In 1988 a writer director, called David Wickes, sent Michael a script based on a new and intriguing theory of the true identity of Jack the Ripper. He wanted Michael to play the real life detective who investigated the Ripper case. It became a miniseries and was a massive success all over the world.
Michael then stared in a comedy movie called “Dirty Rotten scoundrels” followed by a small budget thriller called Shock to the System, shot in New York.
On Michael’s return to England he plunged straight into his second miniseries for TV, “The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde”.
Michael’s next role was in the movie version of “Noises Off” which was to be made at Universal Studios in Los Angeles. This gave Michael and Shakira a chance to find a home to buy there.
In 1992 Michael produced “Blue Ice” and opened a new restaurant “The Canteen” in Chelsea Harbour. He then played Scrooge in the Muppets movie version of the Charles Dickens “A Christmas Carol” and wrote his first autobiography “What’s it all About?”