Tony Earn­shaw

Yorkshire Post - Culture & The Guide - - 2/STAGE -

Michael Caine, that great ex­po­nent of 60s cock­ney cool, turned 84 this week.

It was merely co­in­ci­dence that I was dis­cussing him with a col­league, ru­mi­nat­ing on his var­i­ous tri­umphs, the peaks and troughs of his long ca­reer and the fact that he and Sean Con­nery were pretty much our only in­ter­na­tional stars dur­ing the mean years of the 1970s.

I say mean years be­cause the Bri­tish film in­dus­try ground to a stand­still. In­ter­na­tional com­pa­nies closed their Lon­don pro­duc­tion of­fices and de­camped back to Los An­ge­les and New York. It was a som­bre time to be a Bri­tish ac­tor.

But Caine (and Con­nery) had evolved be­yond home-grown sta­tus to be bank­able Hol­ly­wood stars. They were A-lis­ters of the high­est cal­i­bre. Yet Caine is also the first to ad­mit that he has made more than his fair share of stinkers – prob­a­bly be­cause he’s made more films than many of his con­tem­po­raries. On a 5-1 ra­tio he’s made some clas­sics. So on the back of Ed­u­cat­ing Rita we can for­give him for dross like Ashanti and Jaws: The Re­venge.

Then there’s the ex­cel­lent

Lit­tle Voice, made by Bridling­ton­born Mark Her­man and shot on lo­ca­tion in an out-of-sea­son Scar­bor­ough in the win­ter of 1997 with co-stars Brenda Blethyn and Jim Broad­bent.

Caine’s mem­o­ries of that time in­clude trips out to a restau­rant on the North York Moors where he, Broad­bent and oth­ers would tuck into “the best steak and kid­ney pud­ding I’ve ever had in my life. I used to take all my lads – the driver, the dresser and all that – and it was great.”

He added: “Scar­bor­ough is a strange town but it’s a won­der­ful town to walk in. There’s a big band­stand there, on the front, and it was cold, win­try and empty.”

Mark Her­man’s is just one of the names on Caine’s cin­e­matic CV. Over more than 60 years – he made his film de­but in A Hill in Korea in 1956 – he’s worked with ev­ery­one from John Hus­ton to Christo­pher Nolan, who seem­ingly ac­quired Caine as a tal­is­man in the Bat­man movies and be­yond.

Like his buddy Con­nery, who was a Scot even when he played a Rus­sian, a Nor­we­gian or an Egyp­tian, Caine has res­o­lutely played a vari­a­tion of him­self. The Lon­don tim­bre of the Ele­phant & Cas­tle may have been toned down for the ca­reer soldier in Zulu but it reap­peared reg­u­larly over the next 50 years. Only the crit­ics crit­i­cised; au­di­ences loved it.

I last saw Caine a few years back for the re­lease of In­ter­stel­lar, Nolan’s sci-fi epic that of­fered hope for the fu­ture. Caine’s re­ac­tion: “I’m 81, so I’m pos­i­tive!”

You can’t say fairer than that…

Caine is the first to ad­mit that he has made more

than his fair share of

stinkers.

Cul­ture, The York­shire Post, No.1 Leeds, 26 White­hall Road, Leeds LS1 1BE. To ad­ver­tise: Tracey Ball tel 0113 238 8987; [email protected] Ed­i­to­rial: Sarah Free­man tel 0113 238 8952; sarah.free­[email protected]

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