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Ragamuffin Gunner

The Elephant to Hollywood

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I'm not usually one for biographies or autobiographies, but occasionally one will catch my eye in the local library which, going purely by the subject of the book, will tempt me.  Michael Caine has been around the movie scene for 40 plus years, and at various times when I have either seen him as a guest on TV chat shows or heard him being interviewed on radio, has always come across as something of a raconteur extraordinaire.


It was only when I started the book that it immediately became apparent that this is, in fact, his second autobiographical outing, the first being titled "What's it all about?" and the very first page of the first chapter indicates that that book had taken the reader up to around 1991/2.  However, that is not to say that this book starts in 1992 and merely brings the reader up to the present day.


Quite what the content and structure of the first tome comprised I do not know, having not been aware of its existence prior to reading "Elephant", but this one reaches back to Caine's early days growing up in the Elephant & Castle area of South London, his mis/fortunes as a struggling actor in the late 1950s, through his breakthrough roles in the 1960s and eventually up to 2010.


Caine has a fairly distinct voice and you can almost hear the memories and stories of his life and career being told in that voice as you read.  As with many autobiographies, there is a liberal dose of name-dropping but then again those are the circles the likes of Michael Caine move in, and the great and good of the movie world do provide some quite amusing tales.


He is also aware throughout the book that his career has not always been one long roller-coaster of success, and that there have been some quite long times when he thought the movie business had finished with him, only to be resurrected by an unexpected role, such as his Oscar-winning turn in The Cider House Rules, and then a number of run-outs in the second tranche of Batman films as Alfred the butler.


Taken as a whole, I would interpret that Caine's career has probably had a small number of real stand-out moments (Alfie, The Man Who Would Be King, Get Carter, The Italian Job, Cider House Rules among them) some of which have almost become quite iconic, certainly with the British public, and I for one view him as a particularly British actor.  By his own admission there has been a healthy amount of dross too, and he makes no attempt to cover up this fact or gloss over it, to his credit.


His sense of family and friends and their importance in his life is expressed strongly, you feel his sadness and sense of loss at the     friends he has lost along the way, but also celebrate his obvious love for his family.


An enjoyable read on the whole, not taxing by any means, but if you are a fan of MIchael Caine I suspect you too will get something from this book.



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