Every fact has its day, but insights are rare in this comprehensive yet lackluster biography of the recently knighted actor by a veteran British celebrity chronicler.
Caine’s life, a quintessential rags-to-riches story, is potentially interesting, even dramatic. Born Maurice Micklewhite in 1933, he was a London Cockney with an accent to match. His father was unemployed during the Depression, and his mother worked as a cleaning lady to support the family. Now Sir Michael Caine lives in suitable style in upscale Surrey. But the passage to stardom and money was rocky. Until he was 30, Caine played mostly small, often non-speaking parts in plays, movies, and TV shows. His career took off when he was given the role of a British officer in the 1963 movie epic Zulu. The part meant money, recognition, and, best of all, more parts—and Hall lists them all: the good, the bad, and the best forgotten. The author extensively describes such great hits as Alfie, Sleuth, The Man Who Would Be King, and the two movies that won him Oscars: Hannah and Her Sisters and Cider House Rules. Caine’s early first marriage ended shortly after his daughter’s birth in 1955, and his dating habits in the years between then and his 1973 marriage to Guyanan beauty queen Shakira Baksh earned him a reputation as a womanizer. Hall also describes Caine’s working relationships with such stars as Elizabeth Taylor and Laurence Olivier (both good), and his relocation to L.A. in the 1970s to avoid paying high British taxes. Homesick, he came back in 1987, but he irritated some fans by complaining about the British class system. In a speech in the late 1990s, he observed, “I had an awkward voice and a duff accent when people were writing plays about chaps coming through French windows in cricket jumpers.”
A serviceable reference for fans and moviegoers.