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

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.

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!

Pic of the Day: “Finger Man” revisited

Today’s pic is another from Harold D. Schuster‘s Finger Man (1955). Murderous thug Lou Terpe has finally been brought down by the eponymous “finger man,” Casey Martin (Frank Lovejoy). Cornered and pummeled by Martin, Terpe’s tough-guy act drops and he becomes the sniveling coward he is.

Finger Man

“But just when you’re convinced he’s the ultimate thug,” writes Carl Steward in “Timothy Carey: Noir’s Wildest Card,” “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.”

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.

Quote of the Week

Whether looming over the strangely invertebrate James Dean as the muscle of the local brothel in East of Eden or buying the farm in a whisker-quick saloon shoot-out with Marlon Brando in One-Eyed Jacks, the disheveled, vertiginous Timothy Carey performed, through much of his career, as the kind of thespian rarity whose flickering presence, even when bereft of a fleshed-out “character,” struck a loud, long-resonating note in the frequently seam-riddled “seamless narratives” it embellished. Like a portal into a reality hidden from view by scopophobic hysteria, Carey materialized from an alternate universe devoid of heroes and legible story lines.

Available accounts and filmographies of Carey’s early career typify his roles in exploitation pictures as “oozing malevolence,” citing creepy gangster turns in Andre de Toth‘s Crime Wave and Harold D. Schuster‘s Finger Man, as well as uncredited parts in Billy Wilder’s The Big Carnival [aka Ace in the Hole – ed.] and William A. Wellman‘s Across the Wide Missouri. In 1953’s The Wild One, he got to spray Brando in the face with a shaken-up carbonated beverage – some say beer, others soda pop. He was physically attacked by Richard Widmark during the filming of The Last Wagon in 1956, and pummeled by Karl Malden on the set of One-Eyed Jacks, or so the legends go; according to some of Carey’s enthusiasts, his parts got progressively bigger in B-circuit pictures for a time, then shrank as his uninhibited behavior off-camera, and scene-swiping on, earned him the poisonous sobriquet of being “difficult.”

Only the sharpest and restive of “great” directors, and the most cynically astute hacks, recognized Carey’s innate ability to enlarge a piece of cinema into something beyond cinema. Anecdotal evidence reflects how often even those who perceived Carey’s ungovernable grandeur were either prevented from casting him, or themselves provoked by his antics into tossing him out of a picture.

He was, in effect, too much of what he was, too formidably present to evaporate into a peripheral presence; both his imposing physicality and his avid wish to smuggle something living into something simulated got him scotched from films like Bonnie and Clyde and The Grifters; the insecurity of Harvey Keitel purportedly scrapped a  major role in Reservoir Dogs; Carey, by his own account, sabotaged his own way out of The Godfather and Godfather II.

Gary Indiana, “Timothy Carey: The Refusal of the Repressed,” from Dead Flowers (Participant Press/VoxPopuli, 2011)

East of Eden (1955)

 

Pic of the Day: “Finger Man” publicity still

Our pic of the day is a British publicity still from Finger Man (1955), directed by Harold D. Schuster. Timothy’s sullen torpedo Lou Terpe is menacing the ill-fated blonde (not sure who the actress is) who has just told him, “Get your big wet paws offa me!” Lou’s boss, bootlegger and “white slaver” Dutch Becker (Forrest Tucker), sits at the far right.

The British publicity materials are interesting; I have a few from The Boy and the Pirates that are tinted blue! In general, I find non-American film memorabilia to be a bit more off-beat and colorful than most of their American counterparts. The Mexican lobby cards are especially good examples of this.