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Celestial twins on The Italian Job: Michael Caine and Quincy Jones are 90

“You’re only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!”

Alfie and Quincy are 90 years old today. Hooray

Casting a televisual glance at the 2022 Remembrance Day service at the Cenotaph, I was pleasantly surprised to hear a regimental rendition of Lili Marleen, the German wartime love song made famous by teutonic chanteuse Marlene Dietrich. 

The sounds of the (admittedly not my cuppa) traditional marching songs like British Grenadiers also reminded me of Quincy Jones’ genius magpie score for The Italian Job, where many of the film’s incidental themes are based on patriotic old chestnuts like Rule Britannia and God Save The [insert monarch of your choice].

The Italian Job, of course, was the 1969 vehicular romp with Michael Caine, one of my parents’ favourite actors, heading the cast as its main protagonist, Charlie Croker.

Not a lot of people know this, but it was while Caine and Jones were working together on the movie that they realised something rather remarkable: not only did they share a birthday but both were born in the same year, same day, same hour, just minutes apart — and on opposite sides of the Atlantic, on 14 March 1933, making them celestial twins and the world’s most famous newest nonagenarians. 

When asked by CBS News in 2013 how they’ve been able to maintain their unique friendship across the decades — and the pond — Jones and Caine reckoned it just comes naturally. Quincy — ‘Q’ to his friends — and the legendary artist and producer who powerhoused everything from Frank Sinatra to Michael Jackson’s Thriller, offered this:

“When it is real, you don’t have to try to maintain anything…it just happens. I hear his name, I see his movies, I get a call from him, it always touches me from the bottom of my soul.”

“We travel and cross the Atlantic all of the time, you know I have made loads of pictures in LA and everything, and he comes to London a whole lot of the time,” added Caine. ”So we see each other a great deal.”

Talking of motion pictures, the Cockney Cary Grant has been in some of the world’s greatest movies, and some of the worst (curiously, Caine once went from Hannah And Her Sisters to, erm, Jaws: The Revenge). And he still adheres to his golden rules of acting. Speak slowly. Take the work. And make the best of what you’ve got.

Released the month I was born, I’ve always had a fascination with The Italian Job, though that’s probably a lot to do with the legendary icon of theatre wit Noël Coward playing outrageously against type as nationalist crime lord Mr. Bridger, brilliantly directing operations from his prison cell. 

When I was in Turin for Eurovision 2022 I couldn’t leave the grandly fascinating former capital of Italy without paying a visit to the historic Palazzo Madama, where Caine and co famously drive down its beautiful Baroque staircase. It was closed to the public on Sundays but grazie to Stefania at the press office for allowing me access, with my own security chaperone fella. 

As luck would have it, on my way in to the museum, a brand new Mini convertible passed by. 

Well, blow me! What was that line about the doors again?

Happy Birthday Maurice Joseph Micklewhite and Quincy Delight Jones Jr.

Steve Pafford

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