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.

 

Advertisements

Uncle Bardie’s Movie of the Week: What Happens Backstage Never Stays Backstage

Once a week on Monday, Uncle Bardie shares a movie with his Readers he gives a big two thumbs up. It will simply be a short excerpt or a trailer. From time to time, a reflection on the movie will appear below the video. So pop some popcorn and give yourself a treat. This week’s movie is “Noises Off” (1992):

When I was writing the section on Hamlet’s interaction with the actors, another wonderfully, comic play on film came to mind. Peter Bogdanovich’s film of of the play, “Noises Off”, is any theatrical director’s nightmare. That is to say that the farce probably occurs more than you’d like to think.

While we’re saying, “It’s a hit”, the director and the actors most likely are saying, “I will never, under any circumstances, work with those people ever again.” And they say it adamantly to themselves as they reveal in interview after interview, “This was such a wonderful company. I have never, in my long career, worked with such delightful people.” Then they are asked, “So you would work with these people again?” Their response, “At the drop of a hat.” All the time, cursing under their breath.

Michael Caine is the director of the cast from hell. It’s the dress rehearsal for the opening in Des Moines. Carol Burnett can’t get her lines right, even though she is being encouraged by John Ritter. It’s those darn sardines. And the newspaper. And the telephone.

Then there’s the problem with the doors. They don’t open and close the way they should. And there’s the actor with the drinking problem. And more sardines. One minute they are there and the next they are missing, and then they are back again. And the actor who needs an explanation why he will take the groceries into the study. Unfortunately the sardines and the newspaper is stuck to his hands. Plus it’s hard to do a quick change without a dresser. There are more problems with this production than there were with the Titanic. Wonder if the Titanic had problems with sardines?

“We’re two lines away from the end of Act 1,” the director encourages the actress to do the two lines, hoping against hope that the gods will put him out of his pain and soon. And, oh, the stage manager, Julie Hagerty, is pregnant with the director’s baby.

In Miami, Carol Burnett breaks up with John Ritter and locks herself up in her dressing room. Carol went out the previous night with Christopher Reeve, listening to all his problems. Christopher Reeve is dating Marilu Henner, so there’s nothing between Carol and Christopher.

That isn’t the way John Ritter sees it.  Then the curtain rises for the matinee. John Ritter is about to make Christopher Reeve’s life hell during the performance. And the drunk gets hold of the wine that the director meant for the blonde, Nicolette Sheridan. What’s worse is the drunk can’t keep his pants up.

As you can imagine, the performances backstage are much more hilarious than what is going on onstage. It’s amazing how much those darn sardines get around.  It’s enough to make a director turn to the bottle himself. One thing is for sure. One should not bring a cactus backstage in times like these.

Then it’s on to the final horror. Cleveland.

Uncle Bardie’s Movie of the Week: To sing a better song

Once a week on Monday, Uncle Bardie shares a movie with his Readers he gives a big two thumbs up. It will simply be a short excerpt or a trailer. From time to time, a reflection on the movie will appear below the video. So pop some popcorn and give yourself a treat. This week’s movie is

It’s an oldie but goodie, the movie “Educating Rita”. But my, how I love it what with Sir Michael. ‘Course I am speaking Michael Caine. This is up there with my other two favorite Michael Cainers, “Alfie” and “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels”. In this one, he’s paired with the wonderful Julie Waters. They give us two delightful characters.

In the opening scene, Sir Michael is walking a professorial walk onto a college campus, somewhere deep in the heart of England. We can compare this walk with her walk as a woman uncomfortable with her surroundings. She’s wanting more from her life than the usual drudgery of a working class husband and a baby. She’s a hairdresser full-time and a student part time at the university where Caine professorizes. It’s called Open University, the program she is in.

Anyway, back to the opening scene, he goes into his office with its comfortable chair, surrounding with shelves and shelves of books. He reaches for one of the books. It’s “The Lost Weekend”. If you remember, that is the name of the movie where Ray Milland gives up the booze and has one heck of a case of the dts. Behind the book, wallah. A bottle. So now we know that our good professor drinks. Turns out our professor not only drinks. He drinks a lot.

But this is not so much his story. It’s the story of a woman who is trying to dig her way out of a life she no longer likes, a life of low expectations. Have a kid, have a few laughs, get old, die. She wants more. She wants a lot more. Have you ever wanted something so badly that it hurt and the hurt cut deep. That you would give up just about everything to get it. That is Rita’s want. Rita’s bound and determine to get it by getting herself an education. And come hell or high water Sir Michael’s professor’s going to give her the shovel to do it with.

Her soul’s dying where she is at and she sees this professor as her way out. But he’s not about to go along willingly. He’s become a cynical sort of poet. A poet who hasn’t had a decent poem in years. His wife gave him a divorce to give him new material for his poetry. It didn’t work. So here he sits in his professorial office, getting drunk. In walks this mid-twenties woman who wants the world of learning and she expects him to give it to her.

When he tells her to go back where she came from, she says, “We’re all surviving with the spirit in tact.” But you know that she’d like to add, “But that’s about it. That’s all there is where I come from. And I’m not settling. At least, not for that.”

What she ultimately learns from this adventure, what he ultimately teaches her is that all that education cannot disguise the pain of what it means to be a human being. It can only teach her that it takes labor pains to be born into a new human being.

“Educating Rita” belongs to that rare breed of movie about the adventure of learning. It’s in the class with “Good Will Hunting”, “Dead Poets Society” and “84 Charing Cross Road”. It’s about that wonderful relationship that can occur between teacher and student. And, like Dr. Frank Bryant, the poet-professor, it is often the teacher that learns more than the student.

Do you have a favorite teacher? What made them a favorite?

Aren’t you excited?

Have you heard the news? They will be making a sequel to “Mamma Mia”. It will be called “Pappa Pia”, and it will have the same great music in it as “Mamma Mia”. The people who brought you the world’s most successful smalz will now bring you more of that schmaltz. I’m talking ABBA here. You spell it backwards it is still ABBA.

For doing “Mamma Mia”, the producers were able to talk Meryl Streep, Colin Firth and Pierce Brosnan into a free vacation on a Greek island and give them beaucoup bucks. Didn’t matter that none of them can sing. They just had to show up and lip-sync and all would be well. Unfortunately Pierce wanted to give his singing the old college try. Well, he gave it the old college try. I, for one, have to say that he should go back to playing 007. He is no singer.

Now we know all three of these people can act. They can act up a storm. They’ve all proved it too. Pierce did a great job in “Tailor in Panama” and he was a pretty decent James Bond. Colin was a darn good Darcy in “Pride and Prejudice” and stuttered his way through “The King’s Speech”. Even got an Oscar for his portrayal as King George VI. That was how good he was.

And Meryl, my God, Ms. Streep can act. We all know that. Her performances as Julia Child and Margaret Thatcher were spot on. That’s why they were chosen for “Mamma Mia” and it wasn’t based on their singing credentials. The producers wanted people who could fake singing while having a good time. The producers just couldn’t find any other big stars to embarrass themselves on the big screen in this big movie. So they took who they could get. “Besides you guys get to sing, man.” Every actor’s dream. It all goes to show what some people will do for a free vacation on a Greek island and the chance to dance around in spandex.

So, for the new movie, “Pappa Pia”, it will have a whole new score. ABBA is composing it right now as I write this blog. The plan is to get Brad Pitt. I’ve heard he really loves Greek islands. We all saw how much in “Troy”. Now didn’t we? This time he will be a man getting ready to marry. He has spent his whole life slumming on the beach as a beach bum on a Greek island. He is with his dad who is none other than Sir Michael Caine. His father has never told him who his mother is. But Brad has sneaked a peek at his father’s letters. Brad’s mom could be one of three women whom he has secretly invited to the wedding. Goldie Hawn, Helen Mirren and Jessica Lange. Just to make sure Jessica will show up, they’ve hired Sam Shepard to captain the ship the three will take to the Greek island. And who do you think Brad will marry? You guessed it. None other than Jennifer Aniston, that’s who.

Aren’t you excited? Personally I can’t wait. And who knows. Maybe, if this one is as successful as the first, we could just possibly get a third, “Baby Mia”. Now wouldn’t that be grand.