As Christopher Bray relates in this fascinating biography, Michael Caine’s story is the story of Britain during the twentieth century. Born into south London poverty during the depression-hit Thirties, Caine suffered the depredations of War as a child and wasted his energies fighting in Korea during the Fifties. Subsequently, he began his long, slow climb up the greasy pole of the acting profession with walk-ons and bit parts. But as the old order began to crumble during the Sixties, Caine’s working class origins came into their own. Iconic roles followed one after the other: the old Etonian who no longer quite believes in his power to command in Zulu; Harry Palmer in The Ipcress File; Alfie; The Italian Job. In these and (literally) dozens of other pictures, Caine became to British cinema what the Beatles were to its rock ‘n’ roll – but unlike the Beatles he would develop his persona through a longer career. He summed up the grit of the Seventies with Get Carter, the get-rich-quick glitz of the Eighties with Mona Lisa, and was the living embodiment of John Major’s vaunted ‘classless society’ of the Nineties – a truly world-class British movie star.