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DateOriginal Topic
11th March 2004Michael Caine
By Robert
I have two questions.
One: not being British, why do most regard Caine's portrayal of Bromhead as weak?
Two: in the movie, Chards' collar seems to me (a novice) to be grenades, was he a Grenadier?
Thanks for your help.
11th March 2004John Young

I'll let others offer their opinion of your first question.

With regard to your second question, John Chard was an officer in 5th (Field) Company, Corps of Royal Engineers - so no he was a 'Grenadier'. The flaming grenades were not introduced to the collars of the Royal Engineers until 1881, only again the film 'Zulu' was ahead of its time.

John Y.
11th March 2004Andy Lee

Thanks for this thread - Personally I think Caine should have been stripped of his British passport for his post 'Zulu' attitude. In all honesty his acting was quite good in Zulu and the film did bring him future success thanks to our hero Sir Stanley Baker.

Caine in my opinion is one, if not the most ,over-rated actors this country has ever produced and owes alot to the Zulu film something he never appreciated or acknowledged.

I would have been great to have seen a Sir Stanley (Chard) and a Mel Gibson (Bromhead).

Look forward to John's opinion.

11th March 2004John Young

I will acquiesce by my silence.

John Y.
Contributor to 'The Trouble With Michael Caine'.

PS. Can anyone tell me why Stanley Baker was dubbed in the film 'The Red Beret', starring Alan Ladd? I sat here, yesterday afternoon, and couldn't believe it!
11th March 2004John Young

Faux pas alert!
The line in first reply ' no he was a 'Grenadier', should he was not a 'Grenadier'.

11th March 2004Sheldon Hall

I too have always wondered why Baker's voice was dubbed for THE RED BERET. Perhaps the producers wanted an English accent, though THE CRUEL SEA (released earlier the same year, 1953) showed he was perfectly capable of suppressing his native Welsh accent when the role required.

Does anyone know the actor who dubbed him? It sounds very familiar to me - possibly Valentine Dyall or Anthony Bushell?

11th March 2004Robert
Thanks for your help.

I've always liked Caine's portrayal of Bromhead in the movie. I didn't realize that it was his actions afterwards that created much of the stir.

11th March 2004Martin Everett
My understanding is that Michael Caine saw film 'Alfie' a greater step on the road be becoming a star. I do not think he enjoyed the part of Bromhead - however Zulu has had a greater following and has endured the test of time. I am trying to remember - Michael Caine was in an earlier film called 'Hill in Korea' with George Baker playing his National Service platoon commander. Was Stanley Baker also in this?
12th March 2004Alan Critchley

I understood that before Zulu, Caine was in about thirteen other films. I've personally seen him in three of them. One was The Day the Earth Caught Fire, I can't recall the names of the others. Anyone know of any? Having said that, I suppose I should check his website first but can't be bothered.

12th March 2004Peter Ewart
In my humble opinion, it's not so much the acting as the accent. The accent just HAS to right. If it's right, it lends authenticity to the role; if it's not, it's just a mess.

They had a choice. Firstly, he must be able to act & they were evidently satisfied on that score. Secondly, he MUST (remember this was 40 years ago) either be an educated middle- or upper-class Englishman who speaks (not to put too fine a point on it) "posh" - OR, as an actor, who CAN speak posh in the part he accepts. (I know even posh accents have changed in the years since 1879 but you know what I mean, and of course virtually all British actors up to the 1950s had had their regional or sloppy or slang (I know they're not the same!) accents knocked out of them at drama school, whereas that doesn't happen today. But the possible field for casting the part was therefore large.

So - they either choose the archetypical British gentleman actor (scores were around) OR get someone who could do the accent properly, as many, of course, could. I believe they cast Caine rather hurriedly, and what transpired was that they chose wrongly, because Caine's valiant attempt at an English gentleman's accent was so poor as to be embarrassing - it was in the same class as the Dick van Dyck effort as a Cockney in Mary Poppins, which is still ridiculed today.

Caine's efforts at the accent slackened off during the film, & as it progressed he never quite tried to emulate fully or to continue the accent of his first scene. You can see what he's trying to do in the "mud-pie" scene (his facial expression and his timing are good)with the nasal, soft-spoken version of what he thought of as "posh", building up the "Chinless Wonder" character which Endfield and Baker obviously wanted him to portray, no doubt for current 1960s political reasons. (This was only three years after publication of Alan Clarke's "The Donkeys" and a few years before "Oh What a Lovely War!")

But the simple fact, which is a great shame, is that Caine couldn't quite do it - in fact, didn't even come near. Consider, for example, Warren Mitchell as Alf Garnett in a similar and famous attempt in reverse - successful & convincing. The fact that Caine attempted the chinless wonder/young fop role, and not just that of a Victorian regimental officer, made it even more important to get the accent dead right.

Think of Leslie Phillips, Kenneth More, David Niven or Terry Thomas, all huge stars at the time. Any one of their accents would have fitted the bill, especially for an audience who had to be convinced of Bromhead's/Caine's chinless wonder role. I'm not suggesting the four names above for this part, just their accents - although More would have been great, wouldn't he? Must have been busy at the time of casting - or probably too expensive.

With all the repeated viewing over the years, so well known has Caine's strangulated effort at the accent become, however far-fetched & comical it sounds, we now ought to give him credit for the way he played the part somehow qualifying as a completely new genre all of its own - especially the mud-pie scene, which I do find enjoyable nevertheless!

Chin, chin!


14th March 2004Ian Essex
I can't quite see where that comes from.
Firstly the character stays to fight. He offers to go up in the hills to actually go after the Zulu's. And stands his ground taking an active part in the defence. You would have had to be a very bad actor not to come across well with the Zulu script or the way that Caine's character develops.
I think that the point may have been missed here with the thought that Caine's portrayal of Bromhead is weak. There has to be changes to a lead character in a film, he must undergo a change that leads him from where he starts to the end of the film, showing how he overcome's various obstacles along the way. Caine does this very well. If anything I see him as portraying a very arrogant, almost foppish character. Bored with the army but there because it's the family tradition, more interested in shooting wildlife...badly, than actually soldiering. He's never seen combat and probably doesn't think he will. Caine gradually shakes off this image throughout the film, ending with a portrayal of a very brave soldier.
As an actor he has the part nailed down perfectly. We first see him far more elaboratley dressed than Baker's Chard. Cloak, pure white helmet and on a well groomed horse against Baker's Chard who is up to his knee's in water, in shirt sleeve dress.
Still the toff more interested in recreational activities than soldiering. Later we see him raising and positioning his hat in disinterest to breaking news, making us watch him (just watch Steve McQueen for perfect examples of an actor stealing scene's when he actually doesn't have to do anything). That's the beauty of the script, a superb conflict between the two lead characters who are on the same side. Caine plays this really well, showing utter disinterest to what is going on.
He may well be nasal, almost talking down his nose at people, but that's the disinterest and contempt of the character. He doesn't need to shout or raise his voice early in the film because people will listen to him. He's posh officer. His voice does evolve in the film, it become's more abrasive, ragged even, but that's the inerpretation of what the character is going through. All calmness at the beginning. Everything nice and easy, until he has to raise his voice over the gunfire and scream orders to be heard in a life and death battle. Most person's voice's would probably change somewhat in that situation.
Later he shakes off this character and evolves into the soldier he should be when he hands his sword over when preparing to take the 'flying squad' to hole up cracks in the defences. Look at his face when he does this. It looks like he's saying goodbye to an old friend but more probably himself.
In whatever situation Caine's character is put in, he stands tall and proud, a man seemingly honest in his beliefs. How can people miss this...
Accent not right?
bleedin' 'ell guv'nor...what's that all about?
As above, he's playing it as a tof. Acting just as Terry Thomas and David Niven did with there accents. Terry being an East London boy and David, I believe, a North London boy. Where would one actually have to come from to be considered posh? I've heard many people speak just like Caine's Bromhead in real life...and they're worth a bob or two. I think Caine's is spot on. Terry Thomas made a living from strangulating the obviously over the top English accent. It's what made him funny. His voice was a cartoon characters, just like Leslie Phillips.
Same class as Dick Van Dyke...behave yourself. Caine is actually from England. Although admittedly I'm with you when Michael does an American....
Never appreciated?
I'll grant you that he doesn't seem to mention it much in interviews, although he devoted a fair few pages to it in his autobiography but remember...he may not actually like it as much as us? He may think other films are more worthy? He's done well over a hundred. Put it this way, if someone from this forum were to interview him, we would more than likely focus exclusively on Zulu. Where would that leave the fans of The Swarm or Jaws 4?
16th March 2004Martin Heyes
Let Michael Caine himself say something on this subject - and I hope this isn't being too presumptious of me.
Michael Caine served as a National Serviceman in Korea - in a Fusilier battalion. He states in his autobiography that he based the character of Bromhead on his platoon commander in his battalion - and I think that is a reasonable model for him to adopt. I realize that we are talking about a time difference of some 80 years between the 2 conflicts - but I am sure that the portrayal of Bromhead that
we see in "Zulu" was closer to reality than not - however unpalatable that may be.
20th May 2004steve
watch carry on up the khyber,everyone sits around for tiffin(tea)while the mad pathans shell the crap out of the chandalier,untill the
day is saved by the devils in skirts(scots).

it gives an incline into the british psyche and
the way war is dealt with.
pre 1950 s it was stiff upper lip,it was never a case ofbashing johnny foreigner in some far off place,
post 1950s with the social revolution it was
trendy to show military types as foppish ,
flawed and slightly silly.
we dont take too kindly to war and even less
to winning,thats why the other chap is allright really just a little misguided.
still i defy any brit not to whistle along as
over the hills and far away trips from a flute
still , if war is cricket i guess you could say not out since 1066,a glorious run of sixes in
the 19th century,with a couple of close umpire calls in 1914 and 1939
now the yanks are batting......................