Vintage Hunk: Michael Caine

By: Mike McCrann

"What's it all about, Alfie?"

Michael Caine has been a star for over five decades, winning two Best Supporting Oscars and continually working as he nears his 80th birthday. But before Caine became Sir Michael and won those awards, he was famous for his brash, sexy performances in Alfie and a number of other films made during the "swinging sixties."

Maurice Joseph Micklewhite was born in London in 1933. His mom was a cook and his father worked in a fish market. With his Cockney accent he was definitely not "to the manor born" in class-conscious Great Britain. After military service and some odd jobs, Maurice became Michael Caine. A dozen minor roles led to his being cast in Zulu and as spy Harry Palmer in The Ipcress File.

Then in 1966 Caine became an international movie star with Alfie— the raucous story of Alfie Elkins, the womanizing Cockney who narrates his own story of female conquests. Caine was nominated for an Academy Award for his swaggering belligerent anti-hero. Audiences did not know quite what to make of Caine. He certainly was not movie star handsome like earlier stars, nor even handsome like fellow American rising stars Steve McQueen and Warren Beatty. And yet Caine was incredibly sexy with his bristling energy, great accent and burning talent.

But this was just the beginning. Caine soon starred in a string of films—some of them notorious flops like Hurry Sundown, Otto Preminger's legendary stinker set in the deep South. But the good films like Sleuth, Gambit and The Wrong Box showed that Caine was a fine actor. In Sleuth he more than held his own with the great Laurence Olivier and they were both nominated for the Best Actor Oscar for this tantalizing mystery. Two of the least known Caine films are X, Y and Zee with Elizabeth Taylor and Peeper with gorgeous Natalie Wood are cult films of the era.

In 1975 Michael Caine and Sean Connery were excellent in a great John Huston adventure film, the wonderful Kipling-esque The Man Who Would be King. This was followed in 1986 when Caine won his first Oscar for the Woody Allen classic Hannah and Her Sisters. Thirteen years later he would win again for his role in The Cider House Rules.

My all-time fave Caine performances are in the Brian de Palma thriller Dressed to Kill where he played a cross dressing murderer, Deathtrap where he kisses and tries to seduce Christopher Reeve in order to steal his hit play, and his Oscar-nominated The Quiet American in which he gives the best performance of his career. The campiest film in Caine's oeuvre is Deadfall from 1968. The plot summary when it ran on the Fox Movie Channel defies belief: "A woman marries her gay father and also takes up with an ex jewel thief." If that zinger doesn't make you want to watch, nothing will!

Caine has been married twice. His second marriage to Shakira (not the singer, obviously) has been going since 1973. He has a daughter by each wife.

Michael Caine has aged like fine wine. Nearly 80, he is a silver fox whose awards, knighthood and talent cannot quite hide the sexy Cockney rascal he was back in the '60s. Alfie shows Caine at his pulsating best. He is loud, brash, confident and bursting with sexual energy. Just try looking away.