Daisy Dunn

The Cockney knight

‘Hollywood was different back then.’  For a start, the Awards ceremonies of the ‘60’s weren’t dominated by ‘very small young men who had just been in a vampire film’. Soirees brimmed with the gravitas of Beverley Hills’ most statuesque, those around whom a youthful Michael Caine gawped and assimilated anecdotes until, all of a sudden, he realised he was counted among them.   

Diminutive vampires aside, The Elephant to Hollywood, which is Michael Caine’s second autobiography, contains equal reverence for a select crème of today’s acting talent, and the giants of the Hollywood heyday. Jude Law received mixed reviews for Alfie, but Caine can’t rate him highly enough. Even the original Alfie of 1966, in which Caine plays the eponymous lothario, had its critics. The French, Caine recalls, ‘couldn’t believe that an Englishman could attract one woman, let alone ten of them’. But for the most part, Alfie and its aftermath affirmed that Michael Caine had made it. It was the first of his movies to earn him an Academy nomination and a US release, as well as a more literal release – from the clutches of the Taiwan police. When it transpired that a girl he’d bedded in a break from filming Too late the Hero was a Chinese dignitary’s daughter, Caine only escaped scot free because of his prosecutor’s awe. ‘”You are Alfie! Me,” he thumped himself on his chest, “I am Chinese Alfie! I fuck many women.” Yeah, right, I thought, but I nodded vigorously.’

The book teams with hilarious anecdotes like these, but certainly doesn’t hang upon memorable one-liners. Caine’s father was an uneducated fish market porter who loved reading biographies. In his 79th year and second autobiography, Michael Caine seems driven, more than anything, by a desire to do his father’s spirit proud.

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