What’s It All About, Alfie?

Michael Caine

Michael Caine was one of the coolest actors working during the ’60s and ’70s but he was also incredibly sexy. He had unconventional good looks and I love the thick black glasses he used to wear that often hid his eyes and amazingly long lashes. Michael Caine may have played a British tough guy on numerous occasions but he had some of the loveliest eyes I’ve ever seen on an actor. He’s also incredibly talented and appeared in a lot of terrific movies including The Ipcress File (1965), Alfie (1966), Gambit (1966), Funeral in Berlin (1966), Billion Dollar Brain (1967), Deadfall (1968), The Magus (1968), The Italian Job (1969), Get Carter (1970), Sleuth (1972) and John Huston’s remarkable epic adventure, The Man Who Would Be King (1975), which was recently re-released on DVD and Blu-Ray a few weeks ago, just to name a few. Caine’s lengthy filmography is incredibly impressive, which is why he’s a living legend today. If you’re interested in learning more about the actor I highly recommend his 1992 autobiography “What’s It All About?” I recently picked up a copy for 50 cents at my local Goodwill store and it was a fast and fun read. Michael Caine writes with the same sense of humor that is apparent in many of the interviews he’s done. Here’s a few choice quotes from his book…
Michael Caine

“One of the biggest movie companies in Britain at the time was Associated British Pictures, who ran their operation like an old Hollywood studio, with a rota of actors under contract. I was sent to see their chief casting director, a very powerful man called Robert Lennard… “My son is an accountant.” he said, “and he has more chance of success in this business than you do.” I sat there quite numb but smiling. He went on, “This may sound unkind, but you will thank me in the long run. I know this business well and I can assure you that you have no future in it. Give it up, Michael.”

“Terry (Stamp) and I made a pact at the beginning of the year. Because our profession was so unpredictable and we never knew who was going to be making any money, we promised each other that whichever one of us was working, if the other one could not pay his share of the rent, the one with the money would cough up. We shook hands on the deal, a sign of the true bond and depth of our friendship, and that is how it remained until we eventually made enough money for flats of our own.”

“The sixties had arrived in London. The Beatles were playing endlessly on the radio, The Rolling Stones were gathering fans and David Bailey was taking pictures of what he called “Dolly Birds.” This particular breed was brand new and all of a sudden more numerous than the London sparrow. All at once it seemed that every pretty girl with no tits was modeling clothes and every pretty girl with big tits was modeling those.”
Michael Caine

“I had never imagined that Alfie would be released in the US and had played the role in a very thick Cockney accent with lots of slang words that would have made it impossible for an American to understand. Shelly Winters once told me many years later that she had never understood a single word I said to her in Alfie, and had just waited for my lips to stop moving and taken that as her cue to speak.”

“Working with Sean (Connery) was an absolute joy for me. I had rarely worked with an actor who was so unselfish and generous, so much so that you could experiment and take chances and not expect to find a knife in your back if it went wrong. We did all sorts of improvisations, which are less easy in films than in the theatre because of the technology involved, but it was all done in a completely relaxed atmosphere, because John (Huston) trusted us and we trusted each other.”

“There used to be a hardware store right on Beverly Hills Drive* where you could buy mundane things like nails and string, but where you could see the most extraordinary people buying them. I once saw Fred Astaire buying sandpaper and Danny Kaye buying one light bulb. The most frightening sight I ever saw during my whole stay in America was in that hardware store. I hid behind a shelf of tools and watched Klaus Kinski buying an axe. It cleared the store.”

*I believe Michael Caine is referring to Hollywood’s historic Pioneer Hardware store on Crescent Dr. in Beverly Hills, where you can still purchase some sandpaper or an axe if the need ever arises.