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

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

Quote of the Week

Finger Man (1955) Allied Artists. 81m. (B&W) […]

CAST: Frank Lovejoy, Forrest Tucker, Peggie Castle, Timothy Carey […]

Ex-convict Lovejoy is caught by the feds heisting a truck shipment; to keep from gong back to the slams, he works undercover to nail syndicate head Tucker. Lovejoy’s ex-girlfriend and gangster’s moll Castle throws in with Lovejoy and gets murdered by Tucker’s henchman, Carey. In the end, after nearly being killed himself, Lovejoy brings down Tucker’s gang and is allowed to go on his way.

Lovejoy, who played in other noir films such as Try and Get Me, The Hitch-Hiker, and I Was a Communist for the F.B.I. turns in his usual steady, low-key performance. Carey, playing – as usual – a psychotic killer, is as convincingly weird in this film as he was in every other film he ever played, leading one to wonder what he was like in real life.

Arthur Lyons, Death on the Cheap: The Lost B Movies of Film Noir (Da Capo Press, 2000)

Finger Man

Video of the Week: “Finger Man”

EDITOR’S NOTE 10.14.15: Another one bites the dust. Sorry folks.

This week’s video is a clip from Finger Man (1955), directed by Harold D. Schuster. Timothy is Lou Terpe, the sullen muscle behind bootlegger/white slaver Dutch Becker (Forrest Tucker). Also appearing is Peggie Castle as Gladys Baker, one of Becker’s girls who wants out of the whole racket.

As I mention every chance I get, this was the film that brought Tim to the attention of a young indie filmmaker named Stanley Kubrick, who was casting his first big Hollywood film The Killing (1956). The rest, as they say, is history.

Pic of the Day: “Finger Man” revisited

We close out this rather eventful week with another look at Lou Terpe, the ill-tempered torpedo of Finger Man (1955). His boss, Dutch Becker (Forrest Tucker), is attempting to restrain him from going gonzo on the “finger man” of the title, Casey Martin (Frank Lovejoy).

Finger Man

Lovejoy, from the Bronx, built a solid reputation as a dependable “square-jawed, intense, no-nonsense” type of actor who entered the profession as a teenager, after the stock market crash of 1929 ended his budding career on Wall Street. After stints on Broadway and radio, he made his film debut in 1948. He worked steadily until his death at age 50 in 1962 of a heart attack.

Pic of the Day: “Daniel Boone” promo ad

Today’s pic is my latest eBay score! It’s a page from some Hollywood trade paper, announcing Timothy’s “comedy guest star” appearance on Daniel Boone (“The Blackbirder” episode, as bounty hunter Lute Purdy) that night on NBC-TV. We can then surmise that the ad appeared on the episode’s original air date, October 3, 1968. This was Timothy’s standard head shot for that time.

Promo ad for "The Blackbirder," 1968

I can’t seem to find too much biographical info on Tim’s agent, Lew Sherrell. He and his agency certainly represented a lot of folks in Hollywood – Forrest Tucker, Adam West, Robert Alda, Harry Carey Jr., Sue Ane Langdon and Robert Englund, just to name a few.

Quote of the Week

When you line up Carey’s noir work, it’s clear that the idiosyncratic touches he gives his minor characters truly set them apart. In the undervalued Allied Artists cheapie Finger Man (1955), Carey gets quite a bit more screen time… and steals the film from stars Frank Lovejoy and Forrest Tucker as crime boss Tucker’s right-hand goon Lou Terpe. (You have to wonder, did Carey think up his own character names, too?)

In this one, Tim’s still toking the smokes to great effect, but he also incorporates obsessive knuckle-cracking and seems a lot more sinister. He delights in groping women, rearranging their faces in back rooms, even killing them and stuffing them in trunks, as he eventually does to Lovejoy’s squeeze. But just when you’re convinced he’s the ultimate thug, Lovejoy surprises him in an alley and only has to whack him a few times to reduce him to a simpering boob. It’s classic Tim Carey, offering up an unanticipated left turn that stamps his performance as unforgettable.

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 Man