The Rake doffs its hat to ten of the greatest British thespians ever to grace stage and screen, listing their most rakish roles, wittiest utterances and key biographical trivia.
1. SIR MICHAEL CAINE
Most Rakish Films: The Ipcress File, Alfie, Get Carter, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, The Quiet American
Notable Trivia: Both Caine and his close friend Roger Moore are said to have quit smoking cigarettes as the result of stern words from Tony Curtis. Curtis confronted the four-pack-a-day Caine at a 1971 Hollywood party. “That’s, what, the fifth cigarette you’ve smoked in less than an hour? You’re gonna die,” Curtis scolded him, throwing Caine’s fags in the fireplace. “He was right. You can’t smoke like that and live,” Caine said. “And I stopped.”
Greatest Real-life Quote: “I have never seen it (Jaws 4) but by all accounts it is terrible. However, I have seen the house that it built and it is terrific.”
Best movie line: “You’re a big man, but you’re in bad shape. With me, it’s a full-time job. Now behave yourself.” —Get Carter
2. PETER SELLERS
Most Rakish Films: The Party, Lolita, Dr Strangelove, Being There, The Pink Panther
Notable Trivia: Many of those who worked with Sellers thought him mentally ill and devoid of any character beyond the parts he played. He appeared to agree, remarking, “As far as I’m aware, I have no personality of my own whatsoever … When I look at myself I just see a person who strangely lacks what I consider to be the ingredients for a personality. If you ask me to play myself, I will not know what to do. I do not know who or what I am.” A chronic drug addict and alcoholic, Sellers died of a heart attack in a suite at the Dorchester in 1980. He left the bulk of his multi-million pound estate to his fourth wife, and cruelly gave his children from his first marriage, Michael and Sarah, just £800 each.
Greatest Real-life Quote: “Criticism should be done by critics, and a critic should have some training and some love of the medium he is discussing. But these days, gossip-columnist training seems to be enough qualification. I suppose an ability to stand on your feet through interminable cocktail parties and swig interminable gins in between devouring masses of fried prawns may just possibly help you to understand and appreciate what a director is getting at, but for the life of me I can’t see how.”
Best Movie Line: “Mein Führer! I can walk!” —Dr Strangelove
3. RICHARD BURTON
Most Rakish Films: Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, The Night of the Iguana, The Spy Who Came in From the Cold, Look Back In Anger, Where Eagles Dare, The Wild Geese
Notable Trivia: In 1969, Burton bid against the Sultan of Brunei and Aristotle Onassis in the auction of 68-carat diamond. When Cartier won the auction, Burton bought the gem from the Parisian jeweller the following day for $1 million (then the highest price ever paid for a jewel), promptly presenting the gigantic rock to his wife, Elizabeth Taylor.
Greatest Real-life Quote: “I was up to — I’m told, because of course you don't remember if you drink that much — about two-and-a-half to three bottles of hard liquor a day. Fascinating idea, of course, drink on that scale. It’s rather nice to have gone through it and to have survived.”
Best Movie Line: “It is men who endure toil and dare dangers that achieve glorious deeds. And it is a lovely thing to live with courage and to die leaving behind an everlasting renown.” —Alexander the Great