Happy Birthday, Michael Caine! ‘Alfie’ Turns 83 Today

If you think we meant Alfred, you’re mistaken. Michael Caine delivered a perfect portrayal of Bruce Wayne’s faithful manservant, Alfred Pennyworth, in the Dark Knight trilogy, but the iconic thespian’s resume extends well beyond Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, and The Dark Knight Rises.

Born Maurice Joseph Micklewhite in Rotherhithe, London, on March 14, 1933, the Oscar-winning actor now known and loved as Michael Caine hailed from humble beginnings. His mother, Ellen Frances Marie, was a charwoman and his father, after whom he was named, worked as a porter in a London fish market.

Young Micklewhite dropped out of school at age 15 and worked a series of menial jobs before enlisting in the Queens Royal Regiment division of the British army just in time to see combat in Korea. Once his tour of duty was complete, the soon-to-be actor returned to London, where he found employment as an assistant stage director at a regional theater. It was not long before the movie bug bit. According to his bio at IMDb, the handsome actor changed his professional name after seeing Humphrey Bogart in The Caine Mutiny in 1954. Caine worked as a stage actor for a while and made his (uncredited) film debut as a sailor in the 1956 movie Panic in the Parlor. The same year, Caine portrayed a private in Hell in Korea and appeared as a knight in the British television series The Adventures of Sir Lancelot.

Between 1956 and 1964, Michael Caine appeared in numerous B-movies and television shows, few of which fully utilized his considerable acting abilities. In 1964, the film world began to take notice of the six-foot-two actor, when he portrayed a British army officer in the critically acclaimed Zulu. The following year, Caine garnered top billing in the British spy thriller The Ipcress File. A notable film, to be sure, but everything changed when Caine portrayed the title role in Alfie. The 1966 flick was the first movie to be rated “For Mature Audiences” in the U.S.

Michael Caine as Alfie in 1996 film of the same name

Written by Bill Naughton and directed by Lewis Gilbert, Alfie delivered what many consider a perfect depiction of the “Swinging Sixties” in London. Other actors who appear in the 1966 film include Shelley Winters, Millicent Martin, and Jane Asher. As an interesting side note, Asher is the younger sister of music producer Peter Asher, better known as half of the 60s pop duo Peter and Gordon.

Over the decades, Michael Caine’s acting credits have been all over the place. In 1975, he turned in a first-class performance as Peachy Carnehan in The Man Who Would Be King, alongside Sean Connery and Christopher Plummer. After that, Caine appeared in stinkers such as The Swarm, The Island, and Jaws: The Revenge.

Michael Caine received his first Academy Award for his stellar performance in Woody Allen’s 1986 masterpiece Hannah and Her Sisters. In 1999, Caine was awarded his second Best Supporting Actor statue for his portrayal of Dr. Wilbur Larch in the highly rated film The Cider House Rules. One year later, Caine was honored with knighthood by Queen Elizabeth. In deference to his father, Caine accepted the prestigious award under his real name.

At age 83, Caine isn’t ready to retire. Now You See Me 2 is slated to premiere in June of this year. Directed by Jon M. Chu, the film also features Mark Ruffalo, Morgan Freeman, Woody Harrelson, and Daniel Radcliffe of Harry Potter fame. Going in Style, billed as a crime comedy featuring Caine along with Morgan Freeman, Ann-Margret, Christopher Lloyd, Alan Arkin, and Matt Dillon, is set to open in theaters next year.

As reported in the Wisconsin Gazette, Michael Caine said the following about getting older.

“I’m not really worried about aging because you can’t do much about it, although I’ve lost twenty pounds over the last few years. I’m taking better care of myself these days, I drink less, I eat healthier, and I want to stay reasonably fit for the sake of my three grandchildren. I live for them! And I don’t mind playing elderly roles now because the alternative is playing dead people!”

As reported by ComicBook.com, Batman Begins director Christoper Nolan was so impressed with Caine’s work in the first installment of the Dark Knight trilogy in 2005 that he hired the notable British actor to appear in every subsequent film that he’s directed. So far, Michel Caine’s Nolan-directed movie resume includes The Prestige in 2006, Inception in 2010, and Interstellar in 2014.

Whether appearing in a film flop or delivering a world-class performance, Michael Caine is always interesting to watch. We wish him a very happy birthday and look forward to seeing him in movies for many years to come.

[Photo by Fiona Hanson/AP]