Hollywood Autobiography In 'Not Very Interesting' Shocker

I like Michael Caine. I think probably everybody does. He seems like the most affable, least offensive human being on the planet. He's Alfred The Butler, for crying out loud.

The problem with being nice and gentlemanly and an all round good egg who grew up in a council house just before the war and went on to Much Greater Things is that it rather makes for a little bit of a wet autobiography.

The Elephant To Hollywood is Caine's second autobiography, after 1992's What's It All About?, and the author admits that he treads on some similar ground, albeit with the added benefit of greater hindsight and the time to reflect on his past glories and failures.

In fact rosy reflection proves to be something Caine is rather good at. The book is littered with great anecdotes of the 'Frank Sinatra and I walked into a bar' variety and these prove very entertaining as fleeting visits during the main chronological narrative.

There's some revelations in here too, the most surprising of which covers a Caine family secret. As you would expect he deals with both the anecdotes and the revelations with a great deal of humour and even more tact and delicacy, taking care not to stand on any one's toes or upset those nearest and dearest to him.

Jaws: The Revenge. A bad film. Caine isn't sure why.

Unfortunately, this approach for nearly four-hundred pages means that there's not a great deal of opinionated insight here. There's a picture of Caine with Prime Minister David Cameron, which might lead you to believe there is a section on his politics contained within. There's not. There's a paragraph where he explains the picture and then claims that he has no political allegiance. That's it. There's no insight offered into what Caine thinks of the government or the recession or current affairs of any sort really.

Fair enough, you might think, it's an autobiography, not a Marxist political doctrine.

The problem is that this level of affability and refusal to dig too deep continues throughout and applies to just about everything. The world didn't like Jaws: The Revenge. Caine isn't sure why and doesn't know what went wrong with the film. Everyone he has ever met seems to have been 'nice', occasionally with another adjective tacked on to the end (Joaquin Phoenix, for example, was nice but 'somewhat strange'). I didn't want nastiness or gross reveals or glib middle-finger flipping, I just wanted a bit of insight.

The overwhelming insight you do get come the end of the book (beside from, bizarrely, a recipe for snails) is that Michael Caine is a really top bloke and a good actor who's done some fantastic things in life both within and outside of the movie world. He's got a nice family and a lovely house and enjoys holidays, cooking and gardening. The problem is that I, and probably most of the rest of the planet, knew all that roughly four-hundred pages ago.


  1. This is the problem with memoirs. They are either like this and go for the don't rock the boat approach or are just bitch fests. A celebrity can't really win whichever approach they take, and in all reality there isn't any real middle ground.
    Roger Moore wrote the blandest memoir I've ever read. It was intentional as he wanted to avoid the bitch fest and all profits went to UBICEF. But even so it was bland beyond belief. I wanted to know what he felt about being one of a handful of men to have played Bond, but no, nothing!
    I generally avoid this type of book now for its unreliable approach and go for a biography, even though they can be just as flawed.

  2. I've always thought biography was the way to go but wanted to give Caine's a chance. With biography (despite the problems with it) you at least get an interpretation of actions, portrayals and life events. With autobiography its too easy to omit that; positive or negative.

    Like I say, I didn't hate it, I just don't feel in any way enriched from having read it.

  3. I totally agree on biographies, well put. But whilst I'm somewhat memoir shy I do read them just to try and get the view and feel from the individuals pov. The funniest memoir I've ever read is Richard Nixon's!! There is no better example of the inherent flaws of memoirs!!
    I know what you are saying about the almost empty feel Caine's book left you with. You want more but know you ain't going to get it.

  4. I think Caine should look no further to the scene where he comes out of the water completely dry as a strating point to understanding the awfulness of Jaws 4

  5. He does actually give insight into that bit (although, not an opinion on whether it looked good or bad)! Apparently, there was dye in the tank to make the water blue but the dye stained the actor's hair and skin so they couldn't be shot getting out of it properly or they'd look like a smurf. Don't know why someone didn't just throw a bucket of tap water over him though!