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snopes 12 August 2014 01:18 AM

Ian McKellen vs. Michael Caine
Comment: I'm not sure this fall under the category of rumor, but both
Michael Caine and Sir Ian McKellen in their autobiographies tell almost
the exact same story of being boys during the Blitz and finding a yellow
tube in the debris from the Luftwaffe bombing. They both say that they
and their friends played with the yellow tube for hours until a butcher
finds them on the street. He takes the tube, covers it with sandbags and
tells them to "piss off --it's a bomb." They explain that the "tube" was
actually an incendiary device and would have probably killed or maimed
them if it had worked properly. My question is, which man is telling the
truth? There are too many similarities for it to be an experience both of
them shared. Or did both hear this good story and incorporate it into
their own life stories? Was this, perhaps a news story they decided to add
to their own lives?

Richard W 12 August 2014 07:46 AM

Without having read either autobiography, there were quite a lot of incendiary devices dropped on London, and unexploded bombs and shells are still found quite regularly even now, so it doesn't seem unbelievable that they both might have separately found part of an unexploded bomb, especially if that part was yellow and so stood out. That must have happened quite a lot. It depends how much of the rest of the description is the same, I suppose.

Michael Caine was born in 1933 and Ian McKellen was born in (May) 1939 according to Wikipedia (He's six years younger than Michael Caine?!). The Blitz was from September 1940 - May 1941 so Michael Caine would have been the right sort of age but Ian McKellen would clearly have been too young to remember playing outside with friends at that time, and it's dubious that he would even be old enough to have done so. If you extend "Blitz" to mean just WWII bombing in general, there would have been bombs and bomb parts lying around for years, so it could have been later in the war or even after the war.

Anybody got the autobiographies to look up what they actually say?

Gutter Monkey 12 August 2014 10:12 AM

According to his Wikipedia biography Ian McKellen wasn't anywhere near London during the blitz:

McKellen was born on 25 May 1939 in Burnley, Lancashire
shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War in September 1939, his family moved to Wigan. They lived there through the war

Richard W 12 August 2014 01:21 PM

Michael Caine has two autobiographies (links to Amazon):

What's It All About? (from 1992)

The Elephant To Hollywood (from 2010)

Ian McKellen doesn't even appear to have written an autobiography, although there is an An Unofficial Biography.

So it seems unlikely that Ian McKellen told this story in his autobiography if he was less than two years old at the time, in the wrong place and hasn't even written an autobiography... I wonder if there's a more definitive reference for his ever telling the story?

AliBaba 22 August 2014 07:00 PM

This is my second post today offering an anecote in place of evidence. Oops. But here it is; many years ago when my children were little, my daughter asked me to play with her. I told her sorry, but I needed to make dinner. She said "Can I help you push the buttons?" At the time, I was mortified, but I also thought it was funny as hell, so I told several people about it.

About 6 months later, I heard Jane Pauley being intereviewed and she told the exact same story. The chances of there being anyone we both know who could have heard my story and told it to her are, at the least, quite slim. So this is just sort of a natural quetion for kids to ask I guess. My point (ah, at last!) is that it's not out of the realm of possibilities for two people with no connection to relate the exact same anecdote without it being a case of plagerism (or whatever the correct term is -grand theft anecdote perhaps.)

Or, as the last person pointed out, it's also possible McKellen never passed it off as his story and the source from the OP just remebmered incorrectly.

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