Celebrated British actor Sir Michael Caine celebrates his 80th birthday on March 14. Mr. Caine, (born Maurice Micklewhite), is one of only two actors to be nominated for an Academy Award for acting in every decade from the 1960s-2000s (the other is Jack Nicholson). This week, The List looks at 10 of Mr. Caine’s best movies.
- 10. Noises Off (1992) - In this hilarious play within a play, Mr. Caine is the narrator and exasperated director, as rehearsals for the play are seen from the auditorium and backstage. The slapstick happens at a demanding pace. The cast also included Carol Burnett, Christopher Reeve, John Ritter, Marilu Henner, Denholm Elliott, Nicolette Sheridan, Julie Hagerty and Mark Linn-Baker.
- 9. Alfie (1966) -Mr. Caine is a self-centered, working-class London playboy, portraying one of cinema’s brutish womanisers in this pre-feminist morality tale. The film epitomized all that was bad about the Swinging Sixties and earned Mr. Caine a Oscar nomination for best actor. The film is sprinkled with fine actresses: Shelley Winters, Jane Asher, Julia Foster, Millicent Martin, Eleanor Bron, Vivien Merchant and Shirley Anne Field.
- 8. The Ipcress File (1965) -Mr. Caine stars as Harry Palmer, a secret agent recruited from the Army to investigate the disappearance of British scientists during the Cold War. In this classic espionage film, Mr. Caine’s Palmer is the antithesis of James Bond — a dull and cerebral agent. It worked, and solidified his early career. He went on to play Palmer in “Funeral in Berlin” and “The Billion Dollar Brain.” In 1999 the film was ranked 59th on the British Film Institute’s list of the 100 best British films of the 20th century.
- 7. The Man Who Would Be King (1975) - In this John Huston epic, Mr. Caine and Sir Sean Connery star as two former British soldiers who set up their own pocket kingdom in a fictional area of Afghanistan. The film is a ripping adventure yarn based on a Rudyard Kipling story. The banter between Mr. Caine’s and Mr. Connery’s characters is extremely believable. Huston originally intended Clark Gable and Humphrey Bogart for the lead roles.
- 6. Sleuth (1972) - In this excellent cat-and-mouse crime game, Andrew Wyke (Mr. Caine) goes up against Milo Tindle (Laurence Olivier), a vicious aristocrat who accuses Wyke of being his wife’s lover. In the 2007 remake, which was also pretty good, Mr. Caine took on Mr. Olivier’s role and Jude Law played Mr. Caine’s role. Both Mr. Caine and Mr. Olivier earned Oscar nominations for the original version.
- 5. The Eagle Has landed (1976) - In this World War II adventure adapted from Jack Higgins’ novel, Mr. Caine plays Oberst Steiner, a German parachute unit commander who is sent to England on a covert mission to kidnap Winston Churchill. Donald Sutherland and Robert Duvall also star in this faced-paced, solid war classic.
- 4. Italian Job (1969) - In this British crime caper, Mr. Caine plays a crook called Charlie Croker, who leads a group of bank-heist cronies in stealing a haul of gold bullion. Who can forget the classic scene where three Mini Coopers drive across rooftops in Turin as they evade the Italian police following the robbery? In real life, Mr. Caine didn’t learn to drive until the mid-1980s, when he was 50. The film has become a cult classic and was named the 27th greatest British film of all time by Total Film magazine in November 2004.
- 3. Get Carter (1971) -Mr. Caine assumes one of his most violent roles in this dark revenge film, portraying a mob henchman in Newcastle, England, investigating the suspicious death of his brother. Mr. Caine has a cameo appearance in Sylvester Stallone’s 2000 remake.
- 2. Educating Rita (1983) - Mr. Caine plays a rundown, alcoholic English professor who seeks to help Rita (Julie Walters), a dissatisfied hairdresser, advance beyond her class, accent and education. The film is based on Willy Russell’s popular play and earned Mr. Caine a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor.
- 1. Zulu (1964) - This was Mr. Caine’s first significant role in his long film career. He plays an upper-crust officer in command of a Welsh regiment at the Battle of Rorke’s Drift during the 1879 Zulu War in which 150 British soldiers successfully held off an army of 4,000 Zulu warriors. Mr. Caine originally was hoping to play a cockney corporal but lost the part to a friend. Director Cy Endfield asked him if he could do a posh accent. “I played posh parts many times,” said Mr. Caine. “There’s no accent I can’t do.” He was then given the role of the Lt. Gonville Bromhead and his career took off.
Best of the rest - Battle of Britain, Deathtrap, Harry Brown, The Muppet Christmas Carol, Prestige, A Bridge Too Far, Batman Begins/Dark Knight/Dark Knight Rises, Little Voice, Hannah And Her Sisters, The Quiet American and The Cider House Rules.
Compiled by John Haydon
Sources: Daily Mirror, The Sun, The Globe and Mail (Canada), The Independent (London) and The Washington Times.
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