Book Review-The Elephant To Hollywood by Michael Caine

Michael Caine - Actor and Story Teller

Michael Caine is a Londoner and proud of it - born in Southwark in 1933, he spent most of his life up to becoming famous living in the capital and indeed many times during this second autobiography he returns to those places which he believes have shaped him as an individual.

Michael Caine is a born storyteller - I bought the Kindle version of this memoir but would quite liked to have listened to it in audio-book format because has a wonderful conversational style of writing.

It is as if you're having a cup of tea with him and he's telling you his life story.

A markerelephant and castle -
Elephant and Castle, London Borough of Southwark, SE1, UK
[get directions]

This is the area of London to which Michael Caine moved after being evacuated to Norfolk during World War 2.

The Elephant & Castle

London has some unusually named place but perhaps The Elephant and Castle is one of the more unusual names.

Its name comes from the fact that a coaching inn called 'The Elephant and Castle' was situated in that area in the eighteenth century.

Michael Caine moved there after being evacuated to Norfolk during the Second World War.

His childhood years were ones of hardship but also much love and he discusses his father's job at Billingsgate Fish Market and of the long hours he worked, leaving Michael and his brother Stanley much of the time with his mother.

He has enormous love and respect for his mother and this really comes across in The Elephant to Hollywood. She was clearly someone who wanted the best for her boys and did her absolute best to make sure they got what they needed.


Michael Caine Knows Himself

One of the most noticeable things about The Elephant to Hollywood is Michael Caine's name-dropping and when you read famous name after famous name - Jack Nicholson, Sean Connery, Roger Moore, Terence Stamp, etc etc you get quite jaded by it.

This is mainly because the stories are very superficial for the most part. Yes, we get to hear about Jack Nicholson and I don't doubt they had some adventures together when they were both single but Michael Caine is first and foremost a gentlemen - and gentlemen keep their secrets.

My desire to read some rip roaring tales of hard partying were not satisfied but I enjoyed this book nonetheless. Caine's book is not about what he got up to in his time off, it's about how he became the man he is now and that is a much more interesting story.

Michael Caine in this country is much imitated - his voice is perhaps one of the most recognisable to movie audiences because he has made so little attempt to give up his cockney dialect. He discusses this in the book and indeed some of his earlier movies, Alfie, The Italian Job and The Ipcress File all have his Cockney accent as an important element of the character; they identify him to the audience as a man from a certain place in the world with a certain British street smartness perhaps not seen in Harry Palmer's alter-ego, James Bond.

The video I have included has him dong an impression of people doing an impression of him - it is very funny, Michael Caine has always been able to laugh at himself.

As Gonvile Bromhead in Zulu (with Stanley Baker)
As Gonvile Bromhead in Zulu (with Stanley Baker)
Harry Palmer, bespectacled cooking spy
Harry Palmer, bespectacled cooking spy
As Alfie getting up to no good with Shelley Winters
As Alfie getting up to no good with Shelley Winters
In the iconic gritty villain movie, 'Get Carter'
In the iconic gritty villain movie, 'Get Carter'

No Overnight Success

Part of the joy of reading this memoir is Michael Caine's honest opinion of himself as someone who had been sometimes unlucky, sometimes lucky and was often in the right place at the right time.

After Caine appeared in a TV play,'The Compartment', Roger Moore saw him and Terence Stamp in the west end of London. Moore wound down the car window and shouted "Weren't you in 'The Compartment'?" Caine nodded, amazed to see Roger Moore, then already a big international star in 'The Saint' addressing him in person. Moore continued "I just want to tell you, you're going to be a big star." smiled and drove off.

When Stanley Baker visited him backstage when he was performing in a play 'Next Time I'll Sing To You' to tell him there might be a part for him in a new movie he was making, 'Zulu' Caine went to the audition only to be told he didn't look Cockney enough but because he was tall and blonde, he could pass for a British officer.

Although amused by this, Caine got the role and was offered a 7 year contract with Embassy Films on the back of his audition success.

After the movie, Embassy Films' boss Joe Levine released him from the contract telling him "I know you're not but you gotta face the fact that you look like a queer on screen." Embassy Pictures wanted romantic leads and Levine just didn't see Caine as 'romantic'. Poor Michael.

This could have put some people off altogether but not Michael Caine. On more than one ocassion he was warned off becoming an actor by producers, directors and even his own agent but he kept followed his dream.

Eventually, he was offered the role of Harry Palmer in 'The Ipcress File' and then 'Alfie' "because 'you're a Cockney bloke who likes women." and in turn 'The Italian Job' and 'Get Carter'.

Many of Michael Caine's movies are considered 'iconic' now - a spy who wore glasses and cooked (in the sixties? Unheard of!), a womaniser without conscience who talked straight into the camera, a heist using Mini Cooper cars and the mastermind skills of Noel Coward and a hard man returning to his urban past to 'remove' those who have killed his brother.

Michael Caine got lucky with scripts but he brought something of his own to the screen - real talent; even if he didn't realise it at the time, Roger Moore was right - he was going to be a big star.

Acting Awards

For all of the impressionists this side of the Atlantic who have mercilessly portrayed him as a perennial Cockney, Michael Caine has shown himself to be a very good actor.

He admits throughout the memoir that he sometimes took work because either he needed money or he needed to keep himself out there so that directors knew he was still out there. He has, as a result, made some absolutely awful movies. He wasn't bad in them, they were just bad movies.

He has been Oscar nominated a number of times and won twice for Woody Allen's 'Hannah and Her Sisters' and more recently for 'Cider House Rules'.

Other movies for which he was nominated get a mention in the book, among them 'California Suite' and 'The Quiet American'.

At the end of the memoir he also discusses his favourite roles. I rather enjoyed this part of the book because it is always interesting to read about why actors are tempted by certain roles.

His Favourite 'Own' Movies
The Ipcress File
The Man Who Would Be King
The Italian Job
Dirty, Rotten Scoundrels
Get Carter
The Quiet American
Hannah and Her Sisters
The Cider House Rules
Harry Brown

Which of his favourites is your favourite Michael Caine movie?

  • 14% Zulu
  • 7% The Ipcress File
  • 14% Alfie
  • 0% Sleuth
  • 0% The Man Who Would Be King
  • 0% The Italian Job
  • 29% Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
  • 7% Get Carter
  • 0% The Quiet American
  • 0% Hannah and Her Sisters
  • 7% The Cider House Rules
  • 0% Harry Brown
  • 21% None, I have my own favourite
14 people have voted in this poll.

This poll is now closed to voting.

Michael Caine now
Michael Caine now

Michael Caine Is Still A Star

In his memoir Michael Caine comments at length on the movie industry's movement towards blockbuster action movies and the like but he still seems to seek out the smaller or more different roles.

He also accepts that with age come different sorts of roles.

This has not stopped him remaining a popular actor and he does comedy very well, appearing in 'Austin Powers- Goldmember' as Austin's father to great applause. He also appeared as Ray Say in 'Little Voice' to great effect.

More lately he has taken over the role of Batman's butler, Alfred. A role he says he rather enjoys.

If you have read his first autobiography, 'What's It All About' then you may be disappointed to discover that he does cover some of the same ground in 'The Elephant To Hollywood' but personally, I did not feel that this spoiled the book. It is some time since I read it and it was just as interesting reading about his time spent with his greatest mentor in America, Shirley MacLaine and his acting with Laurence Olivier as it was in 1992.

Michael Caine truly is a star and has been a star since the early sixties. He has grown with each new role and still has the star quality on screen now to have viewers admire him in the ways they did back in 1964.

I recommend this memoir if you want a truthful account of a nice Cockney boy's journey from his working class home to the Hollywood Hills.

It is a well paced, conversational memoir without any bitchiness (for a change) that shows that Michael Caine throughout his life has managed to keep one foot firmly in the Elephant and Castle whilst enjoying the stardom and all that entails in Hollywood - he has done well for himself and he knows it but he never takes it for granted.

Many thanks for reading.

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Book Review Michael Caine The Elephant To Hollywood Comments 42 comments

JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 2 years ago from Deep South, USA

Some of his earlier films (from the 1950s) are difficult to find, but of the ones you listed I enjoy "The Ipcress File", "The Man who would be King", "Dirty Rotton Scoundrels" and "Sleuth." I also like "Gambit", "Educating Rita", "The Italian Job", "Noises Off", "The Quiet American" and "Harry Brown", most of which are either on Netlix or DVD. It's worth searching through older DVDs at yard sales and in libraries to find one of his that's not easy to come by anywhere else.

Michael Caine is one of those actors who was good at acting when young and is good as an older actor, too. He's equally at home in a dramatic role or a comedy turn. Plus, he makes acting look so easy that the viewer tends to forget he's acting!


Jools99 profile image

Jools99 2 years ago from North-East UK Author

Jaye, I love Michael Caine's books and books - when I see him interviewed I find him really interesting too. Thanks so much for reading this article. Which movie were you watching? My faves are Cider House Rules and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (though I really love Little Voice and The Ipcress Files too) me wanting to rewatch some MC now!

JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 2 years ago from Deep South, USA

I like Michael Caine's acting so much that I re-watch many of his movies on DVD or Netflix. I also read his book and enjoyed it thoroughly.

Voted Up++


Jools99 profile image

Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK Author

James, Many thanks for your kind comment. I must confess that I don't think I have had the pleasure of seeing that one! I will certainly look out for it.

James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 4 years ago from Chicago

I always enjoy Michael Caine in any film it seems. My favorite of his movies is—hands down—Secondhand Lions with Robert Duvall. It is simply marvelous!

Thank you for the pleasure of reading your most excellent review of his book.

James :)

Jools99 profile image

Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK Author

ChristyWrites, sounds like you've had some Cockney forefathers in Canada for that pub! It usually just gets called The Elephant for some reason.

ChristyWrites profile image

ChristyWrites 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

What a thorough hub here Jools. I did not realize how many great movies Mr Caine has been in until I saw your poll. So many good choices! On an interesting note we used to have a restaurant/pub in town here called the Elephant & Castle. I didn't know there is one in London! Vote up and sharing.

Jools99 profile image

Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK Author

Mary, you and I are both Michael Caine fans - "Not a lot of people know that" :o)

mary615 profile image

mary615 4 years ago from Florida

Great review on Michael Caine. He is one of my favorites. I just saw "Harry Brown" on TV last week. Was my kind of movie!

I voted this UP and will share.

Jools99 profile image

Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK Author

b.Malin, many thanks for your comment. I hope you get a chance to read it sometime, it is well worth it.

Jools99 profile image

Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK Author

Gypssy, thanks for your comment. The book is well worth reading.

b. Malin profile image

b. Malin 4 years ago

Hi Jools, I've always enjoyed Michael Caine and so reading your Review, which is Excellent, makes me want to read his book. Thanks so much for sharing his Movies and pictures as well. I also Loved "Cider House Rules".

Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

Gypsy Rose Lee 4 years ago from Riga, Latvia

Great review. I like Michael Caine and this book sounds fascinating. Not your usual biography. passing this on.

Jools99 profile image

Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK Author

Michelle, many thanks (as always) for your comment and for reading the article, I appreciate it :o)

midget38 profile image

midget38 4 years ago from Singapore

I love him too. He is a great actor. I think he is a bit underrated, though, as his acting speaks of quality. Thanks for the share, Jools! Shared, tweeted, voted up!

xstatic profile image

xstatic 4 years ago from Eugene, Oregon

Jools, I am glad you liked the Nora Ephron book. They are all great writing. I am going to find Harry palmer yet!

Jools99 profile image

Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK Author

Mary, Many thanks for the comment; the book is well worth reading if you are able to pick up a sale copy somewhere or maybe a download if you have a Kindle. I just love him!

Jools99 profile image

Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK Author

Graham, many thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment, I appreciate it.

tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 4 years ago from New York

A great review of a great book written by a great actor! You've done a great you get the impression this was a great hub? It was. Voted up, useful, and interesting. Now I want to read the book.

old albion profile image

old albion 4 years ago from Lancashire. England.

Hi Jools. Thanks for a gret review, first class.

Voted up.


Jools99 profile image

Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK Author

Mhatter, thanks so much for your visit and comment - he suffers from something called blefora which is a natural swelling of the eyelids; he thinks this is what gave him a different look. He also wondered whether Robert Michum might have the same thing but never found out.

Jools99 profile image

Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK Author

teaches12345, thanks for dropping by - he's very good as Alfred isn't he? His book is well worth a look, hope you get to read it some time.

Jools99 profile image

Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK Author

Nell, thanks for the visit and comment. I think the impression he does of himself is very funny and the ones doe by Steve Coogan and Rob Bryden on The Trip are both very funny. It is a very good read and a very easy read.

Jools99 profile image

Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK Author

Terrye, thanks for visiting and leaving a comment. He seems to be a favourite with a lot of people.

Mhatter99 profile image

Mhatter99 4 years ago from San Francisco

Good review. Thank you. I like Caine. I think it's his eyes.

teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 4 years ago

Excellent review on one of my favorite actors. I love his voice and he always does come over as a gentleman in person. I enjoy his role in the Batman series as Albert, he plays the part perfectly. I will have to check out his book.

Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 4 years ago from England

Michael Caine is a great actor, and I agree with you, over here everybody knows his voice and they do a good impression of him too! lol! I never knew he had so many films that I have seen in the past, it sounds like a fascinating read, voted up! cheers nell

TToombs08 profile image

TToombs08 4 years ago from Somewhere between Heaven and Hell without a road map.

Mr. Caine is one of my favorite actors and now he's an author as well? Excellent! Jools, you did a wonderful job covering his book as well as Caine himself. Voted up and more. :)

Jools99 profile image

Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK Author

Steve, Thanks for your comment. I really enjoyed the book. He writes in a very relaxed style. I think I missed Zulu when it was on Sky a couple of weeks ago. I tried talking him indoors into watching it but he didn't fancy it. I'll remember that the next time he asks me to watch 'Independence Day' or 'Blade Runner' :o)

Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 4 years ago from London, England

Hi Jools, I read his book last year, bought it second hand from Amazon for a few pennies. I went through a phase when I was reading just actor bios, including Roger Moore and Stewart Granger of all people. :)

I liked Caine's bio, he's a good storyteller and practically every actor he met turned out to be a friend for life. :)

Voted Up and I voted for Zulu, a huge fave of mine.

Jools99 profile image

Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK Author

Martie, thanks for your comment, hope you get to read one soon :o)

Jools99 profile image

Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK Author

Rich, I don't think I have seen The Island and you have now piqued my interest - I just think he's great, although I have seen a few of his stinkers (he's never bad, just the movie - Jaws 3 comes to mind).

MartieCoetser profile image

MartieCoetser 4 years ago from South Africa

I am a big fan of Michael Caine and would love to read his biographies. Thanks for this review, Jools!

rcrumple profile image

rcrumple 4 years ago from Kentucky

Julie -

Although too young to see it when it first came out, Alfie was my image of Michael Caine. However, when I first saw Zulu at the theater, that became Michael Caine. Many have followed. One, generally overlooked, but a fav of mine is "The Island". It was a great adventure movie that allowed us to see even another side of him. Great Hub!

Jools99 profile image

Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK Author

Heather, hope you get a chance to read it, it's a very easy read and every page has something interesting on it.

Jools99 profile image

Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK Author

Bruce, so nice to hear from someone else wh saw The Trip - we absolutely loved it and the Michael Caine impressions were both amazing weren't they? I don't have Blu Ray but we do have HD TV now so I am hoping the next time I see Zulu, I am well impressed! Yes, a lot of his movies have been done again so he must have been good at spotting decent stories.

Cogerson profile image

Cogerson 4 years ago from Virginia

Very well done Jools.....Sir Michael Caine has been one of my favorite actors for as long as I can remember....I blame my father for making a very young child watch Zulu many many times....speaking of Zulu the Blu-Ray is excellent...and worth a purchase...sorry I got sidetracked.

The Elephant to Hollywood is a fun read....but I enjoyed What's It All About...which you mentioned as the better of the two autobiographies.

I liked seeing the clip of Michael Caine doing Michael Caine....classic...I just recently saw The Trip with Steve Coogan and Michael Caine impressions are some of the best parts of that movie.

I think Harry Brown will end up gaining a cult classic status like some of his late 1960s and early 1970s Play Dirty, The Italian Job and Get Carter...movies that did not do as well at the box office but gained status as the years passed.

I love the fact that his movies seem to be very popular with remakes....The Italian Job, Get Carter, Alfie, and Sleuth have already been redone....and Gambit(with Cameron Diaz) and Zulu(with Orlando Bloom) are coming I have heard a new Ipcress File might be coming around as well.

I could go on an on about Sir Michael....but I am forcing myself to stop....voted up and awesome....nice idea for a hub.

Heather Says profile image

Heather Says 4 years ago from Buckeye, Arizona

I love Michael Caine. I wish my GPS was voiced by him-- he has such a charming voice and lovely accent in my opinion.

Jools99 profile image

Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK Author

xstatic, thanks for your comment. By the way, I read the Nora Ephron book you recommended and enjoyed it very much (though it was one of the shortest books i have ever read). The Ipcress File is still on TV over here occasionally but it's been many years since I have seen it. It's one of my favourites of his though.

xstatic profile image

xstatic 4 years ago from Eugene, Oregon

An outstanding review of a book by one of my all time favortite actors. I want to see Ipcress File again, but have been unable to find it. UP!

Jools99 profile image

Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK Author

Billy, many thanks for your kind comment. I have read both books and enjoyed both of them. Whenever I see he is on TV, I go out of my way to watch him, I really like seeing him in movies and also in interviews, he's a very interesting man.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

I love Caine the actor and I love this review. Well done; now I have to go find it on discount. Thanks for the tip, Julie!

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