Blowing the Bloody Doors Off: And Other Lessons in Life by Michael Caine, Hachette Books, US $28.00, Pp 274, October 2018, ISBN 978-0316451192
With more than 100 movies and two Academy Awards over sixty years to his credit, Michael Caine is a veritable Hollywood icon. Coming from a very humble social background, Michael Caine ruled the world of cinema for several decades. In Blowing the Bloody Doors Off, Michael Caine shares his life and what the cinema has taught him as well as his philosophy of life with his readers. He has starred in all kinds of films ranging from the classic movies such as Alfie, Zulu, and The Italian Job to the Hollywood blockbusting Dark Knight trilogy, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Hannah and Her Sisters, and Cider House Rules.
Michael Caine has gone from his first role as a butler with one line in what he calls “a draughty theatre in Horsham” – Dinner is served — to Batman’s Butler in three blockbuster movies. His career spreads from playing the poker-faced spy in The Ipcress File to self-satire in Austin Powers in Goldmember and from his early years in rep to winding up back there again, as part of Christopher Nolan’s great movie-making repertory family. He writes, “As I sit here in my riverside apartment, looking out over the Thames at London being rebuilt all around me, and remember, as a child, sitting in a bomb shelter and listening to it being destroyed, I can’t help reflecting that life has a way of coming full circle. But it has also luckily moved on.”
He writes, “Looking back, I like to think I played a small part in the social revolution of the 1960s that I helped working-class people to say, ‘I can do anything.’ My father left school at fourteen; I went to grammar school until I was sixteen and my daughter Natasha went to university: her graduation was one of the proudest days of my life, but for her children, my grandchildren, it will be just a normal thing.” He also talks about his political and social beliefs as he looks forward. He writes, “I am a feminist, an anti-racist and an optimist… John Osborne urged us to Look Back in Anger but I prefer to Look Back in Joy and to Look Forward in Hope. If you are young and just starting out, don’t hesitate, don’t be afraid. Jump right in. Go for it. A better time is coming, and you can be part of it.”
He considers himself “enormously lucky” as his seemingly impossible dreams really have come true. He writes, “I have done everything I wanted to do, been everywhere I wanted to go and met everyone I have ever wanted to meet. But if I hadn’t been lucky, I would have kept going anyway, doing something I loved and trying to do it as well as I possibly could.” Michael Caine has a piece of advice for his readers, “Find what you love, and do it as well as you can. Pursue your dream and, even if you never catch it, you’ll enjoy the chase. The rest comes down to luck, timing and God: even if you don’t believe in him, he believes in you. And when all of that runs out, use the difficulty. I’ve had such a great time following my dreams that when my time comes I’d like to come back as me and do it all over again.” Michael Caine is aware that what worked for him will not necessarily work for others. He says today’s world is very different from his world and “my battles as a young white working-class male movie actor in the 1950s and 1960 will not be the same as yours… I was in the right place at the right time… Thousands of actors out there were as good as and better than me, but didn’t get the breaks…”
Blowing the Bloody Doors Off is an inspiring biography of an actor who excelled at Hollywood in spite of his working-class background. It is a story of happy times and sad moments. It is a story of a man rising from misery to amazing social and economic heights. Michael Caine brings his past to life and shines a light on the life at Hollywood in the second part of the twentieth century. Michael Caine is a thinking actor and we have a lot to learn from him. It is a must-read for fans of Michael Caine and students and experts of cinema.