Quote of the Week

Tim Carey’s total face time in film noir probably doesn’t add up to an hour, if that. But oh, what a face! That uber-creepy countenance and mad-genius acting methodology make almost all of his performances unforgettable. It certainly seems that Carey commanded far more camera time than he actually did.

Grossly underutilized by Hollywood primarily due to the erratic off-screen behavior that made his off-kilter characters so powerful and edgy on screen, Timothy Agoglia Carey was more than just one of a kind. He was a brother from another planet, somehow uniquely appealing and captivating – even lovable, his ever-expanding number of cult followers might submit – in spite (or because) of the grotesque, unbalanced, and downright bizarre characters he played.

– Carl Steward, “Timothy Carey: Noir’s Wildest Card,” Noir City Annual #2: The Best of the 2009 Noir City Sentinel (Film Noir Foundation, 2010)

Finger ManFinger Man (1955)

Quote of the Week

The Early Days
It is ironic that a man, whose name is so widely unrecognized, could make such an impression on so many people. You don’t forget Timothy Carey. The infancy of Carey’s career consisted of small roles, often playing “the heavy” or a sideline thug. Yet, Carey’s presence could not be overlooked.

Carey’s film career started small and didn’t really get to grow much more as time went on. His first film role came in 1951, with an uncredited role in Billy Wilder’s noir film The Big Carnival [Marisa’s note: AKA Ace in the Hole. Timothy may have been edited out of the finished film, however.] From there he played another small, uncredited part in the William A. Wellman‘s rustic western Across the Wide Missouri. After working in some forgettable films and playing small, miniscule parts, Carey got his first chance to really shine.

In André De Toth’s gritty noir drama, Crime Wave (1954), Carey’s appearance comes late in the film where he oozes malevolence as Johnny Haslett. He then spends a good deal of time off-camera babysitting the protagonist’s wife. A testament to Carey’s creepiness on screen, the brief glimpse of him as Haslett is enough to keep audiences on the edge of their seats. Moving up from the number four thug to the crime boss’s right-hand man, Carey played Lou Terpe in Harold D. Schuster’s Finger Man (1955). Faithful to a fault, Carey makes the most of his small role, seething with pent-up penitentiary anger at the film’s wimpy hero.

Between his work in Crime Wave and Finger Man, Carey had a small part in the Marlon Brando vehicle, The Wild One. Carey was uncredited in the film, but even with the limited screen time and lack of respect he was given, he managed to turn in the most memorable performance in the film. With his spraying of the soda pop into Marlon Brando’s face, Carey carved his imprint into the minds of many, making his miniscule Chino Boy #1 credit much more than expected. And from there, his small but loud presence in many films to come, like East of Eden, Rumble on the Docks, and Revolt in the Big House, created the enigmatically fascinating actor that one can only call Timothy Carey.

– Sam McAbee, “Timothy Carey: Saint of the Underground”; Cashiers du Cinemart #12 (2001)

The Wild One

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

Pic of the Day: “Finger Man” revisited

It’s time to take another look at Lou Terpe, the grabby yet cowardly torpedo of Finger Man (1955), directed by Harold D. Schuster. Here he enjoys a drink with his boss, Dutch Becker (Forrest Tucker) and one of Becker’s B-girls, Gladys Baker (Peggie Castle).

Finger Man

Ms. Castle was one of the more memorable B-movie bombshells of the 1950s, both in feature films and on television. My MSTie pals will recognize her as intrepid girl reporter Audrey Aimes from Bert I. Gordon‘s Beginning of the End (1957) (starring another of Timothy’s future co-stars, Peter Graves). Sadly, she fell victim to alcoholism and died in 1973 at the age 45 of cirrhosis of the liver.

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

Pic of the Day: “Finger Man” revisited

Today we take another look at Harold D. Schuster‘s Finger Man (1955). Henchman Lou Terpe annoys one of his boss’ b-girls (not sure who the actress is) with his Torgo-level groping skills.

Finger Man

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!

Quote of the Week

Finger Man, in particular, is a good example of his early work. Carey plays the right hand goon to mastermind pimp/bootlegger Forrest Tucker. Tucker conveys a cunning and diabolical type; Carey, however, defines a true sociopath, unbridled by gangland criminal codes. He is seen roughing up a woman in one scene, moving her around the set as if she were a small piece of cheap furniture. Later in the film, Frank Lovejoy, the hero, turns on Carey with menacing rancor. Carey reveals himself as the coward we know that all bullies are. This sort of scene is familiar to American film; the difference is, Carey drops the bottom out and operates in the realm of pathos alien to American movies of the ‘50s. America likes a winning quality to its losers.

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