The Sunday Times Magazine asked me to photograph Sir Michael Caine, much to my extreme delight as I always loved his work. My favourite film of his was Dirty, Rotten Scoundrels closely followed by the John Houston’s film, The Man Who Would Be King, which is where I believe he first met his lovely wife Shakira Caine who I have met and photographed for her jewellery collection (and will do a separate blog about).
The shoot was scheduled to happen at legendary tailor and acquaintance of mine Doug Haywards Mayfair Salon (who the character Alfie was allegedly based on and who dressed the likes of Cary Grant, Terence Stamp, Rex Harrison, Tony Bennet and Steve McQueen and a whole host of other stars). This was the only time Sir Michael had free between shooting films. My assistants and I dashed across London, through heavy traffic and full of excitement. We arrived in Mayfair having had the most stressful parking experience and the guys unloaded the car and I ran into the shop. I walked into a beautiful mahogany shelved store, which was lined with bolts of cloth, ties and accessories decorated in the classic tradition of English tailors, with two chesterfield couches on either side of the room for well heeled celebrity clients to sit on.
I knew the receptionist and she said as I entered “Hi Clive, are you here to photograph Sir Michael”. ‘Yes” I said “But where are they” I was concerned that maybe I had missed the opportunity due to the traffic and parking fiasco. However fortunately I could hear un-mistakable raucous laughter from the back of the building and was then guided to follow the sound. As I entered the fitting room Sir Michael and Doug greeted me between jokes. Sir Michael was mid fitting and I just felt I had to capture the moment of the half made suit being fitted, it as it was such a fabulous unusual moment and one that showed the closeness of two old friends. I shouted to my assistants “Quick, bring me a camera and the lights, we’re shooting in the Fitting Room, it’s great.” I immediately started to take pictures while Doug and Sir Michael kept on sharing more stories about the entertainment business.
I then shot Sir Michael alone in the salon sat in a leather chair, while we were shooting his portraits (as per the original Sunday Times brief). I said ‘Michael you must have so many funny stories’ and then Sir Michael related the following anecdote. ‘One of the funniest things” he said “was when I was making a film at Pinewood with Sir Alec Guinness who was always such a quiet and reserved man. One day he arrived on set looking rather pale and slightly shocked. I said “Sir Alec, what is the matter?” and he said “Oh, no nothing Dear boy”. I said” it can’t be just nothing you look too upset.” He then paused and said in the gravest of tones “I’ve just had an unfortunate experience with a cab driver ” ‘Oh no, what happened?” I said, he looked at me very seriously and said “I’d rather not say Dear Boy”. I asked if there was anything I could do to help, was he rude or offensive in any way, what was the problem?”
“Oh well if you really insist’ continued Sir Alec ” The cab driver kept on looking at me intensely and saying, over and over again, “I know who you are” throughout my journey here. ” I said ‘No, no please don’t worry, that’s fine, thank you” but the driver persisted for the entire journey “I know who you are” again and again and then as I left cab to pay him he looked at me, with the face full of triumph and said, “Oh, yes I’ve got it you’re Telly Savalas from Kojak, the TV Detective.”
Sir Michael said he couldn’t help but burst our laughing and neither could the crew, while Sir Alec raised an eyebrow and walked to his dressing room, somewhat bemused by the whole thing.” Myself, Doug and the assistants, also had tears running down our cheeks after Sir Michael’s retelling of the tale. That is undoubtedly Sir Michael’s gift, he is a master story teller and one of the greatest actors Britain has ever produced (in my humble opinion). I am very fond of these pictures particularly the black and white close up of Sir Michaels face above which won the Maccalan Masters of Photography award for best portrait in 2005. The Sunday Times never used that image at the time because they thought it was to arty, which surprised me as it really has a special and intimate quality to it.
- Clive Arrowsmith is still shooting stunning images, staging exhibitions and is as passionate about photography as he was when he first pressed the shutter at The Paris Collections. He is available for global media opportunities related to his work and photography generally. Bespoke prints from Clive’s archive are also available by special request, for any enquiries (email Eugenie here). Clive’s book Arrowsmith: Fashion, Beauty & Portraits is available here and Lowry at Home: Salford 1966 is available here