The Delightful Mister Caine Looks Back at London in the 1960s

by Elisabeth Sereda September 7, 2017
Michael Caine in Venice 2017 and London 1965

Michael Caine at the photocall for the documentary My Generation, at the 74th Venice Film Festival, and posing in London, May 1965

getty images/pascal le segretain; getty inages/evening standard/hulton archive

Documentaries can be a joy to watch if they are well made, and the Michael Caine-produced and narrated My Generation is a delight.

The 84-year-old actor was welcomed to huge applause at the premiere of the Swinging Sixties doc at the Palazzo del Cinema. He was flanked by director David Batty and producer Simon Fuller. Sir Michael always looks like he is squeezing every second out of life and he seemed exceptionally pleased with the reception.

With his dry humor, he talked about his humble beginnings as Maurice Micklewhite from the wrong side of the tracks, a cockney trying to get out of his low-class existence, who looked like a Tory and spoke like a fish seller.

In the film, he criticizes the British class system with wry wit, speaks openly about his drug use, his rise to fame - thanks to Hollywood, not the English film industry-  and the moment he quit drinking and smoking weed after he failed to flag down a London taxi because he was so high: “'It was midnight. I was trying to get a cab home from Grosvenor Square to Notting Hill Gate and I was standing on the corner, laughing maniacally. No cab would stop for me. I had to walk all the way home to Notting Hill. It also affects the memory and as an actor, I have to remember lines.”

 

Michael Caine in a scene from the documentary My Generation, and  in London 1965

Michael Caine in a scene from the documentary My Generation, and in London, October 1965.

raymi hero productions/jeff spicer; getty images/paris match/philippe le telier

 

My Generation describes the tremendous social shift that Britain and particularly London experienced in the 1960s. It features other iconic names of this decade, including Mick Jagger, Paul McCartney, Roger Daltrey, Marianne Faithful, the models Twiggy and Jean Shrimpton, and famed photographer David Bailey. It even includes an old interview with John Lennon.

When asked about how he managed to get so many big names, Caine explained: “It was a case of waiting until they were available. They’re extraordinarily busy and important people.”

In the documentary, Caine also talks about how he had no working-class role models to look up to on the big screen: “The problem was, that was it – there weren’t films about us. When I was a young actor, I understudied Peter O’Toole in The Long and the Short and the Tall in which he became a star. That was, funnily enough, the first play I think ever written about English privates.”

My Generation is as colorful and hedonistic as the era it describes. And it is almost unthinkable that its protagonist was ever anything less than a major star.