To some extent, the weaknesses of this book are somewhat inevitable. In 1992 Caine wrote What's It All About?, an autobiography that was interesting and a great read from an extremely prolific movie actor who has rubbed shoulders with some of the greats. Caine is a natural raconteur and, one suspects, is terrific company. At the time, he thought that his place as a Hollywood leading man was over - and indeed in that sense it largely was. But in subsequent years he has taken on some terrific supporting actor roles and produced, in my view, some of his most interesting work. There is still then a story to tell, despite the fact that in my view no one should really be allowed to publish more than one autobiography. That could have been fine though if he had just concentrated on those 20 years, but instead, perhaps understandably, he has chosen to repeat the "full life" approach and that's the book's weakness.
Since What's It All About?, there are another 20 years and countless movies to add, and perhaps in recognition that many readers will have read the first book, this time the book is about half the length of the first book. It's harsh to note that some of the stories are the same - of course they are - but with the huge number of movies, there is little scope for any detail as he attempts to precis this period that he's already covered. The result is too much like a list with little interesting detail. There's also some repetition within the book of bits from the first period and the more interesting newer work.
There's good stuff here on his later works not covered in the earlier book, but the feeling is like in pre-digital music when a band you like and have all the albums decides to issue a Greatest Hits with two new tracks. To be fair, I read his first book when it first came out (I'm a huge Caine fan) so some of the repeated stories stood a re-telling as it is nearly 20 years since I read that first book, but certainly if you have read the other more recently, you would feel a strong sense of deja vu.
Because of the brevity of this book too, the list of famous people who are all described as great friends, reads like a who's who and can be a bit repetitive. What it lacks is any insight into the hard work that Caine has undoubtedly put into his career. If we take this at face value, his career looks like an endless stream of good fortune with no work involved, which I suspect is not the case. There's much more colour provided in his first book.
He also constantly makes a point of his working class roots in a sort of "Jenny from the block" manner - and yet while this is indeed where he came from, his politics are far from the working class routes now - supporting the Conservative Party in the most recent election. Again, no problem with making that choice but if you are going to do that, then for me at least you need to tone down the "I'm just a working class boy" rhetoric.
It's just too much of a re-hash and if you are looking for a good source on Caine's life, then I'd still go with What's It All About?, even though that means you will lack the latter part of his career. It's just a better book and more thoughtful - perhaps because the discipline of thinking about these things in the first place gave more insight. If, like me, you read that book a while ago, then this is in no way a bad book - Caine remains terrific company and he has a nice, friendly and chatty style - but the combination of a longer career and a shorter book is not a good mixture and the result is more like a list of events than an analysis of a career and a life.
Michael Caine wrote a substantial autobiography a few years ago, so customers who already own that one should be aware: that part of his life hasn't changed, so expect to read about it again! What we get that's new here is his more recent career, covering the gradual revival of his appetite for acting in decent movies after a long period of disillusionment and barely-concealed boredom. There are some new stories, and some interesting anecdotes about what sounds like a very contented personal life. If you haven't read Caine's previous book, and you like him, you'll probably find all of this hugely enjoyable. If you have read the previous book, just don't expect too much that's entirely new - what you'll have is basically a light and entertaining coda to the other volume on your shelf. Caveat emptor.
I'm not a huge fan of autobiographies, however, I do like Michael Caine. I'm not old enough to remember much of his early work but with his distinctive voice you can tell that he wasn't born with a silver spoon in his mouth, with this in mind I was intrigued to find how he became a Hollywood legend.
I haven't read Michael Caine's previous autobiography and I think this may have gone in his favour. He does say at the start of the book that he'd wrote What's it all About? thinking that his film career was over but that he's had emense success since which has persuaded him to write this follow up. The first half of the book does focus on his early career and the stories of not only his struggle but the struggle of those around him, many of whom are also established names in "the business".
The initial chapters took a bit of getting through, I think mainly this was because my initial thought was - he's name dropping, I then came to the realisation that he's actually not, this is his life and the big names are just regular appearances in it. The book is also written exactly as Michael talks, there's no flowery embelishments of literary terms, it's plain speaking and gets to the point, this makes it very easy reading and quite quick to get through.
Once I'd got into the book I did really enjoy it, family and friends (plus house and garden) are obviously very important to him and it's nice to find someone so famous who is also very grounded, I got the distinct impression that he had his mum and wife to thank for that!
The only thing I really didn't like about this was the ending, I didn't want a recipe book and although I was interested in the films he's made, his favourite films and why was also something I wasn't particularly interested in.
If you've not read Michael's earlier autobiography then my advice would be to not bother, skip that and just go straight through to this one, it's an enjoyable read and highly entertaining.
on 2 October 2010
Let's get things straight - I'm a huge fan of Michael Caine, and I eagerly snapped this book up. I've always found him to be a great actor (although admittedly he occasionally makes some very ill-advised choices as regards which movies to appear in), and think he's a very funny raconteur, with lots of great anecdotes to share.
However, I was pretty disappointed with this book, for two main reasons. As a long-time fan of Caine, I'd already read his previous autobiography, "What's It All About?", which I absolutely loved. This new autobiography, however, essentially recycles that book for the first 14 chapters of this one. Caine does state in the foreword that he's "not going to apologise for telling some of the old tales", which is honest of him, but - boy! - he really does retell a lot of them, and pretty much word-for-word as they previously appeared in "What's It All About?"
The new stuff in this book (i.e. post-1992, the point at which "What's It All About?" ended), is pretty thin on the ground, and whilst interesting, is lacking in detail. We get a little bit about later films such as Batman Begins, and even a mention of Inception, but it's all pretty sketchy. The great amounts of detail about his earlier work (which is great, but appeared in the first book) is simply not there for most of the later films he mentions.
Secondly - and I really do think this is a bit naughty - there's a definite sense of filler material being thrown in towards the end of the book. One chapter suddenly turns into a list of some of Caine's favourite recipes, which - whilst appearing to be very tasty - is hardly what I bought the book for. After a short epilogue, we then get a list of Caine's top-ten favourite movies, and another list of his favourite films in which he's appeared. With each we get some explanatory text from the man himself, like this gem of insight - "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels: the funniest film I ever made - and the happiest." And that's that! On to the next film in the list! Hardly ground-breaking insight, and it lets the book down badly.
On balance, this is a real shame - "What's It All About?" was a conventional and very, very funny autobiography, which revealed a lot of new information about its author, but this offering seems very weak and cobbled together in comparison.
In spite of all this, I would recommend the book, but only to those who haven't already read "What's It All About?". The reader who is new to Caine's autobiographies shouldn't be disappointed, but I suspect everyone else might be. Add a star to the rating if you haven't read the previous book, then, or buy it with your eyes open and the aforementioned caveats in your mind if you have.
on 14 November 2015
This Michael Caine autobiog from 2010 is the follow-up to his hugely successful What's It All About? from 1992. Back then, he'd prematurely sensed his movie career was quietening - & hadn't envisaged the renaissance he'd enjoy in the next stage that began in the mid-90s, & continues to this day.
Rather than augment & re-issue the original book with new chapters to cover this next 20 year period, he chose to write a completely new book - including edited-down extracts from the original, followed by new material - which is what we have here with 'The Elephant to Hollywood' (including lots of new photos from his archives too).
The resulting book inevitably means that something of the rather elegant original is lost - there's far less detail, & that's sad, as that was definitely one of its strengths. For anyone wishing to read Michael's fascinating (& beautifully written) life story in full, I'd strongly recommend doing what I did, which is...
1. read the first book, and then
2. read the prologue/chapter 1 of this book, before jumping to chapter 14 to resume the story.
Hope that makes sense!
I have to say that I've thoroughly enjoyed my journey through Michael's life & career through both books, & he really does have an excellent talent as a writer too. Both are packed with anecdotes, behind-the-scenes stories, and Michael's wonderful (& often self-deprecating) honesty & humour. To his credit too, he never 'dishes the dirt' on anyone from his past, & 'tells it like it is' while respecting others' privacy. I've read many autobiogs in my time, but this has to be one of the most enjoyable - Michael really is a lovely & fun person, & a true gentleman, and that really comes over to me here.
In conclusion then, if you'd prefer a slightly abridged version of his life, then this book should do you fine - but if you want the full picture (which I'd thoroughly recommend), start with the first book & pick up the last 20 years here.
on 9 December 2010
A good read. A fairly easy going written style that is typically Michael Caine as if he is reading it to you. I thought he was name dropping at first, but then I realised it is more the fact that he cannot believe he's actually made it big, mixing with some of the all time movie and entertainment great actors that he has idolised since he was a kid. He gives the impression to have been genuinely star struck on many occasions in his early years and even in advancing years or instead he suffers from a tremendous lack of confidence stemming from his very humble beginnings in life. Never the less the latter seem to have kept him fairly grounded. He mentions briefly his excess drinking and smoking but doesn't really dwell too much on this or how it might affected his family or relationship with his wife Shakira, similarly the endless travelling and taking a fair few parts in dud films. He mentions Jack Nicholson several times giving the impression that he and Jack are very good friends but sadly does not pursue this as I am sure he has a few tales to tell. It does get a bit wearing though when he mentions another famous name and spending countless holidays which are the best he has ever had, in particular the South of France when he has spent most of the book talking about Hollywood. He mentions Peter Sellers briefly. It would have been nice if he had written a little more of his times with him or maybe he didn't know him that well similarly Sean Connery and Roger Moore as there are several pictures of them in the book. Perhaps he valued the friendships more than to start spilling too many beans ..........
This is an easy read. There are some poingant moments for instance when he finds out he has a half brother and that his mother had kept him a secret from him and his other brother Stanley for decades apparently disappearing to visit him every monday for decades without telling a word.
What also comes across is that Caine has much charm, is a good story teller and could also have a third career as a raconteur/stand up simply with all the experiences he has had and jokes he has heard. One gets the feeling he could really let go, but not in this book. He has had quite a career as restauranteur which he tells at some length.
Just a little more weighty analysis and detail in some areas would have earned him 5 stars, but I guess he was getting bored by then and nonetheless wanted to keep something of himself back.
on 11 June 2011
Lovely Autobiography by a Film Legend that has that rare gift of being one of those guys that you can relate too and is someone with whom you could listen too all day.
Michael Caine is and always will be a British Film Icon and has that rare Talent that so many other Actors Lack in which HE IS INTERESTING!!!.
As you read the Book it is like having your Dad telling you his Stories of his whole life from Humble Beginnings to Hollywood and has Loads of Brilliant Anecdotes to Tell.
What i also like about Michael Caine is that he is not afraid to Admit that he has made some Turkeys in his Time eg.Swarm,The Island,Jaws The Revenge as well as Classics such as Get Carter,Italian Job,Sleuth and Man who Would Be King,Educating Rita.
He is a man that is Generous and also Helps other Actors that are needing some Support like Bob Hoskins like when making Mona Lisa he Boosted the Films and Bobs Marketability by taking on the Role of the Main Villain for Bob in a Supporting Role for Nothing.
Michael Caine loves to Act as it is a Professional Job to Him no matter what the Role is and no matter the Film but looks on the other side of the Coin in the Friends that he has made along the way even with some mediocre films such as Shirley MacLaine,Sidney Poitier,Roger Moore,Sally Field.
Michael Caine = Legend but i wonder if Brad Pitts Autobiography will be just as interesting.
Michael Caine's updated autobiography is readable enough in a breezy, forgetable way, but there's not much new here that wasn't covered in the first book he wrote about his life. To that end, even saying as he does in the introduction that some stories are worth re-telling, this is a repeat performance of book 1 by most people's standards.
Caine's career has appeal because it came from that time when people were making it big in acting from backgrounds that had once been closed to the profession. Clearly close to his roots and where he came from, Caine's recall of family life and hardships continues to be the strongest, most honest, aspects of his writing. Elsewhere, the seemingly endless life of making films, going to parties, hobnobbing with the rich and famous etc starts to grate after a while, and there really isn't much substance behind most of the anecdotes here. It's with a sense of boredom rather than envy one glides through several of the chapters.
Bringing his story bang up to date, there is something slightly uncomfortable about his cosying up to modern day stars and saying how wonderful they are. Some of it just doesn't ring true. Also, chapters on the happiness of family life, recipe tips for perfect roast potatoes and a bolt-on appendices of favourite films (no real surprises on the list) - lend an air of trying to pad things out beyond reason.
Like one of his best pals Roger Moore, Caine has produced a book that really only scratches the surface of a life lived in film and entertainment. It reads like an affectionate look back on a lifestyle that most of us will never know, and a way of film making that most stars today will never experience.
As usual, the press reviews have over-egged what, by most people's standards, will be the quickest and lightest of reads.
on 23 June 2016
A really enjoyable read. I laughed and even had tears in my eyes at the poignant moving parts. What a life, and determination to learn, respect others who deserve it. A gentleman, honest & clearly devoted to his wife and daughters. The book is informative & interesting, certainly worth reading.
on 11 May 2016
One of the best autobiographies I have ever read, it's matter of fact, funny and full of wonderful anecdotes and story's about other movie people and of course Michael's tales about hi times in Hollywood. I cannot praise this highly enough. Please go out and buy it, you will not be disappointed.