Cinema: Britannia Waives the Rules

To psychologists and social reformers, he may be the victim of society; to existentialists, he is a genius manqué. But to the makers of film farces, the thief is only a lovable boob.

In The Italian Job, he is Charlie Croker, played by Michael Caine with his bag of standard accessories: cockney locutions, drooping eyelids and acute satyriasis. Charlie uses jail the way some men use their country clubs—to make valuable contacts. Though he is a petty criminal, Charlie contrives to rub shoulders with the larcenist laureate of England, an elegant superpatriot of a prisoner known only as Mr. Bridger (Noel Coward)....

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