Quote of the Week

Modern hipsters didn’t invent the cult actor. Oh, we might all feel really cool raving about icons like Christopher Walken or newcomers like Michael Shannon. There’s still a long history of weirdo artists infiltrating our movie theaters and living rooms. Just consider the epic strangeness of Timothy Carey. He maintained a perfectly normal career as a character actor right through the 1980s. In fact, Carey would’ve managed one more great role if he’d passed Quentin Tarantino’s audition to play the crime boss in 1992’s Reservoir Dogs. Tarantino cast veteran oddball actor Lawrence Tierney instead. The director dedicated Reservoir Dogs to a list of idols that included Carey, though. That was nice–especially since Carey would pass away in 1994.

But why would Tarantino dedicate his first feature to a guy who’d shown up in mainstream TV shows like Starsky & Hutch, Charlie’s Angels, and CHiPs? That’s because Carey was far more than a character actor. He was a beatnik visionary and a true wild man. The young actor first made a name for himself by stealing a scene from Marlon Brando in the pioneering biker epic The Wild One. Carey didn’t even get billing, but the hulking actor with the basso voice was soon being used as a heavy by all kinds of directors. He gave one of his most compelling performances as a crazed Cajun in 1957’s Bayou, where he contributed to a sleazy atmosphere that kept the movie playing the drive-in circuit well into the ’70s.

Stanley Kubrick cast Carey in memorable roles for both The Killing and Paths of Glory, and a lot of other directors–including John Cassavetes–loved Carey’s knack for crazed improvisation. That was the kind of Hollywood connection that got Carey playing parts in three episodes of Columbo. Other directors, however, couldn’t tolerate Carey’s maniacal Method acting.

Carey did a lot to sabotage his own career, too. He turned down roles in The Godfather and The Godfather Part II–and walked off the set of Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation. That’s three less classics in Carey’s weird filmography, but he found time to appear in Chesty Anderson, U.S. Navy and the Joe Don Baker epic Speedtrap. To be fair, Chesty Anderson gave Carey the freedom to let loose with one of his more amazing performances.

Carey also wrote and directed himself to an amazing role in 1962’s The World’s Greatest Sinner–which was pretty much forgotten for most of Carey’s career. Originally, the film’s legend was kept alive by some musical contributions from Frank Zappa. Then Sinner began to build a bigger reputation as Carey’s own careening genius built his own cult. It’s an amazing film, and was recently restored and is now available to the masses. There’s no other movie like it.

Speedtrap

Quote of the Week

Many kind, deifying and admiring words have been written to extol the virtues of Timothy William Carey, the hulking, Irish-Italian Brooklynite actor who was notoriously difficult to work with. From his death in 1994 ebbed a slow but mighty wave of fans who have been able to articulate the importance of his long and varied career (although it must be said, even if he himself stressed the importance of always being a different character, he was ALWAYS Tim Carey in his roles).  He is often mentioned in the same breath as Crispin Glover (because of his overindulgence in bit-parts and screen stealing mania) and also Andy Kaufman (for his ability to irritate everybody on a set and spontaneous outbursts of “creativity”), however, there was a quality inextricably unsurpassed in Carey that makes him quite separate from those who share his title as simply a Hollywood provocateur.  He was an example par excellence of the mutinous mutant, the graceful pig, the real hero of those beneath the underdog. 

His representations of unstable deadbeats (Cassavetes’ Minnie and Moskowitz), men on death row (Kubrick’s Paths of Glory) or righteous fartists (his own The Insect Trainer) all have the honor of being loved by him – characters with nothing else in common but expedient exaggeration – but are still always losers, always hated by all around them, apart from himself.  In one of his glorious interviews, he announced, “Characters as evil as the ones I play just can’t be allowed to remain in society. The only time I managed to “stay alive” all the way through a picture was when I wrote and produced one myself”.  However this clever byline has a witty double entendre; for his overacting, radical excitement and inability to cooperate or be boring, he was fired from almost as many roles as he was able to snag.  That, and a piety about his art that made him give up done deals to be in the first two Godfathers, or roles with Tarantino and Coppola.  It is immediately apparent from looking at his career that the directors that gave him the most rope (his beloved Cassavetes and the early Kubrick work) were the ones that got the most out of him.

Jimmy Trash, “Timothy Carey: Hollywood Provocateur”; Network Awesome Magazine, April 25, 2013

Paths of Glory

Quote of the Week

That long face, those droopy eyes – Timothy Carey is unmistakable, unpredictable, and electrifying with those lizard features that became both a blessing and a curse. […]

A true maverick known for improvising and getting fired, he’s worked with Roger Corman, Coppola, and Cassavetes, including a memorable turn as a mafia heavy in The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (we know just from the look in Carey’s eyes that Ben Gazzara is in deep, deep shit).

Carey is an actor to get excited about; like Bruce Dern, there’s a manic energy inside him, a screw loose combined with a fearless realism. He often didn’t seem like an actor at all, more like a wonderfully intuitive amateur dragged out of a skid row bar and slid in front of the camera.

Nic Cage wishes he was Timothy Carey, but Carey didn’t have things easy…

“I can’t even take a stroll through a park. As soon as women see my face they start gathering up their children and running for home.” – Timothy Carey

Rob Munday, “A Face in the Crowd: Timothy Carey”; Video City London (12.13.13)

The Killing of a Chinese Bookie

Pic of the Day: “The Killing” revisited

We close the week with another look at Nikki Arano, the cool-daddy-o sharpshooter of Stanley Kubrick‘s The Killing (1956). Here he is finalizing his crooked deal with Johnny Clay (Sterling Hayden). If you’ve been paying close attention, you’ll know that the two-finger point was a standard Carey gesture throughout his career.

The Killing

Timothy and Hayden appeared in three films together – Hellgate (1952), Crime Wave (1954), and The Killing. It might have been four, if Tim had ended up playing Luca Brasi in The Godfather (1972) as Francis Ford Coppola had initially desired. Tim’s manic style and Hayden’s stoicism played off one another nicely, I think. It’s too bad they didn’t get more screen time together.

Eli Wallach 1915 – 2014

Carey’s final project as a film director is Godfarter III (1989), an audition piece for [Francis Ford] Coppola, who was looking to cast the role of an elderly Mafia don for The Godfather: Part III (1990). Coppola considered Carey too young for the part (and may also have been put off by Carey’s earlier eccentricities on The Godfather). Carey tried to convince the director that he could tackle the role of Don Altobello, but it wasn’t meant to be, and Eli Wallach was eventually cast in the part.

– Harvey F. Chartrand, “Timothy Carey, The World’s Greatest Director!”; Filmfax Plus #102 (April/June 2004)

Eli Wallach as Don Altobello, The Godfather: Part III (1990)

Timothy as Don Altobello, Godfarter III

Quote of the Week

The first time I met [Francis Ford] Coppola, he kept asking me to do The Godfather. So I did a little Italian scene and they kept asking me to come up to San Francisco to do a tape there, but I didn’t go up, I just didn’t feel like going. I was in the middle of doing Tweet’s Ladies of Pasadena. Later on, he wanted me to do The Godfather II, so I went down to Paramount and did a scene. My son was with me, eating some Italian pastries and at one point I reached into the pastry box and pulled out a gun and shot Coppola. He was just shocked. He didn’t know what to do, but he wanted me even more after that, but I never went there. It just never materialized.

Psychotronic Video magazine #6, Summer 1990; interview by Michael Murphy and Johnny Legend, research by Michael J. Weldon

Coppola and Brando

Coppola and Marlon Brando on the set of The Godfather (1972)

 

Quote of the Week

During the 1970s, Carey put nearly all of his energy into his follow-up to THE WORLD’S GREATEST SINNER, TWEET’S LADIES OF PASADENA. He turned down a big part in THE GODFATHER, as he was in the throes of making TWEET’S. After Francis Ford Coppola convinced Carey to read for THE GODFATHER: PART II, during his screen test Carey pulled a gun from a lunch box and shot Coppola (with blanks of course). Instead of being scared or incensed, Coppola wanted Carey for his work now more than ever. This didn’t occur, however, until THE CONVERSATION, where Carey was an uncredited security expert. [Editor’s note: My understanding is that the part Timothy was to play ended up going to Allen Garfield.]

There were plans of Carey appearing in APOCALYPSE NOW. His idea for the character was to be a member of a Marine K9 unit. He spent all day picking fleas from the necks of his killer dogs, petting them and talking to them like his children. It sounds like a brilliant moment, but of all the things Coppola threw into the mix for APOCALYPSE, this didn’t make it.

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

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