Pics of the Day: “East of Eden” 1955 and 1981

Over a year ago I mentioned that I ought to do a side-by-side comparison of Timothy’s roles in both screen versions of John Steinbeck‘s epic 1952 novel East of Eden – the 1955 feature film helmed by Elia Kazan, and the 1981 television miniseries directed by Harvey Hart. So let’s do it already! Here are Joe the brothel bouncer from 1955, and the unnamed fire-and-brimstone preacher from 1981.

East of Eden (1955) East of Eden (1981)

It seems clear that no matter what the role, Tim knew how to command the screen. Well done.

Quote of the Week

You remember Timothy Carey, don’t you? Didn’t you see The Wild One? He’s the crazy guy who shook up the beer and squirted it in Marlon Brando‘s face. Did you see East of Eden? He was the surly bouncer at the brothel where James Dean‘s mother worked. Poor Tim mumbled his lines so badly that Elia Kazan had to have Albert Dekker re-dub all his dialogue. Tim thought Kazan missed the whole point. “That’s the way pimps talk,” he explained. How about The Killing, by Stanley Kubrick? He was the racist rifleman who shoots the horse at the racetrack to create a diversion for the heist. You must have seen Paths of Glory, another great Kubrick film – Carey is one of the three court-martialed soldiers sentenced to execution.

All his characterizations seem to inspire a common reaction: “What the hell’s the matter with this guy?” Tim Carey had a uniquely twisted screen presence that many great directors tried, and often failed, to harness. He was the only man that Kazan ever physically attacked on the set. Brando cast him in One-Eyed Jacks, and ended up stabbing him with a pen in exasperation. Carey didn’t seem to care; he went on being Tim Carey. When new friends, like the maverick actor/director John Cassavetes, came to Carey’s house for the first time, he made them wear a bulky, padded suit. He then turned his attack dog loose on them. “It’s not you,” Carey would howl. “He just hates that suit.”

- Eddie Muller and Daniel Faris, Grindhouse: The Forbidden World of “Adults Only” Cinema (St. Martin’s Griffin, New York, 1996)

Eddie Muller and Marisa at Noir City Portland, 2014

Meeting Eddie Muller, “the Czar of Noir,” at Noir City Portland at the Hollywood Theatre, 09/19/2014

Quote of the Week

In honor of today being the 115th birthday anniversary of Elia Kazan, Timothy recounts an incident that took place during the filming of his fight scene with James Dean in East of Eden (1955),

*********

Elia Kazan, the master realist, began to get nervous, though. He yelled, “Cut,” and called me over.

“Now take it easy, Carey,” he told me. “We won’t have this actor very long if you keep this up.”

So I took it easy in the next few takes. Then we had a short break and went over to Kazan. Jimmy put his arm around Kazan, and said, “I don’t know, Gadge. I don’t get the feeling. Why doesn’t Tim really open up on me?”

Again, I cut loose. I was flabbergasted. Jimmy seemed like he wanted to be tortured. Me, I was bewildered. I was afraid I’d get thrown out of the picture.

Later, Solly Baiano, the Warner casting director, gave me a tip.

“You’d better take it easy, Tim,” he said. “I know you’re a good actor, but don’t over-do it. Kazan is sensitive.”

- from Timothy’s article “The Highways of Heaven”, Movie Stars Parade magazine, September 1957

With Elia Kazan and James Dean on the East of Eden set

Quote of the Week

THE WEALTH OF UNREALIZED BRILLIANCE

Even if you try to sweep all of Carey’s misuse and abuse as an actor under the studio rug, you can’t look past all of his ingenious and insane film concepts that never saw the light of day. When it came to performances, you could safely say that Carey helped other actors create characters more often than he himself managed to play them (I’m not sure about this sentence in general. It’s confusing). Failed screen tests, in which the eventual actor of choice mirrored his performances, glutted Carey’s career.

His energy and naked honesty often made more enemies than friends. Carey’s characters weren’t allowed out of their cages. He would spend months developing the personality and behavior of a character only to have his screen time edited down to a moment or two. The reason? It seems as though his presence always took away from the stars; his energy and screen presence left everyone else looking flat and artificial. In this way, he was kind of like James Dean, who he worked with on Dean’s first major film, 1955′s EAST OF EDEN (Carey was uncredited).

When Carey took on the role of Joe, the brothel bodyguard in EAST OF EDEN, he brought his usual sense of off-the-wall style, making the most of what he had. He slurred and barked his lines like an animal, knee deep in hate and perversion. Undoubtedly, it was a colossal performance and broke out from the stilted performances of the rest of the cast. However, upon viewing the footage of Carey in action, director Elia Kazan ordered that all of his dialogue be re-dubbed by someone else. When asked about it, Carey blithely replied, “That’s how pimps talk.”

- Sam McAbee, “Timothy Carey: Saint of the Underground”; Cashiers du Cinemart #12 (2001)

East of Eden (1955)

 

Pic of the Day: “East of Eden” publicity still

Today’s pic is a variation on the familiar promotional shot of Timothy manhandling James Dean in Elia Kazan‘s East of Eden (1955). This one, less commonly seen, appears to have been taken a few seconds later (or earlier, it’s hard to tell), with Tim deep in shadow.

East of Eden publicity still

Tim described shooting this scene in “The Highways of Heaven”, his article on his friendship with Dean that appeared in Movie Stars Parade magazine in 1957. “In our next fight sequence, I was supposed to pummel Jimmy as he ran through the hallway after leaving his mother’s office. I grabbed hold of his hair; we got into a struggle, I hit him and almost caved in the side of his face. He never said anything. I couldn’t understand the guy. Any other actor would have called the cops. But not Jimmy. That’s the way he wanted it – real.” Whether or not Dean truly had, as has long been rumored, a masochistic streak, he certainly was the kind of actor who preferred to keep things real.

Video of the Week: “East of Eden”

Our video this week comes to us once again via the good people at Movieclips.com. It’s the famous scene from Elia Kazan‘s East of Eden (1955) in which Cal Trask (James Dean) confronts his long-lost mother Kate (Jo Van Fleet, who won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for this, her first film role), the owner of a house of ill repute.

In his Movie Stars Parade article “The Highways of Heaven,” Timothy related the tale of shooting this scene with Dean:

“Then I lifted my fist to hit him again, missed, hit a pipe and broke my knuckles. Some blood began to trickle, but I wanted to continue with the scene. Only Jimmy wouldn’t let me. He didn’t care when his own blood was oozing, but at the sight of my blood he became compassionate.

‘It’s all right, Jimmy,’ I insisted. ‘Let’s go.’

‘No,’ Jimmy was firm. ‘Let’s get the  nurse.’

This guy was a human being. He really cared about my knuckles bleeding. I could drop dead on the set, and most people would say, ‘Lower the crumb right down.’ Not Jimmy. He valued me.”

Quote of the Week

Timothy Agoglia Carey was born Timothy William Carey in 1924 [sic; actually 1929]. And it was all uphill from there. A hulk at 6-foot-4, the man was born to play every weird, menacing background figure any movie ever needed. Often, he was called upon to do just that. Carey’s anarchistic and sometimes violent sense of whimsy wouldn’t allow him to just stand there behind the big names and glower. Too much kinetic energy bound up; it got released. [...]

A polarizing figure both onscreen and off, Carey could be intimidating by just saying “Hello.” His reputation for unpredictability kept him from being cast in big movies (Spartacus, The Grifters, Reservoir DogsTarantino dedicated the script to him) and got him into trouble with others – he and Elia Kazan almost came to blows on East of Eden (the actual fight is apocryphal); Richard Widmark and Karl Malden both did their own improvising during fight scenes with Carey in The Last Wagon and One-Eyed Jacks respectively, making sure that punches and kicks were not pulled. Also on One-Eyed Jacks, Brando got his revenge for the beer gag [in The Wild One] by stabbing Carey with a pen.

But those who were friends with him, good friends, were friends until the end. Longtime buddy John Cassavetes, who cast Carey in Minnie and Moskowitz and The Killing of a Chinese Bookie, considered him to be a genius on a par with Sergei Eisenstein. Carey’s loyalty to Cassavetes led him to turn down the role of Luca Brazzi in The Godfather. [...]

In Head, he played Lord High ‘n’ Low, the representation of everything evil in marketing, who tried to get the Monkees to sell their sweat and nail clippings. In Fast-Walking, he played the towering lunatic inmate Bullet. And in Beach Blanket Bingo, he played South Dakota Slim, who straps Linda Evans to a buzzsaw. Maybe you don’t know the name (even I have to confess that for years I confused him with both Timothy Leary and Professor Irwin Corey), but you know who he is. The face’ll get ya every time.

Mike Watt, “The World’s Greatest Sinner (1962)”, Fervid Filmmaking: 66 Cult Pictures of Vision, Verve and No Self-Restraint (McFarland and Company, 2013; Kindle Edition)

Fast-Walking