[Ted] De Corsia‘s sidekick in Crime Wave is the young Charles Bronson, who not only flexes impressively, but growls a few great henchman lines. Leveling his gun at Ellen, he smiles at her husband: “You want I should clip a curl off the cutie?” [Andre’] DeToth loved the primitive contours of Bronson’s face, and his atavistic grace. He used them smartly in several pictures, including the 3-D House of Wax. The gang also included the amusingly unstable Timothy Carey, who is so brain damaged that midway through sexually intimidating Phyllis Kirk he becomes distracted and forgets what he’s doing. Crime Wave was one of the first films that would prompt viewers to ask of Carey: “What the hell is wrong with this guy?”
During Eddie Muller‘s recent visit for the Noir City Portland film festival, I mentioned this film to him as a possible contender for next year’s shindig. He agreed that this is one film that deserves resurrection. Here’s hoping!
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)
Having recently seen and enjoyed American Grindhouse (2010), I hastened to add Grindhouse: The Forbidden World of “Adults Only” Cinema (1996) by Eddie Muller and Daniel Faris to my book collection. Imagine my surprise and delight when I received the book and found two pages dedicated to Timothy! Maybe it’s me, but Muller and Faris don’t seem to be quite as enamored with Tim as I am – or at least not quite as forgiving of his foibles (see the caption for the above photo [click to embiggen], taken I believe in 1956 when Tim was shooting footage for his script AL). But it’s still a darn good read and worth your time.
The piece also pointed me to an interesting news item I hadn’t seen before. While promoting The World’s Greatest Sinner in 1965, Tim was a guest on the notorious Joe Pyne‘s radio show. Pyne was the original “shock jock,” deliberately antagonizing his guests and listeners to get a rise out of them and boost ratings. The book stated that Tim’s appearance on the show “resulted in a fist-swinging melee’ in the audience.” This would seem to imply that Tim was a guest on Pyne’s television show, but no evidence of that can be found at this point. The following article from the Reno Evening Gazette, dated September 23, 1965, tells the story:
Whether this actually happened or was just a publicity stunt has been lost in the mists of time.
The Grindhouse book was published in 1996, only two years after Tim’s death, so it perhaps can be forgiven for reporting some familiar inaccuracies. In fact, it may have become the basis for some of them (i.e., Tim being born in El Monte [he lived most of his adult life there, but he was born in Brooklyn], being physically attacked on-set by Elia Kazan and Marlon Brando, etc.). Many people have said in so many words, “If only Timothy had played the game, he could have been a big star.” He wasn’t interested in “playing the game,” so in the minds of many he’s been written off as a crackpot and a joke, just a footnote in the annals of Hollywood. That is too bad. These people are depriving themselves of a real treasure.