Maurice Micklewhite’s Road to Success

Hardcover: 288 pages Publisher: Hachette Books (October 23, 2018)

It’s only occasionally that I read autobiographies or memoirs but I was attracted to Michael Caine’s new book. It’s not just a memoir. It’s more of a philosophy on how to be a great actor. And it’s also a master class in life.

And I have to tell you this one was a delight to read. In addition to being a great actor, he is a pretty darned good writer too.

Some years ago I saw his lecture on “Acting in film.” It’s on DVD and I would highly recommend it. After seeing that film and reading this book, I have come to see just how hard acting on film is. It’s darned hard.

Despite all that seems glamorous about the profession, it isn’t all that glamorous. It’s only glamorous because we don’t see all the hard work that goes into the work.

Even though his lessons apply to acting, they can apply to any passion. “Find something you want to do and learn how to do it really well.”

For an English working class kid named Maurice Micklewhite, it didn’t look so good early on. But he had one thing going for him. He decided what he wanted to be when he grew up. An actor. And he stuck to that passion no matter what. There wasn’t an obstacle that was going to stop him. It’s as he writes, “No matter where you start in life, you can get up and out.” But “learn what you can from what you get.”

You want to be an actor and you can’t go to acting school? You want to be a writer and can’t afford writing lessons? Do what he did. As he points out, his main education came from two sources. “You couldn’t find two more richly educational surrogates than the cinema and the public library.”

And he lays it on the line that he didn’t expect it to be easy. Even when he was doing all right. In fact, doing all right didn’t mean an easy road ahead. Because he learned and he has kept learning the secrets they don’t tell you in acting school.

Secrets such as you’re always auditioning and nice guys do finish first. He once overheard a journalist ask his wife, “What first attracted you to Michael?” Her reply, “It was the way he treated his mother.”

And be easy to work with. As you can see, Michael Caine is a roll model for that lesson. He was so easy to work with directors and writers keep inviting him to the party.

Persevere and don’t take no for an answer. Use every thing along the way as an opportunity toward your passion. See your failures as opportunities and lessons to learn. “Discipline and a sense of purpose are more important than they have ever been.”

When you are invited to the party, be prepared. “Preparation, focus, hard work and resilence” are the elements which will get you through even the worst of situations. As he puts it, “luck favors the prepared.” At one point, he is asked, “What is your secret to success?” His answer, “Survival.”

Of course, there’s tales of his relationships with many of his colleagues in the industry, colleagues like Sean Connery and Roger Moore. His insights working with directors like Christopher Nolan.

But this is more than a recipe to career success. This is a recipe for a long lasting marriage. He’s been married to Shakira for forty-six years. And it’s a recipe for a good life.

I will leave you with two final pieces of advice from philosopher Michael Caine: “The only way to be sure you never fail is never to do anything at all. And the only way to really, truly fail is not to learn from your failures. Any time you learn from a failure, it’s a success.”

“In the end…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 give a two thumbs up to that.

 

Uncle Bardie’s Spotlight Creator: Donald Sutherland

Once a week on Friday, Uncle Bardie celebrates the creativity in others by shining a Spotlight on a movie, a song or a creator. This week’s Spotlight Creator is the actor Donald Sutherland:

I’ve admired this Canadian actor since I saw him as Hawkeye Pierce in “M.A.S.H.” He is so good in his roles that he manages to make Academy Award winners out of his co-stars. Jane Fonda won for “Klute”. Mary Tyler Moore and Tim Hutton won for “Ordinary People”. He has never been nominated for an Academy Award. Finally, the Academy gave him a lifetime achievement award.

Donald Sutherland does not have the face you would expect to be in movies. But his talent as an actor is supreme. He never delivers a bad performance. He is always convincing and authentic in those roles he puts on the screen. Like another actor I love, Alec Guinness. And this includes two of my favorite of Sutherland’s 188 credits.

The first is from “Ordinary People”. He is Calvin, the father and husband who possibly loves too much. His performance in that film brought me to tears. It was an amazing performance, yet no Academy Award nomination. That is like Whoopi Goldberg not getting the Best Actress for Celie in “The Color Purple” or Denzel Washington not getting the Best Actor for Malcolm X in “Malcolm X”.

Ordinary People”

And his role as the Nazi spy in “Eye of the Needle”:

So this week’s applause goes to Donald Sutherland.

Hamlet and the Speakeasy

I can counterfeit the deep tragedian;
Speak and look back, and pry on every side,
Tremble and start at wagging of a straw,
Intending deep suspicion.
Richard III Act 3 Scene 5.

For Hamlet’s plot till now, see Hamlet So Far.

Act 3 Scene 2. Every actor in the world wants to be the director. With one exception. Michael Caine. Sir Michael knows an easy road when he sees one. He learned during his working-class odd-job early life not to make waves. Directors make waves. Partially because it’s their job to piss people off, especially actors and producers. Partially they can’t help themselves.

Now here’s Hamlet. Right up front he wants to piss the actors off. By telling them how to do their job. Here he’s telling them to speak the speak and speech the speech. As if they don’t know how to speak the speech and speech the speak. They ought to. They have done it something like one thousand and fifty-four and a half times.

That half time is stretching it a bit. This visiting acting troupe hadn’t done a good job at the halftime celebrations of the Superbowl between the Martin Luthers and the Torquemada Inquisitors. They did a bit on the Ninety-five Theses. They called it the Ninety-six Thesis because it was the thesis that the Martin Luthers left out. This thesis claimed that Jesus was six feet seven and had played pro basketball for the Nazareth Carpenters. That went against the Church’s teaching.

According to the Church teaching on Jesus’ basketball career, the Good Lord was seven feet tall and had played for the Bethlehem Cradles. The Church had stained glass to prove it. They had Jesus’ contract for forty-five shekels for his rookie year. He played three games, then he was out for the season. He had injuries in his two palms. Something about splinters. Basically it put him out for good. Jesus never played pro basketball again. A little touch football with His Boys but never anything pro. As they say, everybody has a cross to bear and that was His.

Except for that screw-up, this acting troupe had standing room audiences at all its performances. Now here was the Hamster, an amateur, trying to tell them how to do their job. But he was paying the bill, so they let him do his thing. They just didn’t listen and went about their acting biz the way they always did. Professionally.

Hamlet must have thought he was William Shakespeare. Had Hamlet lived it is very likely that he would have gone to London and started his own theater troupe. Now that would have been a hoot. Not.

Hamlet was so good at tragedy he could have been the next Chris Marlowe. When it came to comedy, it was an ix-nay on that. From the evidence we have seen in the play so far, all Hamlet could do was sad, really sad. He would have made “The Massacre at Paris” look like a children’s play.

The Elizabethans would have run from his plays, barfing. ‘Course that would have made him even more popular since the Elizabethans loved to barf. Francis Bacon wrote three treatises on the subject. Queen Elizabeth, for whom the era was named, had contests at court to see who the best barfer was. Leicester won them hands down. Guess that was why he was the Favorite-in-Chief.

Hamlet would have been the one that all those scholars think was The Bard. Alas, it was not to be. But Hamlet still made his mark anyway. Thanks to Horatio, his story became the most popular in all the world. Folks as far away as Cathay would get a taste of it. It would be seen by more audiences than any other drama, except The Game of Thrones. So Hamlet can take his bow.

Now Hamlet gets the chance to produce, direct, and playwright. Who knows? He may even have played the ghost. Just like William the Playwright played the ghost but not the lead. Oh, that’s right. There isn’t a ghost in the Gonzago play. But no worries. Hamlet has written a part for himself. He will Olivier this little tragedy the actors perform. Talk about Multiple Personality Syndrome. Hamlet was a regular Orson Welles. A Mr. Multiple Personality.

Audrey

Audrey hated her job.  A lot. Her job was to sit in from of the camera and sell It insurance. In a few words, she told the camera It was going to die. It needed to be prepared.

It needed to plan its funeral. To purchase The Sympathy Plan, a prepaid, all-expense sendoff to the Great Beyond. Unpleasant as it was, the camera absolutely needed to know that Its family would be devastated with grief from its death.

Unfortunately, Its wife and Its children, Its brother and Its sister, Its mother and Its father would have to deal with something that most cameras find difficult. In the middle of their devastation, they would have to think about The Funeral.

They would have to agree at the worst possible moment. “He would want this,” one would say. “No, he would want that,” another said. “How are we going to pay for this?” his wife asked.

So here Audrey sat behind the desk and in front of the camera, telling It the truth. Years of voice lessons, acting training and staying in shape, giving up her cookies and her milk shakes and all the food she loved, food that would make her fat. And for what? To tell the damned camera It was going to die.

Her voice dropped into silence. She couldn’t do it.

She rose from the table like Lazarus’ rising from the grave. She looked into the camera. “I can’t do this. I won’t do this.”

She walked past the director. On her way to the door, she came to the camera, kissed It and said, “You aren’t going to die. At least, not soon.”

She was wrong about that. The next day, in the same studio, shooting another actress doing another commercial, a crew member accidentally tripped on the camera’s cord and pull It to the floor, crashing It into several pieces, Its lens beyond repair.

Audrey walked out of the studio and down the hall and out into the afternoon sunlight.

Free at last.