On March 14 the man formerly known as Maurice Joseph Micklewhite turned 90 – and not a lot of people know that… or did they?
Famed for a rather open minded approach to film roles – he has after all starred in more than 160 features, across seven decades – Sir Michael Caine celebrated the milestone with his beloved Shakira, the actor’s wife of 40-years.
Fans, friends and a his many peers recognise the affable British star as a cultural icon, an acting legend who’s many famous film quotes have gone down in cinematic history – and rightly so.
Who can forget his exasperated final line in The Italian Job? His cheeky breaking of the fourth wall as Cockney playboy Alfie? Or indeed his stoic battle cry in Zulu?
Here. MailOnline looks back at the very best of Sir Michael – from humble beginnings in working class Rotherhithe, to Hollywood and beyond.
Then and now: On March 14 the man formerly known as Maurice Joseph Micklewhite turned 90 – and not a lot of people know that… or did they? (pictured left, in 1962, and right, in 2005)
Career beginnings, first marriage and Alfie
Born in 1933, the actor’s early life began in honest, hard-working surroundings with mother Ellen, a charwoman and father Maurice, a fish porter.
After a period of turbulence during World War II – the family was evacuated from their South London home during the blitz – he eventually enlisted for the British Army in his own right.
The decision led to a life changing spell in the Korean War, during which he reconsidered his attitude towards conflict.
He would marry his first wife, actress Patricia Haines, in 1955, with the couple eventually welcoming daughter Dominique – named after the central character in Ayn Rand novel The Fountainhead.
But by 1962 the marriage was over, and eligible bachelor Caine – by then an up and coming actor – was linked to a string of prominent young women throughout the decade.
Professionally life was considerably rosier.
After numerous walk-on parts and small roles in fringe theatre productions, he finally scored prominent roles in 1964 war epic Zulu, spy thriller The Ipcress Files and the iconic 1965 hit Alfie.
From here on in, the only way was up.
Old times: Sir Michael Caine with co-stars Vivien Merchant, Jane Asher, Julia Foster and Shelley Winters on the set of Alfie in 1965
Legend: The actor smokes a cigarette during his 1960s heyday – he pursued acting after leaving the British Army in 1955
Fists of fury: A young Sir Michael throws a punch in this 1965 promotional photo
Iconic: The working class actor played plummy Lieutenant Gonville Bromhead in 1964 film Zulu
Smash hit: But he is best known for his career defining role as a the titular playboy in 1965 film Alfie (pictured with co-star Shelley Winters)
2. The Italian Job, the early ’70s, Shakira Baksh and fatherhood
Bigger hits were to follow with 1969 smash The Italian Job – famed for the iconic final line ‘You were only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!’ – and Get Carter, a 1971 hit for the now globally famous actor.
But Sir Michael’s biggest hit came after watching a commercial for Maxwell House coffee starring a sultry Guyanese actress he soon fell in love with.
That would be Shakira Baksh, the soon-to-be Miss World finalist he would eventually marry in 1973.
‘I got her number from the ad agency,’ he told PEOPLE in 2018. ‘She couldn’t get rid of me on the telephone, so she decided to come out with me and get rid of me.
‘We fell in love at first sight. We’ve been in love at first sight for 47 years.’
The couple welcomed their daughter Natasha Haleema in 1973 – the year of their marriage.
Of his role as a father, he told the publication: ‘I’m one of the most family-oriented men you’ll ever meet.’
Success: Sir Michael in a scene from his now legendary 1969 film The Italian Job
On the case: He played a vengeful hitman in 1972 classic Get Carter
Versatile: Flying a jet in 1969’s Battle Of Britain (L) and a bespectacled Caine in 1965 spy thriller The Ipcress File (R)
Smitten: Sir Michael with then girlfriend Shakira Baksh in 1971, two years before they exchanged vows
Happy couple: Sir Michael and Shakira have been married for 40 years (pictured left, in 1969, and right, in 2003)
Family: The couple welcomed their daughter Natasha Haleema in 1973 – the year of their marriage
3. Escape To Victory and the early ’80s
The 1970s would be a mixed period for Sir Michael, whose acting roles began extending beyond the Hollywood mainstream as he endeavoured to maintain a regular stream of income.
But he would score another hit after starring alongside fellow great Sir Sean Connery in 1975 blockbuster The Man Who Would Be King.
‘Sean and I were the closest of friends before I lost him to golf and tax exile,’ he revealed in 2010.
‘I’ve known him since I was 24. Put it this way: The last time I was ever in the [unemployment] queue, he was in front of me.’
On a more personal level, the actor discussed his marriage during a 1976 interview and accompanying cover shoot with PEOPLE.
Years later, Sir Michael told the same outlet Shakira’s Muslim faith helped change his life for the better after years of partying throughout the 1960s.
‘I wasn’t an alcoholic, but I was drinking very heavily, and I know it would have killed me,’ he explained. ‘Shakira is a Muslim and doesn’t drink alcohol. She not only changed my life, she saved it.
‘We are never apart. She is one of the most beautiful people I have ever seen, but she is also the gentlest, kindest person. I have this extraordinary beautiful Indian wife who cooks fantastic Italian food. Things can’t get better than that.’
Starring role: Sir Michael with Sylvester Stallone in 1981 film Escape To Victory
Icons: The actor worked with Sir Sean Connery on 1975 hit The Man Who Would Be King
Side by side: ‘Sean and I were the closest of friends before I lost him to golf and tax exile,’ he revealed in 2010
Collaborators: With Elizabeth Taylor in 1972 film Zee and Co, one of his more dubious releases
4. The Muppets, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and Educating Rita
The 1980s proved to be a golden period for Sir Michael, with the actor winning accolades for an array of starring roles throughout the decade.
Indeed, in 1983 he served up an acting masterclass of sorts as alcoholic Open University professor Dr. Frank Bryant in Willy Russell’s Educating Rita, co-starring Julie Walters.
The film rightly earned Caine an Oscar nomination, as well as BAFTA and Golden Globe wins for his moving performance alongside Walters as the titular Rita.
More would follow in 1988, with the actor working alongside American comic Steve Martin as two unscrupulous con-artists in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.
But it wasn’t all good. The actor’s penchant for taking bread-and-butter roles lacked any real bite after he agreed to star in wretched flop Jaws: The Return.
Here, Sir Michael played pilot Hoagie Newcombe – a role one could argue he overeggs – in this awful fourth Jaws instalment, but he would soon redeem himself.
By 1992 he was earning rather more encouraging reviews for his starring role as Ebenezer Scrooge in Brian Henson’s The Muppet Christmas Carol.
Incredible: in 1983 he served up an acting masterclass of sorts as troubled alcoholic Open University professor Dr. Frank Bryant in Willy Russell’s Educating Rita, co-starring Julie Walters
Smash hit: More would follow in 1988, with the actor working alongside American comic Steve Martin as two unscrupulous con-artists in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
Sunk without trace: The actor’s penchant for taking bread-and-butter roles lacked any real bite after he agreed to star in wretched flop Jaws: The Return
Popular: By 1992 he was earning rather more encouraging reviews for his starring role as Ebenezer Scrooge in Brian Henson’s The Muppet Christmas Carol
5. Knighthoods, Dark Knight’s, Oscar recognition and beyond
The actor has won two of his six Oscar nominations – the first for Woody Allen’s 1986 film Hannah And Her Sisters, and the second for his role in 1999 drama The Cider House Rules.
The following year he was given the royal seal of approval after being knighted by Queen Elizabeth II for his contributions to drama, an honour he accepted under his real name – Maurice Mickelwhite.
He told the BBC: ‘I was named after my father and I was knighted in his name because I love my father.
‘I always kept my real name – I’m a very private and family-orientated person.’
Recognition: The actor has won two of his six Oscar nominations – the first for Woody Allen’s 1986 film Hannah And Her Sisters
… and the second for his role in 1999 drama The Cider House Rules
Getting involved: More recently the actor played butler Alfred in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, starring alongside Christian Bale
Arise, Sir Michael: The actor with devoted wife Shakira after his investiture at Buckingham Palace in 2000
Sir Michael, who was joined by wife Shakira while accepting the award at Buckingham Palace, had previously been named a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1992.
More recently the actor has enjoyed something of a career renaissance, with younger fans instantly recognising him as loyal butler Alfred in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy.
Despite hitting 90, Sir Michael insists he has no plans to retire – a path previously walked by contemporaries Sir Sean Connery and Jack Nicholson.
‘I became an actor for the love of it, so while people are still offering me things I want to do, I’ll keep doing it,’ he said in 2018.
‘I don’t have any money worries, which I had earlier. I have taken care of everybody, which my mother said I should do. And I have my grandchildren. I am deliriously happy.’
Gritty: Sir Michael in 2009 crime drama Harry Brown, one of his later releases
Acknowledgement: The actor is congratulated by Tom Cruise at the 72nd Annual Academy Awards in 2000, after winning an Oscar for his role in The Cider House Rules
All change: Sir Michael with long hair and a beard in post-apocalyptic drama Children Of Men