Michael Caine movies: From Irwin Allen bombs to Woody Allen classic
It’s hard to believe that Michael Caine has been around making movies for nearly six decades. No wonder he’s had time to appear – in roles big and small and tiny – in more than 120 films, ranging from unwatchable stuff like the Sylvester Stallone soccer flick Victory and Michael Ritchie’s adventure flick The Island to Brian G. Hutton’s X, Y and Zee, Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s Sleuth (a duel of wits and acting styles with Laurence Olivier), and Alfonso Cuarón’s Children of Men. (See TCM’s Michael Caine movie schedule further below.)
Throughout his long, long career, Caine has played heroes and villains and everything in between. Sometimes, in his worst vehicles, he has floundered along with everybody else. At other times, he was the best element in otherwise disappointing fare, e.g., Philip Kaufman’s Quills.
And at yet other times, he has more than risen to the occasion, receiving accolades from critics, academies, and other award-bestowing groups – his performance in Phillip Noyce’s little-seen, underrated, and ever-topical The Quiet American (2001), for one, is a masterwork that should have earned him a Best Actor Academy Award.
Caine was at least nominated for his jaded Englishman struggling along in 1950s Vietnam about to fall into the hands of self-serving U.S. interests, but lost the Oscar to Denzel Washington’s showier (and in my view much less effective) performance in the more audience-friendly Training Day. However, Caine has taken home two Best Supporting Actor Academy Awards: for Woody Allen’s Hannah and Her Sisters (1986) and Lasse Hallström’s The Cider House Rules (1999).
You’ll be able to check out the former – one of Allen’s most successful films both commercially and critically – on Aug. 6, on Turner Classic Movies. TCM’s “Summer Under the Stars” continues with a Michael Caine Day.
‘Hannah and Her Sisters’
Set in the loftier realms of New York City, Hannah and Her Sisters is Woody Allen’s paean to his then companion, Mia Farrow. As the first half of the film’s title, Farrow is excellent as a great actress, wife, and mother – and, as the second half, so are Barbara Hershey and Best Supporting Actress Oscar winner Dianne Wiest. The former becomes entangled with Farrow’s husband (Caine); the latter, with Farrow’s hypochondriac ex-husband (Allen). In real life, the Farrow family entanglement would turn out a bit differently.
The Hannah and Her Sisters cast also features veterans Lloyd Nolan and Maureen O’Sullivan (Jane in MGM’s Tarzan movies and Mia Farrow’s mother), in addition to Farrow’s real-life children Moses Farrow and Daisy Previn.
Irwin Allen disastrous disaster flicks
TCM’s Michael Caine Day will be book-ended by two all-star Irwin Allen disaster movies: The Swarm (1978) and Beyond the Poseidon Adventure (1979).
The former was supposed to be for bees what Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds (1963) had been for archaeopteryx descendants. It didn’t quite work that way; despite an all-star cast, this costly but laughably ridiculous entry in the by then fast-fading “disaster” genre was both a critical and a box office bomb.
Having little in common with Ronald Neame’s 1972 blockbuster The Poseidon Adventure, Beyond the Poseidon Adventure has rival parties looking for treasures hidden in the bowels of the Titanic of the ’70s. Besides Irwin Allen and the fact that both movies were total critical and financial disasters, The Swarm and Beyond the Poseidon Adventure have something else in common: Slim Pickens, the cowboy who rides the (first) A-bomb in Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove.
More Michael Caine movies
Pulp (1972) is notable as the last feature in the career of film noir siren Lizabeth Scott (Pitfall, Too Late for Tears). Curiously, this unusual crime thriller has at least a couple of key plot elements in common with Roman Polanski’s 2010 European Film Award Best Picture winner The Ghost Writer.
In Pulp, Michael Caine plays a sleazy pulp fiction writer hired to pen the biography of a reclusive former Hollywood star (Mickey Rooney) at his home in Malta. Murder and mayhem ensue.
In The Ghost Writer (based on Robert Harris’ novel The Ghost), Ewan McGregor is hired to ghostwrite the biography of a former British prime minister (Pierce Brosnan, standing in for Iraq War co-orchestrator Tony Blair) at his home off the coast of Massachusetts. Murder and mayhem ensue.
The spy comedy thriller Billion Dollar Brain (1967) should be worth checking out as it was directed by a pre-Women in Love, pre-Tommy Ken Russell. Besides, it was the last film in the career of Françoise Dorléac, Catherine Deneuve’s sister and co-star (The Young Girls of Rochefort), who died in a car accident at age 25 in June 1967.
Gay twist, Best British Movie ever
Sidney Lumet’s Deathtrap (1982) is a stagy, but entertaining crime comedy à la Sleuth – with an added twist. Back in the early 1980s, there were quite a few moviegoers who were shocked at the sight of Superman Christopher Reeve kissing Alfie Michael Caine on the lips. Gay marriage or no (in the 20 odd countries where that’s legal), if you think attitudes have radically changed in the last three decades you might want to open your eyes a bit more.
Sidney J. Furie’s The Ipcress File (1965) is considered by some one of the best spy thrillers of the era, while a few years ago Mike Hodges’ crime thriller Get Carter (1972) was voted the Best British Film ever made by a panel of British critics. Take that, David Lean, Carol Reed, Alfred Hitchcock!
‘The Romantic Englishwoman’
An American political refugee, Joseph Losey began working in the U.K. in the early 1950s. The Romantic Englishwoman (1975), a TCM premiere, was one of his last films. Future Labour MP Glenda Jackson – at the time one of the hottest film actresses in the world – stars in the title role.
This great-looking drama (cinematography by Gerry Fischer) about a novelist (Caine) who uses his unhappy wife’s infatuation with a younger man (Helmut Berger) as a source of inspiration isn’t an “easy” film. That’s part of the reason The Romantic Englishwoman is definitely worth a look. Screenplay by Tom Stoppard (Shakespeare in Love, Brazil) and Thomas Wiseman, from Wiseman’s novel.
Michael Caine to rival Danielle Darrieux, Lillian Gish?
Though not exactly a box office draw, Michael Caine remains a major movie name. That’s at least in part because of his collaborations with Christopher Nolan: The Prestige, Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, Inception, The Dark Knight Rises.
So, if Michael Caine keeps at it for another decade, he’ll be right up there next to Danielle Darrieux and Lillian Gish in terms of cinematic longevity. According to the IMDb, Caine has no less than three 2015 releases:
- Paolo Sorrentino’s Youth, with Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, Paul Dano, and Jane Fonda.
- Breck Eisner’s The Last Witch Hunter, with Vin Diesel.
- Jon M. Chu’s Now You See Me: The Second Act, with Daniel Radcliffe, Lizzy Caplan, Jesse Eisenberg, Dave Franco, and Mark Ruffalo.
Additionally, Michael Caine has two other films expected to come out in 2016 or sometime in the not too distant future (if all goes as planned):
- Zach Braff’s Going in Style, with Alan Arkin, Katlyn Carlson, and Morgan Freeman.
- George C. Wolfe’s Harry and the Butler, with Samuel L. Jackson.
Michael Caine movies list: TCM schedule (PT)
3:00 AM BEYOND THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE (1979). Director: Irwin Allen. Cast: Michael Caine. Sally Field. Telly Savalas. Peter Boyle. Jack Warden. Shirley Knight. Shirley Jones. Karl Malden. Veronica Hamel. Angela Cartwright. Mark Harmon. Slim Pickens. Paul Picerni. Patrick Culliton. Dean Raphael Ferrandini (as Dean Ferrandini). Color. 114 mins. Letterbox Format.
5:05 AM WE NEVER SLEEP (1956). Short film about the Pinkerton National Detective Agency, the U.S.’s oldest private detective company. Director: Larry O’Reilly. B&W. 8 mins.
5:15 AM HELL IN KOREA (1956). Director: Julian Amyes. Cast: George Baker. Harry Andrews. Stanley Baker. Michael Caine. B&W. 82 mins.
6:45 AM BILLION DOLLAR BRAIN (1967). Director: Ken Russell. Cast: Michael Caine. Françoise Dorléac. Karl Malden. Ed Begley. Oskar Homolka. Guy Doleman. Color. 108 mins. Letterbox Format.
8:45 AM PULP (1972). Cast: Michael Caine. Mickey Rooney. Lionel Stander. Lizabeth Scott. Nadia Cassini. Dennis Price. Al Lettieri. Leopoldo Trieste. Color. 95 mins. Letterbox Format.
2:45 PM DEATHTRAP (1982). Director: Sidney Lumet. Cast: Michael Caine. Christopher Reeve. Dyan Cannon. Irene Worth. Henry Jones. Joe Silver. Tony DiBenedetto. Al LeBreton. Color. 116 mins.
4:45 PM CARSON ON TCM: MICHAEL CAINE (2013). Johnny Carson interviews Michael Caine on The Tonight Show on Sept. 21, 1983. Color. 10 mins.
5:00 PM HANNAH AND HER SISTERS (1986). Director: Woody Allen. Cast: Woody Allen. Mia Farrow. Michael Caine. Barbara Hershey. Max von Sydow. Dianne Wiest. Maureen O’Sullivan. Lloyd Nolan. Julia Louis-Dreyfus. Julie Kavner. John Turturro. Richard Jenkins. Joanna Gleason. Daniel Stern. Color. 107 mins. Letterbox Format.
7:00 PM THE IPCRESS FILE (1965). Director: Sidney J. Furie. Cast: Michael Caine. Nigel Green. Guy Doleman. Color. 107 mins. Letterbox Format.
9:00 PM GET CARTER (1971). Director: Mike Hodges. Cast: Michael Caine. Ian Hendry. Britt Ekland. Color. 112 mins.
11:00 PM THE ROMANTIC ENGLISHWOMAN (1975). Director: Joseph Losey. Cast: Glenda Jackson. Michael Caine. Helmut Berger. Michael Lonsdale. Béatrice Romand. Nathalie Delon. Kate Nelligan. Anna Steele. David de Keyser. Doris Nolan. Color. 112 mins.
1:00 AM THE SWARM (1978). Director: Irwin Allen. Cast: Michael Caine. Katharine Ross. Richard Widmark. Richard Chamberlain. Olivia de Havilland. Ben Johnson. Lee Grant. José Ferrer. Patty Duke. Slim Pickens. Bradford Dillman. Fred MacMurray. Henry Fonda. Cameron Mitchell. Christian Juttner. Morgan Paull. Alejandro Rey. Don ‘Red’ Barry. Color. 116 mins.
Michael Caine not featured in ‘The Quiet Man’ or ‘Billion Dollar Baby’
A quartet of typos – the initial draft of this article was written in the pre-dawn hours – have been corrected.
- Joseph L. Mankiewicz – not John L. Mankiewicz (or Herman J. Mankiewicz, for that matter) – directed Sleuth.
- My favorite Michael Caine performance is found in The Quiet American, not The Quiet Man, a 1952 John Ford movie starring John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara.
- Phillip Noyce, not Philip Kaufman, directed The Quiet American – whose 1958 version starring Audie Murphy was coincidentally directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, with Michael Redgrave in Caine’s role. (Brendan Fraser played an innocent-looking, but ruthlessly cold-blooded version of Murphy’s title character in Noyce’s 2002 film.)
- Billion Dollar Baby actually referred to Billion Dollar Brain – just in case anyone thought it was some sort of inflation-adjusted reboot of Clint Eastwood’s dreary 2004 Best Picture Oscar winner.
Barbara Hershey and Michael Caine Hannah and Her Sisters image: Orion Pictures / MGM Home Entertainment.
Image of Christopher Reeve and Michael Caine gay kiss in Deathtrap: Warner Bros., via Flickr.
Michael Caine Get Carter image: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.