Maurice Micklewhite in London, Caine was the son of a fish-market porter and a charlady. He left school at 15 and took a series of working-class jobs before serving with the British Army in Korea, where he saw combat.
Upon his return to England, he gravitated toward theatre and got a job as an assistant stage manager. He adopted the name of Caine on the advice of his agent, taking it from a "Caine Mutiny" marquee.
In the years that followed, he worked in more than 100 television dramas, with repertory companies throughout England and eventually in the stage hit, The Long and the Short and the Tail, as Peter O'Toole's understudy, a role he later assumed on tour.
The 1964 African adventure film Zulu brought Caine to international attention. Instead of being typecast as a Cockney soldier, he played an effete, aristocratic officer. Although Zulu was a major success, it was the role of Harry Palmer in The Ipcress File and his title role as Alfie (1966), which made Caine a star of the first magnitude.
He epitomized the new breed of actor in mid-sixties England, the working-class bloke with glasses and a down-home accent.However, after initially continuing to star is some excellent films, particularly in the sixties, including Gambit, Funeral in Berlin, Play Dirty – The Battle of Britian,Too Late The Hero The Last Valley, Get Carter.
He often seemed to take on roles in below average films, simply for the money he could by then command.There was some gems amongst the dross, however. He gave a magnificent performance opposite Sean Connery in The Man Who would be King and as a German colonel in The Eagle Has Landed, Educating Rita, Hannah And Her Sisters, for which he won his first Oscar) were highlights of the eighties, while more recently, Little Voice, The Cider House Rules (which won for him his second Oscar) and Last Orders have been widely acclaimed.