Quote of the Week

Timothy Carey had one of the most unusual careers of all Hollywood character actors, obtaining full cult status for his portrayals of the doomed, the psychotic and the plain crazy. Carey’s career was an “Only in America” type of story, and he retains his status as a Great American Original a decade after his death.

As a 22-year-old acting school graduate, he made his film debut in 1951 as a corpse in a Clark Gable western [Across the Wide Missouri (1951)], but it was his brief, uncredited part as Chino, a member of Lee Marvin‘s motorcycle gang The Beetles [actually, Marvin played Chino, not Tim] in The Wild One (1953) that made an impression and was a harbinger of the unsavory things to come. Prone to improvising, it was the fearless Carey who came up with the idea of squirting beer in Marlon Brando‘s face, even though the Great Method Actor himself had expressed reservations about what Carey was up to. He also registered that year [1955, actually] as the bordello bouncer who threatens James Dean in East of Eden (1955), making his face, if not his name (he was uncredited in both parts), known to the mass audience.

Carey followed this up with superb acting jobs in two Stanley Kubrick films, The Killing (1956) and Paths of Glory (1957). In the former he played the sociopath Nikki Arane [last name is actually Arano], who is contracted to shoot a race horse, which he does with great glee. In Paths of Glory Carey had an atypically sympathetic role as French soldier Pvt. Ferol, unjustly condemned to be shot to atone for the stupidities of his generals during World War I. However, it was in Bayou (1957) that Carey reached his apotheosis as an actor: as the psychotic Cajun Ulysses, he crafted an indelible performance that went beyond the acceptable limits of cinema scenery-chewing. He became Ulysses, on-screen, the mad Cajun who epitomized evil, his insanity perfectly encapsulated in the psychotic jig Carey danced to more fully limn his character’s madness. This classic exploitation film was re-cut and re-released as Poor White Trash (1961), and became a grindhouse Gone with the Wind (1939), playing to crowds until the 1970s (and becoming, retrospectively, one of the top-grossing films of 1957).

Jon C. Hopwood, Timothy Carey on IMDb

The Killing

Pic of the Day: “East of Eden” (1955) revisited

Eighty-four years ago yesterday, James Byron Dean was born in Marion, Indiana. The blue-eyed heart-breaker from the heartland scored his first starring role in Elia Kazan‘s East of Eden (1955), based on the epic novel by John Steinbeck. Timothy and Dean hit it off during shooting, and together they shook up the little seaside town of Mendocino, California.

East of Eden (1955)

Tim told the story of his friendship with Dean in an article for Movie Stars Parade magazine in 1957. This September we will observe the sixtieth anniversary of Dean’s death. We can only imagine the elder statesmen of cinema these two would be now, if we had not been deprived of their presence far too soon.

Quote of the Week

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.

Marisa Young (HEY THAT’S ME!), “Let’s Not Hate Anyone: Timothy Carey and The World’s Greatest Sinner“; Cashiers du Cinemart 18 (March 2014) (Also available for your Kindle)

The Killing

Quote of the Week

Carey’s career as a character actor began with the role of a dead man in Across the Wide Missouri, directed by William Wellman, who, Carey recalled, “was a great director and a tough director. I had two arrows in my back laying in the water. I couldn’t hold still, it was so cold my teeth were chattering.The director said, ‘Keep that jerk still, he’s supposed to be dead’. I had just come from dramatic school in New York. I thought I was a great actor. I’m the only one who did.”

The pattern for Carey’s acting career was set. Director and player wrestled for control of a scene. Directors who afforded Carey room to operate, those who were able to understand his capabilities, worked well with him. Carey played the absolute heavy to the relative heavy in a string of hard-boiled dramas of the early ‘50s including Hellgate, The Big Carnival [aka Ace in the Hole] and Finger Man. […]

By the mid-50’s, Carey’s work had attracted the attention of a number of directors. Elia Kazan cast him in East of Eden, playing the bouncer at a brothel owned by James Dean’s mother. This experience would produce the only serious regret of Carey’s professional life. Kazan decided that the actor’s Brooklynese was not to his liking, and had Carey’s voice dubbed over, significantly marginalizing his presence in the film. He and Dean bonded during the production. This culminated in one of Dean’s infamous reckless Sunday drives through Salinas. After they returned to the set Carey said, prophetically, “I’m never getting in a car with him again.”

– Alex de Laszlo, “The Wonderful Horrible Life of Timothy Carey”, Uno Mas magazine, 1996

Across the Wide Missouri

Quote of the Week

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.

American Cinematheque, “The World’s Greatest Sinner! A Tribute to TIMOTHY CAREY”, November 4-5, 2000

Keep Calm and Watch TC!

 

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

“I took Dean and that guy who played the bouncer (Timothy Carey) fishing on the rocks above Portuguese Beach, and Glenn Walbridge took them up Big River to fish off the old logging boom. I don’t remember if we caught anything but we probably did.” – Bob Valador

– from James Dean in Mendocino: The Filming of East of Eden; compiled and edited by Bruce Levene (Pacific Transcriptions, 1994)

photo from destinationmendocino.com

Portuguese Beach, Mendocino, CA (photo via destinationmendocino.com)

East of Eden (1955)

“C’mon Jimmy, quit acting crazy and let’s go fishing.”