Michael Caine had a 1/2 brother in an asylum he didn’t know about for 50 years

British actor Sir Michael Caine attends a signing of his autobiography The Elephant To Hollywood at Waterstone's, Piccadilly in London on September 30, 2010.   UPI/Rune Hellestad Photo via Newscom
This morning I had the pleasure of hearing Michael Caine interviewed on NPR’s Fresh Air. (You can listen to the interview and see highlights here. It first aired a couple of days ago so you may have already heard this.) What an incredibly interesting class act this guy is. Caine, 77, told too many excellent stories to recap them all, but there were two that really stuck out for me. One was the first piece of advice that John Wayne gave him, not to wear suede shoes as you can’t get pee out of them. (It makes sense, read it!) The other was the fact that he had an older 1/2 brother in an asylum that he didn’t find out about until after his mother’s death. Caine’s mother had visited her son at his mental home every Monday and never once let the family secret slip. Her husband never even knew. It sounds like such a mystery the way he tells it. Here’s some of what he said:

On first coming to Hollywood and meeting John Wayne
“It was quite weird. I came to do a picture with Shirley MacLaine and she wasn’t there. She was working on another picture and she was just finishing up. She couldn’t get there for two weeks. So until we officially had the party welcoming me to Hollywood, I was in this very luxurious suite in the Beverly Hills Hotel and no one talked to me. No one came. They just paid the bills and that was it. So I used to sit in the lobby looking for movie stars. [That’s] where I met John Wayne for the first time and we became friends — not close friends, we hardly moved in the same circles, but we became very deep acquaintances. And he was very kind to me and gave me all sorts of advice like, ‘Talk low, talk slow and don’t say too much’ [and] ‘Don’t wear suede shoes.’ I said ‘Why can’t I wear suede shoes?’ and [John Wayne] said ‘You’ll be in the toilet, taking a pee and a guy will recognize you and he’ll turn and say ‘Michael Caine’ and he will have peed all over your shoes Michael.’ So I said ‘All right, I won’t wear suede shoes.'”

On finding out about his 1/2 brother
DAVIES: One of the interesting turns in your story is in 1991, when you learned that there was a half-brother that you’d never known about or known. Your parents were both dead at this point. How did you find out?

Mr. CAINE: My half-brother was in a mental institution. He was eight years older than me. Nobody – obviously, my mother knew, but nobody in my family had any inkling of this man. His name was David.

But the most extraordinary thing that we found out, when I found out about it -and oh, I’ll tell you first how I found out. A newspaper in England was doing an article, a series, on the state of mental health treatment in England.

And the reporter eventually rang me and told me that I had my half-brother, because I never knew him. My mother and father were dead. And the way he found out is he was in a hospital doing his thing, you know, his program about the state of mental health. And this girl, who was also a mental patient, came over and pointed at David and said: That is Michael Caine’s brother. And, of course, this reporter went: What? And he investigated it, and lo and behold, it was my half-brother.

And he rang me and said – and he was very nice. They didn’t make a big deal out of it, you know, sensationalism. He said: But he is your half-brother, he said, and the way we found out is that there is a picture of you with your mother just on the wall by his bed. And that’s the woman who comes and visits him. And then I talked to the matron, and then she’s told me the full story.

So I had this half-brother there, but the most extraordinary thing about it was that for 51, two or three years, my mother had visited him every Monday without fail, except for the five years of the war, when everyone was evacuated.

DAVIES: Now just to be clear, this was an illegitimate child that your mom had had…

Mr. CAINE: Illegitimate child that she’d had eight years before she had me, when she wasn’t married to my – my father was in the Indian Army. He was in the Royal Horse Artillery in India. And so he was away, and she’d had this illegitimate child.

What you did there, because of the shame, is you gave it to the Salvation Army. And he had epilepsy, and they’d obviously left him in a room with a very hard floor and no attention, and he’d battered himself into incoherence.

When I finally met him, he spoke, but I couldn’t understand what he said. And the only person who could understand was the matron, who had been with him the longest. And she translated. She was like an interpreter for me when we talked to each other.

And I obviously looked after him very well for the next two years, when he died years ago, years ago.

DAVIES: It’s remarkable that your mom made these visits and kept this secret.

Mr. CAINE: That’s what’s – yeah. That’s what’s incredible.

DAVIES: Took him sweets and the like.

Mr. CAINE: Yeah, I mean, my mother used to come to me on the weekends, you know, and on Monday, when she went back, you know, I’d give her all the rest of the box of chocolates, boxes of biscuits – you know, cookies as you call them in America and, you know, three-quarters of a cake, which we hadn’t eaten.

And for her, you know, and I had other family living in the house where she lived. And I would go up there and see her on a Wednesday and have a cup of tea, which is only two days later. And I’d tell her, I’d like a biscuit. And she’d say: I haven’t got one. Of course, she’d been taking them to David.

And I found out – I had a Rolls Royce and a chauffeur, the full – and my chauffeur, he said one day, he said: You do know, he said, whenever I take your mum home on a Monday, I never take her to the house. I said: Where do you drop her off? He said: I drop her off at a bus stop.

And I said: What did she say she’s going to do? He said: She’s going shopping. What she was absolutely going to do was take the food and the chocolates to David in the mental home.

[From NPR]

The Oscar winning actor is promoting his new memoir, The Elephant to Hollywood. It’s out now and I’m surprised we haven’t heard more about it. Caine has been married to his second wife, Shakira Baksh, since 1973 and they have a daughter Natasha, 37. The first photo below is of him with his wife at Natasha’s wedding, which I think was 2 years ago. Caine has another grown daughter, Nikki, from his first marriage, and she’s also pictured below.

Michael Caine at Daughter Natasha's Wedding

Michael Caine’s daughters Natasha and Nikki
Michael Caine's Daughters, Natasha and Nikki

Actor Michael Caine poses for a photograph during an interview with Reuters in New York, October 26, 2010. Caine's new memoir The Elephant To Hollywood is published by Henry Holt and Company.  REUTERS/Mike Segar (UNITED STATES - Tags: ENTERTAINMENT SOCIETY)

30th September, 2010: Actor Sir Michael Caine signs copies of his new book The Elephant to Hollywood at Waterstones book shop, Piccadilly, London.  KGC-107/starmaxinc.com Photo via Newscom

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41 Responses to “Michael Caine had a 1/2 brother in an asylum he didn’t know about for 50 years”

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  1. aenflex says:

    Love him! You guys are covering some decent people today in with the regulars.

  2. Samigirl says:

    Love him! That story about his brother is AMAZING!

  3. Diane says:

    What an interesting guy with some juicy information!

  4. happygirl says:

    I absolutely love this man =)

  5. fabgrrl says:

    Wow!! What a story! How sad that Caine’s mom had to keep the brother a secret, I’m sure Michael would have liked to provide a nice life for him, but I suppose that’s what people of her generation did. Amazing.

    The John Wayne advice was amusing. I didn’t know John Wayne was so witty.

  6. texasmom says:

    @aenflex — you cut me up. LOL at “the regulars.”

  7. Just a Poster says:

    CB thank you for letting us know about his book. I haven’t heard of it yet and can’t wait to read it!

    I love Michael Cain, and find him really interesting.

  8. Bunny says:

    I heard this on NPR, it was so touching and sad. It goes to show how times and attitudes were so different.

    He is open and honest about his career, never full of himself. One of the best!

  9. Happymom says:

    Ah-an actual actor and interesting person. Take note, Jessica Alba.

  10. sketches says:

    His first memoir, What’s it all About?, is just lovely. If you can track down the audiobook version, which he reads himself, it’s particularly delightful.

  11. chasingadalia says:

    I’ve always loved Michael Caine. I think I’m going to have to go read his book!

  12. YT says:

    Amazing story about his brother. Thanks for posting it.

    Michael Caine is always a fantastic storyteller about his very interesting life.

  13. Mizz Tickles says:

    Excellent story!

  14. anti says:

    thanks for posting.
    what a wonderful gentleman!

  15. Arianna says:

    love him and actually sounds like a memoir worth reading

  16. Nanea says:

    Here’s someone who actually has something to say, and who’s still relevant after decades in the business.

    I’m wondering if “Dame” Alba (good one, Kaiser!) will eventually have something to say, and if she’s still relevant when she’s as old as Sir Michael.

  17. Nina says:

    It’s very possible that even if the child hadn’t been illegitimate, his mom still would have kept him secret. Mental health was viewed very differently back then and was considered very shameful. My grandfather had a brother who spent his life and died in an asylum; my dad never even knew the man existed until he found out when he was well into his 40s.

  18. Johnny Depp's Girl says:

    What true character he has, he seems to be a “real” person. I like him.

  19. Obvious says:

    Michael Cain CAN’T be 77 years old! I love him too much. He is an amazing talent and seems to be a humble and truly fantastic man.

  20. Mairead says:

    He talked about this in a documentary about himself around 10 years ago (my time perception is off I’m afraid).

    And if memory serves me right there was a terrible irony that he took the name “Caine” as his stage name as his half-brother was institutionalised in a place called “Cane House”! All he could think of was how his mother felt going to this place, secretly, once a month and now her other son took a stagename so similar. Poor woman.

  21. Jazz says:

    It’s very sad that his mother felt she had to give her baby up because he was illegitimate, the guilt she felt must of been tremendous. At least she visited him often. Michael Caine – what a class act.

  22. roguesiren says:

    Wow. Thanks for bringing this article to attention. Michael Caine is such a classy and kind hearted man. A lot of the younger generation actors could learn a thing or two from him.

  23. Jeri says:

    Wow, that story is heartbreaking, wonderful and could bring you to tears. So many facets to the story, his mother remained loyal and loving to her frstborn all of her life and kept it secret too.

  24. bluhare says:

    Now there’s an actor.

    I’m English, and back then the stigma of an illegitimate child was bad enough, but an illegitimate child with mental problems? Unheard of. Plus her man was with the cavalry in India? Not exactly low brow. She’d have been an outcast, as would her son. Her husband would probably not have married her and there would be no Michael Caine.

  25. Shy says:

    She could have told him when she he was adult.

  26. ak138 says:

    Love Michael Caine. What’s It All About, Alfie? is one of my favorite movies.

    Caine, Peter O’Toole, and Richard Harris are/were the best storytellers (and completely entertaining actors). We won’t see their like again.

  27. Shay says:

    He is one of the last interesting personalities, actors and decent human beings.

  28. Liana says:

    Michael Caine… just love the man. He taught an acting seminar I attended years ago and I’ll never forget his best piece of advice: “When acting, you can’t act. You have to believe it. If it isn’t real for you, it won’t be real for them…”

  29. Moxie says:

    The civilized world no longer uses the word “asylum.’

  30. Moxie says:

    ASYLUM??? Such terminology belongs in the Dark Ages. Perhaps you are referring to a mental hospital?

  31. Raven says:

    Damn! Did I turn the radio off too soon this morning! Thanks for pointing this out. I love Michael Caine and was even looking forward to the interview.

  32. Sefa says:

    I am yours for life for covering this. Were it not for you guys and Craig Ferguson, I’d never have known about what I’m sure is an amazing book. Ever since I found out that Caine has been married to his second wife for as long as they have been and that he said he never needed to have an affair because of how wonderful she is, he’s just been one of my favorite people ever.

    (And let’s face it, why would you cheat when you’ve got a stunning woman like that in your life?)

  33. Fishlips says:

    What a fascinating story!

    Shakira Baksh is gorgeous. I once read an interview by Michael Caine in which he told the story of how he met his wife. He saw her in a TV commercial for coffee. She was playing a Latin American woman. Somehow, he was able to track her down. He was surprised to find out that she was desi (South Asian), and not Latina.

  34. Woodsy says:

    Thanks for this post. Finally a celebrity I actually admire. Michael Caine is so awesome.

  35. Woodsy says:

    Hey, why isn’t Michael Caine on Hot Guy Friday–the British edition?

  36. Anti-icon says:

    This is an awesome post. I’m buying this memoir. I’m glad he shared about family secrets because Michael was left with some really damaging family emotional baggage that was NOT properly managed by his mother or father. Bless his heart. His wife is beautiful and so is their daughter. Michael Caine appears to have channeled all his splendor into his family and his career.

  37. Lady LaLa says:

    Love his voice, too

  38. british bitch says:

    It was known as Cane Hill Asylum, David Bowie´s half-brother Terry was in there also. He killed himself. Cane Hill was an interesting place.

  39. original kate says:

    great actor, and very witty in interviews. he was once asked why he made so many crappy movies in the 80s and he said “because i’m an actor, and my job is to act. i just take everything because i’m always thinking it may be the last offer i’ll get.” love him.

  40. Confuzzle says:

    I just finished reading the book and it is an excellent read.

  41. KateNonymous says:

    Re: “asylum”–what’s the usage in the UK? And it’s always interesting to me when one usage of a term is anathema, but another usage is just fine (“political asylum,” anyone?).