Sunday, 7 July 2013

Michael Caine: 1960s by Graham Marsh - book review

The coffee table Caine
Who was the male face of film in the 'sixties?

Sean Connery? Tom Courtenay? Dustin Hoffmann?

All have a case to make, but in the opinion of Graham Marsh in this new book - an opinion shared by this blog's editor - you can't look much further than Michael Caine as the quintessential face and 'look' of the nineteen sixties that has defined that decade for movie goers then and since.

The erstwhile Maurice Micklewhite, south London born and raised, became an icon of sixties film-making through a little luck, talent and, undoubtedly, a single pair of black-framed glass. Through a series of wonderful, black & white and colour images in large format, Marsh charts Caine's progress from hopeful actor to global star.

And what progress it was! Caine's movies in the sixties is a roll-call of some of the most recognisable, enjoyable, iconic and profoundly British films that still resonate with audiences today.

Each chapter of photographs looks in detail at each of these films: Zulu (1964), The Ipcress File (1965), Alfie (1966), Funeral in Berlin (1966), Billion Dollar Brain (1967) and .... of course ... The Italian Job (1969), frequently cited in film polls as one of the the great films of the sixties.

With his well-cut suits, side parting, glasses and Crombie jack Michael Caine epitomises the look and feel of London in the sixties: stylish, confident, modern and a little bit risky. The selection of photographs by Marsh is impressive: many are recognisable media images, but others are candid on-set shots or off-set snaps from Caine's life in London as one of the UK's most bankable stars.

Of interest to this blog is the inclusion of images from Caine's contribution to the three films of Len Deighton's 'unnamed spy' novels, when he became, without question, 'Harry Palmer' and brought that character fully to life in a way not even the novel captured. Len and Michael became good friends through the films - and through being part of the same London dinner party set along with other London stars of the time - and there are some great images of the two of them on set, bringing Len's characters to life.

The analysis Marsh provides isn't particularly interesting for each chapter, but that's not really an issue as it's the quality of the images that make this book a winner for any film.

In the interests of the book review, I share below some images from the book. This book is very much a coffee table book - it's something you can pick up, flick through and smile as you see image after image of this great British star doing what he does best: being Michael Caine!

It's definitely worth checking out. RRP is £20, it's hardback and published by Reel Art Press.

The glasses, the overcoat, the introduction ....

Michael Caine and Len Deighton, 1965, during The Ipcress File filming

As Palmer, in Berlin

At the Wall, with Eva Renzi (Samantha Steel), Len Deighton and Paul Hubschmid (Jonny Vulkan)

The Harry Palmer image

About to receive a computerised message

Palmer and the girl ... inevitable


  1. I have to disagree with Marsh's views. With 4 James Bond films released by 1965: Dr No, From Russia With Love, Goldfinger and Thunderball, each a very successful film in terms of defining a new genre-that of Bond, and each a money spinner for all those associated with these films, this era belonged to Bond, and hence Sean Connery was the "the quintessential face". Unlike Michael Caine who was mostly known to the British audience, and not to many in America, Sean Connery was an international movie star.

  2. Perhaps Graham Marsh is planning a Sean Connery follow-up.....

  3. Michael Caine himself said that 1960s belonged to the Beatles as pop stars and to John Barry as the film music composer. If pressed , he would have added Sean Connery as the actor too. Interesting that John Barry was picked by Saltzman to score music for The Ipcress File because of his Bond film connection.

    1. I should add however that you are right in saying: "when he became, without question, 'Harry Palmer' and brought that character fully to life in a way not even the novel captured" just as Connery brought Bond character fully into life. Interesting though whilst Len and Michael, the two common Londoners became good friends, there was no such bond ( pardon my pun!) between Fleming and Connery even though both were of Scottish origin. Even after the huge success of Dr No, Fleming still thought that better actors should have played his Bond character.

  4. Hi Rob,

    Here's a link you may enjoy:

    From the excellent Adam Curtis, towards the bottom of the page you'll see why it's pertinent here.:)

  5. Fascinating story - you can see the parallels!