Pic of the Day: “The Killing of a Chinese Bookie” revisited

We’ll be closing out the week by taking another look at Flo, the enigmatic muscle behind a gang of mediocre Hollywood gangsters in John CassavetesThe Killing of a Chinese Bookie (1976). In a film full of great close-ups, this is one of the best.

The Killing of a Chinese Bookie

Ara Corbett tells us in the Filmfax article “Rebels With a Cause: The Timothy Carey-John Cassavetes Partnership,” “Plans to film Confession, a script that Cassavetes wrote with his son Nick, three years later never materialized, though the plan was to reunite the acclaimed A Woman Under the Influence team of Peter Falk and Gena Rowlands along with Cassavetes’ daughter, Zoe, and Carey as a gangster named Ibizza.” Good Lord – how epic would that have been? We can only dream.

Quote of the Week

Carey’s true nature, belying his odious on-screen behavior, came out in the easygoing way he talked about the many leads he’s worked with, actors who’ve routinely – and literally – kicked him around. He was given the cold shoulder by Robert Ryan on Alaska Seas (1954), “cursed and stomped on” by Richard Widmark during The Last Wagon (1956), and kicked in the ribs by Karl Malden during the filming of Marlon Brando‘s One-Eyed Jacks (1961) – to name only a few instances! When asked to reflect on these incidents, a sad fondness crept into Carey’s voice as he had nothing but praise for the many actors whose resentfulness instilled in him a real martyrdom rather than bitterness: “I’ve been fired from several shows. I’m not proud of it, but I do hold the all-time record.”

Ara Corbett, “Rebels With a Cause: The Timothy Carey-John Cassavetes Partnership”; Filmfax magazine #56 (May/June 1996)

One-Eyed Jacks

Karl Malden literally kicks Timothy’s ass in a scene that didn’t make the final cut of One-Eyed Jacks

Pic of the Day: “The Killing of a Chinese Bookie” revisited

Today’s pic revisits John Cassavetes’ The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (1976), the enigmatic portrait of a man in crisis but who’s trying to avoid it like all get-out. Timothy is rather unforgettable as Flo, the glad-handing muscle of some rather inept Hollywood gangsters. Here he nonchalantly fans himself with a napkin during the diner scene.

The Killing of a Chinese Bookie

“John Cassavetes was different!” Tim told Ara Corbett. “He would inspire people. He didn’t believe in anything negative; there wasn’t a negative bone in his body. You could always call him up any time and he was always there to give you a helping hand. Just incredible… He had to drop dead and die, I mean it’s just a shame. I don’t know why he couldn’t have stayed. He kept telling me he’s OK, he’s OK, but he wasn’t.”

Quote of the Week

All of Carey’s collected stories to this point are borne of the humility of working class underdogs who dream of artistic expression. There’s Menudo, the 52-year-old Mexican singing cowboy from his teleplay, My Casa Is Yours, who still wants to become a pro soccer player. There’s the title character in Fiore – written with his wife, Doris – a car wash attendant who plays detective in a local murder/necrophilia case to win the reward money for a girl’s art school tuition. In Commercials, another teleplay written with his wife, an ad exec teams up with an anti-establishment, dog-loving street entertainer. Then there’s songwriter Cass Matthews from Greenwood, who finances his 25,000 acres of alligator sanctuary by recording hit pop records in Memphis.

All of these characters constitute a clear autobiography, embarking on impossible schemes, risking public ridicule and physical injury in pursuit of their personal ideals, and none more so than Carey’s alter-ego, The Insect Trainer‘s main character, Guasti Q. Guasti. Guasti represents all of Carey’s loneliness throughout his career, directly tied to the rejection he repeatedly faced amongst those whose art he shared. The booting off of location sets, the months spent developing a character only to be whittled down to a few moments by the time it hit the big screen, doing a screen test and not getting called because someone easier to work with would come in and use Carey’s test as a primer, having idea after idea shot down…these are the elements that went into creating Guasti.

Ara Corbett, “Rebels With a Cause: The Timothy Carey – John Cassavetes Partnership,” Filmfax magazine #56 (May/June 1996)

Quote of the Week

“Loathsome,” “repulsive” and “most socially undesirable” have all been tossed around in various film guides attempting to describe the late character actor Timothy Carey. Renowned for his dominating presence in Stanley Kubrick’s early films The Killing (1956) and Paths of Glory (1957), Carey had the exhibitionism and humility of an aging circus clown, suffering to invest everything he had into even the smallest of bit roles. The sack-shaped giant with the oil spill hair and cadaverous grin died of his third major stroke on May 11, 1994. But what remains unmentioned in reference sources are his humanist spirit, and love for the Average Joe that inspired not only his acting, but his own writing and directing ventures, which were as ridiculous as they were revolutionary.

Ara Corbett, “Rebels With a Cause: The Timothy Carey – John Cassavetes Partnership,” Filmfax magazine #56 (May/June 1996)

Timothy with Ara Corbett, summer of 1992

(photo by Michael Murphy)

Quote of the Week

“[Francis Ford] Coppola wanted me so much to be in The Godfather. But the stage wasn’t right. I just would have made a lot of money, and when you make a lot of money, it doesn’t help an artist because the more money you have, the more trouble you have. Except to make a film, that’s different, of course, but [John] Cassavetes, it would never affect him… Coppola didn’t have the sensitivity that Cassavetes had. He’s a good director, a nice fella, but he’s no John. Nobody’s a John Cassavetes. Nobody!”

– “Rebels With a Cause: The Timothy Carey-John Cassavetes Partnership,” Filmfax #56 (May/June 1996), article and interview by Ara Corbett