Michael Caine received his first Oscar nomination for portraying Alfie Elkins in Alfie.
Michael Caine does indeed have a challenge to begin with in this role, since he must strive to make Alfie a likable character, likable enough to follow through the film, while making him charming enough to make his constant "conquests" believable. Alfie could have easily been one loathsome fellow in the wrong hands, oh he still certianly is loathsome but Caine manages to make him a likable loathsome fellow.
Caine has the perfect needed ease in the role. This a very much required for a role that frequently requires one the break the fourth wall and constantly address the audience. Caine stays natural even in these moments, which is very much necessary, since he makes it seems like taking to the viewer directly is just a natural thing for Alfie to do, there really is nothing strange about it and it ever helps develop Alfie relaxed way toward life quite well.
Caine always has the right charm in the role that is never frankly overly charming, Alfie really shouldn't be being the low level player he is, but it still is a prevalent charisma to the right degree for Alfie, particularly in his scenes with women. He does not just constantly beaming with overwhelming charm, but there is a certianly low key charm that Caine uses to great effect.
Alfie is many times billed as a comedy, although I frankly feel there more drama than comedy to it, but nonetheless most of the comedy comes from the contradictory nature of the character. Where he says he is doing one thing, but really not doing it well. Caine excels at this showing that Alfie's irresponsibility is not just something he does but Alfie absolute nature something he really cannot really even help. Caine never shows Alfie trying to be this way, he simply is that way.
Caine best moments as Alfie really come from his more dramatic scenes where Alfie must really see the emptiness in his lifestyle as well as possibly change what he really wants in life. It is interesting because his scenes of charming various women are a more externally driven performance, but Caine balances these scenes extremely well with very subtle moments that suggest maybe Alfie is not as uncaring and irresponsible as he thinks he is or he wants to be.
Caine has some small moments at the beginning with one of his many girl friends. She has his child, and Caine carefully shows that Alfie puts on a facade really to show he views the child as nothing more than an inconvenience, but through little moments of reactions Caine shows that Alfie really does have underlying warmness, and honestly does love the boy, even though he tries to act like he doesn't. A particularly great scene comes later near the end of the film where he sees the family might have had, Caine reaction is entirely silent but shows the emptiness his character feels all to well.
A bit more external yet as powerful moments of reflection come in when a particularly inconvenient pregnancy occurs due to Alfie's irresponsibility. Caine is great through this whole scene of the dealing with this pregnancy as he begins showing Alfie putting only slight bit of care in the situation barely even recognizing his responsibility in what is occurring. Caine is absolutely heartbreaking though when he sees the result of special treatment of the pregnancy. Caine reaction is perfect and Caine brilliantly shows how Alfie's conscience suddenly catches up with him.
Caine after these events, and more that change Alfie's view of life does not show that Alfie is absolutely a different man. He still attempts to get through life the way he did before, with his same charm, yet Caine carefully does transition him to the right degree no longer seeing life as just a ride as he did at the beginning of the film, instead showing a great deal of sadness in the man, who finally started to see the emptiness in the life he made for himself.
This was a breakthrough star making role for Caine and it is very easy to see why. Caine is able to bring the right amount of charm and humor through his performance, while bringing the right depth and reflection to the part as well. Caine not only entertains with Alfie but he also manages to fully realize the character of Alfie becuase he excels both through his early more slight moments and even more so with his transition to deeper moments where he brings a great deal of power to them.