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.
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.
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.