This week’s video is the trailer for Curtis Harrington‘s favorite of all of his films, What’s the Matter with Helen? (1971). Timothy is briefly glimpsed as the panhandling bum who gives Debbie Reynolds quite a scare.
We head up the week with a shot from Vincent Sherman‘s amiable Western comedy The Second Time Around (1961) for the fourth or fifth time around on the blog. This one is another publicity still. Masked bad guy Bonner manhandles Lucretia Rogers (Debbie Reynolds), as Aggie Gates (Thelma Ritter) tries to prevent further mayhem.
Ms. Ritter, like Tim a Brooklyn native, was simply one of the greatest character actors ever, bar none. Her wry, wise-cracking presence enlivened many a classic film, from Miracle on 34th Street (1947) to All About Eve (1950) to Pickup on South Street (1953) to Rear Window (1954) and beyond. She was nominated six times for the Best Supporting Actress Academy Award, and never won. “Now I know what it feels like to be the bridesmaid and never the bride,” she said about this unfortunate turn of events. Shame on you, Oscar.
Today we revisit Curtis Harrington‘s What’s the Matter with Helen? (1971), a gem of a film if ever there was one. Harrington, a humongous Careyphile, insisted on Timothy for the brief but memorable role of the bedraggled tramp who hits up Debbie Reynolds for a hand-out in Depression-era Hollywood.
I am currently reading and greatly enjoying Harrington’s long-awaited (and posthumous, unfortunately for us) autobiography, Nice Guys Don’t Work in Hollywood: The Adventures of an Aesthete in the Movie Business. In fact, I’ve already used a couple of his observations about Tim for Quotes of the Week. Please do yourselves a favor and check out this book (and his short film collection while you’re at it); I predict you won’t be disappointed!
I had my heart set on Timothy Carey to play the tramp who asks Debbie [Reynolds] for a handout [in What’s the Matter with Helen? (1971)]. He was notoriously difficult to deal with and had an aggressive personality that frightened many people. Most producers didn’t want to work with him, but to the many creative directors who loved him – like Kazan, Cassavetes, and Kubrick – he was unique and irreplaceable. I was one of those directors. I ordered Caro [Jones, casting director] to offer him the part and make a deal with him. Still, there were a few sticky moments. One day she called me in terror to tell me that Timothy had warned her that he owned some vicious dogs and that if he didn’t get the part he would let them loose on her! I calmed her down and she made the deal.
Today it’s time for another look at the Curtis Harrington-directed shocker What’s the Matter with Helen? (1971). Timothy is briefly but memorably seen as a panhandling tramp in 1930s Hollywood. Here he thanks Adelle (Debbie Reynolds) and her beau Linc Palmer (Dennis Weaver) for their generosity and for “giving a damn.”
Tim had worked with both Reynolds and Weaver previously – with Reynolds in The Second Time Around (1961), and with Weaver in the Gunsmoke episode “The Gentleman” (6.7.58). He would work with him again the following year in the McCloud episode “Fifth Man in a String Quartet” (2.2.72). If Tim hadn’t been fired from Ralph Nelson‘s Duel at Diablo (1966), that would have made four times he’d worked with Weaver.
Our first pic for the week checks back in with Vincent Sherman‘s The Second Time Around (1961), the amiable Western comedy starring Debbie Reynolds, Steve Forrest and Andy Griffith. Timothy appears as bad guy Bonner, looking menacing as he sucks on a cancer stick, dagger tattoo and all.
I’m sure I’ve mentioned several times that it was during the making of this film that Tim encountered a young untried composer by the name of Frank Zappa and hired him to write the orchestral score for The World’s Greatest Sinner (1962).
Our pic of the day revisits Curtis Harrington‘s What’s the Matter with Helen? (1971), the enjoyable creep-fest starring Debbie Reynolds and Shelley Winters. Timothy has a memorable cameo as a shabby bum begging for a handout in Depression-era Los Angeles. When Reynolds opens the door, this is the first thing she sees. Yikes!!
Tim had appeared previously with Reynolds in The Second Time Around (1961). It was during the making of that film that he met young Frank Zappa and hired him to write the score for The World’s Greatest Sinner (1962). You know the rest!
“When I was working with Debbie Reynolds for the second time [Ed. note: it was actually for the first time, at least as far as I know!] (in The Second Time Around, a western comedy) at 20th Century Fox, a fellow came up to me and complimented me on my acting. He said he was a composer and the guy he came with, his next door neighbor, played the guitar. I said, ‘What’s your name?’ He said, ‘Frank Zappa.’ So I said, ‘OK, I have something for you. We have no music for The World’s Greatest Sinner. If you can supply the orchestra and a place to tape it, you have the job.’ And that’s what he did. Around the same time he was on the Steve Allen Show. That’s where our friendship stopped. Steve asked him what films he did. He said, ‘I did The World’s Greatest Sinner, the world’s worst film and all the actors were from skid row.’ It wasn’t true. The press said I was the world’s greatest ham, and that The World’s Greatest Sinner was a travesty of the arts. Zappa didn’t like that and he started to get on their bandwagon. The opening night at the director’s guild, he was in complete awe. He walked into the window and banged himself in the head. He didn’t even know there was a window there.”
– Psychotronic Video magazine #6, Summer 1990; interview by Michael Murphy and Johnny Legend, research by Michael J. Weldon
For a video of Zappa’s appearance on the Steve Allen Show, please go here.
Our video for this week showcases Tim’s appearance in Curtis Harrington‘s What’s the Matter with Helen? (1971). He steals the show as usual, as a scruffy, tattered bum appealing to the good graces of Debbie Reynolds in Depression-era Hollywood. He first appears at about the 8:35 mark.
Harrington, as noted previously, was scared to death of Timothy until he actually got to meet and work with him; he soon grew to love him. “Timothy was just an incredible, electrifying presence,” he said later. “He was utterly fascinating in his own film, The World’s Greatest Sinner.”