Uniforms believed to have been worn in the 1964 classic film Zulu – which made Michael Caine’s career – have sold on Ebay for a total of £1580. The red tunics dressed the characters of Gonville Bromhead and John Chard who fought at the Battle of Rorke’s Drift in January 1879 and were played by Michael Caine and Stanley Baker respectively.
Interestingly the star-worn pieces went back into warehouses for use on other productions where they were adapted or damaged. Caine’s jacket in particular has lost much of its braiding and insignia, fetching a slightly lower price of £767. “This is a film prop tunic used in one of the greatest war films ever made, Zulu,” said the seller based in Surrey, UK. “This was supplied by L & H Nathan costumiers, later to be Bermans and Nathans and Angels costumiers in the present day. The label reads in pen Mr M Caine esq with another name over top but Caine still legible.”
“This was re-rented for film use. Things were not collected in those days so sadly the insignia and buttons have been removed and a piece of cloth cut at rear middle as in photo. It’s had a few slight alterations mainly on the braiding on the cuffs you can clearly see where it used to be so can easily be put back by a skilled costumier. The insignia is still avaliable to make this a centrepiece of any costume collection.”
Baker’s Zulu uniform is in much better condition, complete with Royal Engineer buttons.
Caine was originally up for the role of Private Henry Hook which went to James Booth. According to Caine’s autobiography he was extremely nervous during his screen test for the part of Bromhead and director Cy Endfield told him that it was the worst screen test he had ever seen. They gave him the part anyway because the production was leaving for South Africa shortly and they had not found anyone else for the role.
The film has understandably been heavily debated for its depiction of 150 British soldiers against 4000 Zulus with politics of race, war and imperialism very troubling to modern eyes. Commercial gain was a far higher priority than preaching either anti-imperialism or pro-nationalism. However, the Left-wing inclinations of the key production staff struggled with filming in Apartheid South Africa. Caine recalled seeing a black labourer punished by an Afrikaans foreman with a punch in the face. Baker sacked the foreman on the spot and made clear that such behaviour would not be tolerated. Caine swore never to make another film in South Africa while Apartheid was in force and he kept his word.