Quote of the Week

Timmy always seemed to have a project going, but I guess that’s par for the course with creative personalities. I don’t recall the origins of The World’s Greatest Sinner. He wanted to combine religion and politics in a film and do something a little different about a self-made type of person who becomes a big celebrity. He had a production book. I wonder if it’s still around. It explains the plot in quite a lot of detail.

The World’s Greatest Sinner was 20 years ahead of its time. The religious aspect upset the studio heads. People who could have advanced the film were anxious, because they thought the public would condemn it as blasphemous, although I don’t think The World’s Greatest Sinner is irreligious, compared to films today. The character of Clarence Hilliard is redeemed in the end. And Timmy had such a shoestring budget to work with… that didn’t help.

Most of the film was shot in El Monte, California, where Timmy lived. One very amusing scene had Timmy standing on a pile of fertilizer as he was campaigning. He had a big guitar in his hand and he was running for office, talking to the crowds, making a political speech. And the camera pans down and we see that Timmy is standing on a great big pile of cow manure. (laughs) I thought that was a funny touch. That was very good!

I remember that day. Timmy was positioning all the people. They were just local people who were acting in the scene. Timmy had a few professional actors working on the picture with him, like the guy who played his campaign manager (James Farley) and Gil Barreto (who played Clarence’s disciple). I don’t think anybody other than Timmy had any significant credits, though. The World’s Greatest Sinner was all improvised. I don’t remember Timmy ever working from a script.

I went to a few screenings of The World’s Greatest Sinner. I saw the film in Manhattan. Timmy brought it to New York and showed it in several screening rooms, trying to get some film companies interested. But they were all turned off and scared by the religious aspect. But The World’s Greatest Sinner does conclude with a miracle, a church scene where Clarence Hilliard begs forgiveness. He has remorse for the type of person he was and seeks redemption. The problem was with the blasphemous stuff that came before. Not too many people could handle that. It was too ahead of its time.

Interview with Timothy’s brother George Carey by Harvey F. Chartrand, unpublished Filmfax article, 2003

The World's Greatest Sinner

Quote of the Week

Carey’s final project as a film director is Godfarter III (1989), an audition piece for 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.

Godfarter III consists mostly of scenes taken directly from the original script by Coppola and Mario Puzo. Romeo Carey recalls, “It was basically a screen test, but you also get to see behind-the-scenes of the making of the screen test and how my father worked with actors. I shot the screen test. I got a call from my father. He said, ‘Bring your camera tomorrow morning, I am going to shoot a screen test for Francis.’ I showed up at his studio the next day with my camera and lights. In a single day, he put the project together, complete with the use of the Hilton Hotel, a limo, props, ten bodyguards in suits for his entrance, and his acting friend Robert Miano. My dad’s intention was to prove to Francis that he could play an 80-year-old Don. (Carey was then 60.) We powdered his face white and sprayed his hair white. In the end, my dad was happy with the screen test and felt satisfied. I shot what he told me to shoot and then I edited the footage for him, and he sent it to Francis. Francis liked it a lot and was interested in my father for the part, but Dad suffered another massive stroke a few days after the shoot.”

– Harvey F. Chartrand, “Timothy Carey: The World’s Greatest Director!”, FilmFax Plus, April/June 2004, No. 102

Godfarter III is available for purchase from Absolute Films

Godfarter III

Quote of the Week

In a letter to Carey (dated January 22, 1994), Ray Carney, a professor of film and American studies at Boston University, wrote:

“Re: The Insect Trainer script–What an extraordinary, weird, wonderful, bizarrely unclassifiable work you’ve created. In the Joycean, Swiftian, Salvador Dalian vein, you violate all of the taboos, cross all of the boundaries, break all of the rules, and–ecstatically–take us to places almost never even dreamt of in drama before. The script is a ‘gas’ in the other sense of the word: It’s hilarious–as well as humanly touching and moving. It’s a celebration of eccentric, non-homogenized, non-normalized humanity. An expression of love for the lost and forgotten feelings and impulses of life. A recognition of some of the sadness and loneliness of all originals, pioneers, inventors. In short, you break up the mental and spiritual constipation that afflicts both art and life. You free the spirit. The laughter and thoughtfulness you provoke, if we let ourselves be affected by them, shake us out of our zombie-like trances of conformity. This is an awesome piece of work. Bravo. Bravissimo!”

Prof. Carney’s letter is a fitting epitaph to the amazing talent and spirit of Timothy Carey.

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

Quote of the Week

Today we hear once again from Timothy’s younger brother George Carey, from the unpublished Filmax interview by Harvey F. Chartrand.

Timmy could be a very dominant personality. He always wanted his own way. He took charge, told the actor how he wanted the role to be played. I would say Timmy was a very strong type of director,  fitting his personality. But he seemed to have a good relationship with the people who were acting for him and they seemed to be very happy to be doing the acting. Timmy was definitely very charismatic. He was unique.

Not everybody liked his style. Timmy did a remarkable job with his career, considering. He was very independent, but I don’t think you can be too independent out there, if you want to keep working. Then he ran into other dominant personalities, directors who didn’t like his individual style. He had a number of people who liked his style very much. But there were some who didn’t care much for it. Some of the more established stars didn’t like Timmy’s improvisational approach to scripted scenes. When Timmy was on film, you always knew it. And I don’t know if that was always appreciated. But there were a number of people in the business who seemed to like him and appreciated his unique flair. Other people found it a little irritating.

Filmfax article (not published) by Harvey F. Chartrand, 2003

Pic of the Day: Directing “A.L.”

Our pic for today is not the usual screen cap from one of Timothy’s films. Instead, it’s a portrait of the artist as a young director. It was taken around the time Tim was attempting to film his script A.L. (which is not only the lead character’s name, but “L.A.” spelled backwards). The year was 1956.

A.L. tells the story of a young man from the Midwest named Al and his pet monkey, temporarily stranded in the labyrinths of Los Angeles without a car, while his wife prepares to give birth to their first child in a nearby hospital. Timothy had apparently filmed the first forty pages of his script before realizing that his lead actor simply didn’t have the chops to carry off the part.

“I’ve seen footage of A.L.,” Tim’s son Romeo told Harvey F. Chartrand in Filmfax magazine, “and it is amazing. Crisp 35mm footage on the freeway. Really cool. The monkey and the Midwestern couple are in it. So A.L. exists, but it hasn’t been cut. Much of it hasn’t even been screened. I have a vault with stacks of film cans of A.L. that I haven’t gone through yet.” Here’s hoping that footage soon sees the light of day.

Quote of the Week

This week’s quote is another one not by Timothy, but about him:

Tweet’s is the complete antithesis to Sinner. This is Dad’s version of what he thought was funny. He learned a lot about filming comedy from watching silent movies. It’s really a showcase for my dad’s acting talent. He incorporated silent film-making techniques into his acting. Silent film acting had to be very physical. That plays to one of my dad’s strengths, the sheer physicality of it… Tweet’s is a total change of pace from Sinner. Comparing Tweet’s to Sinner is like comparing Santa Claus to Satan.”

– Romeo Carey, from “Timothy Carey: The World’s Greatest Director!”, Filmfax Plus magazine #102 (April/June 2004), article and interviews by Harvey F. Chartrand

Quote of the Week

This week’s quote is another that isn’t by Timothy, but about him:

“It’s very sad that Tim never got to make The Insect Trainer. It really was the pinnacle project of his life. Tim worked on it for many years. Many actors wanted to work on The Insect Trainer with Tim, because it was like going to a workshop with a great actor! You remember Tim’s great line from The Insect Trainer: ‘Live longer, live healthier, and let thy arse make wind.’ Who in his right mind would ever write a play or make a film about farting? Tim would, but it wasn’t just some sophomoric joke or adolescent regression. The Insect Trainer is rather a mature realization of the dangers of suppressing our emotions, especially for men. I mean, we cough in public. Why can’t we fart in public? Who decides these things? But Tim would ask, ‘Why would you suppress your body from functioning?’ I would call Tim a liberator of feelings, rather than an intellectual.”

– Filmmaker Gerry Fialka, from “Timothy Carey: The World’s Greatest Director!”, Filmfax Plus magazine #102 (April/June 2004), article and interviews by Harvey F. Chartrand