To the casual observer, Timothy Carey was one of filmdom’s most unusual character actors. He certainly was, but he was so much more. He was a force of nature. Notoriously challenging to work with, Carey did things his way and more than once butted heads with studio officials in Hollywood. In films like Crime Wave (1954), Finger Man (1955), East of Eden (1955), and Bayou (1957), his hulking 6’5″ frame, heavy features and rumbling voice demanded that you pay attention to him.
Stanley Kubrick did pay attention, and gave him his big breaks in The Killing (1956) and Paths of Glory (1957). The characters he portrayed in these films – a sharpshooting racehorse assassin and an innocent scapegoated WWI soldier, respectively – were at opposite ends of the moral spectrum, but Carey was able to hone in on what made them both human. This was probably his greatest strength as an actor.
Today we observe the 93rd birthday anniversary of legendary cinematic tough guy Charles Bronson. Here he is with Timothy and Jim Hayward in a scene from Andre’ De Toth‘s noir masterpiece Crime Wave (1954).
Born Charles Dennis Buchinsky to a Lithuanian coal-mining family in Pennsylvania (one of fifteen children), Bronson was the first member of his family to graduate from high school. After a stint in the coal mines himself, he flew bombers in World War II and received a Purple Heart. Odd jobs after the war brought him to a theater group in Philadelphia. He soon found himself in New York City and then Hollywood, determined to pursue an acting career. Like Timothy, he turned in many small and/or uncredited performances in film and on television throughout the 1950s. His big break came when Roger Corman cast him in the title role of Machine-Gun Kelly (1958). Shortly afterwards he won the lead in the TV series Man with a Camera (1958-1960). Important supporting turns in films such as The Magnificent Seven (1960), The Great Escape (1964) and The Dirty Dozen (1967) followed. He then headed to Europe and made several spaghetti Westerns, including Sergio Leone‘s incredible Once Upon a Time in the West (1968). He came back to the United States a bona fide star, and he remained one until his untimely death from pneumonia in 2003. He once said, “Someday I’d like a part where I can lean my elbow against a mantlepiece and have a cocktail.”
A combination of hepcat messiah, hulking loner and life-long loose cannon, the great character actor Timothy Carey (1929 – 1994) cut a fearsome, unforgettable figure on-screen, whether it was manhandling James Dean in EAST OF EDEN, throwing beer in Brando’s face in THE WILD ONE, or moaning pitifully on his way to execution in PATHS OF GLORY. Carey was cast most often as a menacing gunman/enforcer, a role he played with relish in crime classics like THE KILLING, CRIME WAVE and THE OUTFIT. His off-screen reputation was just as notorious – Carey once got caught scaling the fence at 20th Century Fox in full armor to audition for PRINCE VALIANT, and he faked his own kidnapping in Germany during shooting on PATHS OF GLORY.
In reality, Carey was a restless, completely dedicated performer who counted John Cassavetes among his closest friends, and acted each role “like it’s the last film I’m gonna make, and I want it to be the best” (Carey.) His self-made 1962 masterpiece THE WORLD’S GREATEST SINNER – in which an ordinary man declares himself “God” in a SoCal suburb – fully deserves its reputation as one of the most outrageous underground movies ever made.
Classic cinematic tough guy Ted de Corsia was born in Brooklyn, New York, on this date in either 1903 or 1905. He co-starred with fellow Brooklynite Timothy four times: in Crime Wave (1954), The Killing (1956), the Profiles in Courage episode “Andrew Johnson” (first aired February 28, 1965), and in today’s offering, “Ain’t We Got Fun”. That episode of The Untouchables was first broadcast on November 12, 1959. Here bootlegger Big Jim Harrington confers with Loxie, his pyromaniac torpedo.
Following stage and radio acting stints, de Corsia hit the big time with his film debut, Orson Welles‘ The Lady from Shanghai (1947). He enjoyed a long career in films and on television in mostly tough-guy roles. He always brought a touch of class to his low-life bad guys, even if it was just a low-life’s idea of class. He passed away in 1973 of cerebral thrombosis; his ashes were scattered at sea.
Today is the 87th birthday anniversary of the late, lovely Phyllis Kirk! In her honor, we present another shot of her and Timothy from Andre’ De Toth‘s Crime Wave (aka The City is Dark, 1954 but filmed in 1952). Ellen Lacey is unsure about being left under the supervision of giggling hop head Johnny Haslett. As well she should be.
Wrote Tim in his Movie Stars Parade article, “I played a heavy again in a picture called Crime Wave, with Sterling Hayden and Phyllis Kirk, and in one scene I was holding Phyllis prisoner in a dingy waterfront room. There was low key lighting and the boom was down low. I affected a twitch like a narcotics addict, I turned on a low, sensual, half-crazy laugh, gritted my teeth and dug my hands into her shoulders – just like the creep I was portraying would have done in real life. But Phyllis wasn’t impressed with my realism. She found me too convincing. She broke and got hysterical. I had to go apologize to her, although I don’t know what I was apologizing for.”
We close the week with another look at Nikki Arano, the cool-daddy-o sharpshooter of Stanley Kubrick‘s The Killing (1956). Here he is finalizing his crooked deal with Johnny Clay (Sterling Hayden). If you’ve been paying close attention, you’ll know that the two-finger point was a standard Carey gesture throughout his career.
Timothy and Hayden appeared in three films together – Hellgate (1952), Crime Wave (1954), and The Killing. It might have been four, if Tim had ended up playing Luca Brasi in The Godfather (1972) as Francis Ford Coppola had initially desired. Tim’s manic style and Hayden’s stoicism played off one another nicely, I think. It’s too bad they didn’t get more screen time together.