PENNY BLOOD: How did you manage to direct a peculiar talent like Timothy Carey in What’s the Matter with Helen? (1971) and in “Set Up City,” a 1975 episode of Baretta?
HARRINGTON: I’m in that little club that includes Stanley Kubrick and John Cassavetes: directors who admired Timothy Carey for his uniqueness. The thing about Timothy was that he was as eccentric offscreen as on. That eccentricity is what we all loved, but it was not entirely controllable. Producers did not like to work with Timothy because he never did two takes the same way. The only way I got him on “Set Up City” was because the star of the show, Bobby Blake, gave his approval. But I adored Timothy Carey and was very happy to have him play a tramp in What’s the Matter with Helen? and a criminal in “Set Up City.” He was very inventive. He would ad-lib extra lines. Some of them were so funny that I would burst out laughing in the middle of a take. Of course, my laugh was on the soundtrack so we’d have to do another take, which was kind of embarrassing.
There’s a scene in “Set Up City” where Timothy roughs up a used car salesman. Timothy was a bit out of control because he really hurt the other actor who later sued through the Screen Actors’ Guild. When I first met Timothy, I was terrified of him. I couldn’t imagine that I’d ever work with him. But he knew who I was. One day I ran into him on the Fox lot and he hugged me and said: “Oh Curtis, you are the greatest, man! You’re the best!” I realized that he really liked me and I had nothing to fear. (Laughs) So I took him into my heart.
– Curtis Harrington, from “Curtis Harrington: The Bitter With the Sweet,” interview by Harvey F. Chartrand, Penny Blood magazine, issue 7 (March/April/May 2007)