Quote of the Week

Carey is a Brooklyn boy who never went far in high school but has acted in 16 films and six TV shows. He says: “What I really want to do is write. I’ve got a script right here, which I call L.A., that I’d like you to read.”

Carey isn’t about to quote Shakespeare but he’s living proof that “All the World’s a Stage…” He’ll say: “I joined the U.S. Marines at 15, was at Parris Island and finished boot training when they learned my age. Then I was out.”

That brief hitch with the Leathernecks was enough to entitle the unusually tall (6 feet 5 inches) Carey to go to school on the GI Bill. He elected drama school. He says: “When I got to Hollywood, I heard Henry Hathaway was casting Prince Valiant. I rented a Viking costume for $15, climbed a studio fence, confronted him with drawn sword. I didn’t get the part.”

Carey’s early penchant for such monkeyshines had him in the doghouse with half of Hollywood—but he’s acting and eating while many a more retiring youngster is waiting for a call, he says.

George Murray, “Loop Movies,” Chicago Daily News, January 15, 1958

Tim shooting AL in LA, 1956

Timothy during the unfinished A.L. shoot, 1956

Pic of the Day: “Fortune City” revisited

Ending the week is another look at “Fortune City,” the episode of It Takes a Thief that was first broadcast on February 2, 1970. Creepy Art makes a pass at kidnapped Mona (Stefanie Powers), unaware that series protagonist Alexander Mundy (Robert Wagner) is lurking in the rafters.

Fortune City - 1970

Powers, a Hollywood native, has been gracing films and television since 1960. She is a great champion of wildlife preservation, and is the founder of the William Holden Wildlife Federation in honor of her life partner of many years. She and Wagner went on to create one of television’s most delightful and enduring partnerships in the series Hart to Hart (1979-1984).

Quote of the Week

Setting up an appointment with Carey was tricky. He is, for one thing, a recluse. On the other hand, as a benched performer, he craves attention. Finally, Romeo Carey, the actor’s [then] 32-year-old filmmaker son, smoothed the path for a series of encounters at the modest Carey family bungalow in the L.A. suburb of El Monte, not far from the Santa Anita racetrack. The neighborhood, quiet and working class, seemed far in psychic miles from Hollywood.

I’ll say it was a gas meeting Carey and get that out of the way. The character and the actor meshed seamlessly, and he responded to my interest like somebody who’d been in solitary and couldn’t stop talking once he started. If he was often over-the-top in his comments, he also seemed painfully insecure, even as his long index finger jabbed the air. He struck me as a man of high ideals, however curious—at once a show-off and a fragile dreamer. He answered my questions perched on a mock throne in his cluttered backyard studio, once again wearing his glittery Sinner costume. To add to the general bizarrerie, Romeo Carey filmed portions of the proceedings for a documentary-in-progress.

Grover Lewis, “Cracked Actor”, Film Comment Jan/Feb 2004; interview conducted in 1992

Tim's El Monte studio, from the Dead Flowers book

Timothy’s El Monte studio, from Dead Flowers (Vox Populi/Participant Press, 2011)


Pic of the Day: “What’s the Matter with Helen?” revisited

Today we revisit Curtis Harrington‘s What’s the Matter with Helen? (1971), a gem of a film if ever there was one. Harrington, a humongous Careyphile, insisted on Timothy for the brief but memorable role of the bedraggled tramp who hits up Debbie Reynolds for a hand-out in Depression-era Hollywood.

What's the Matter with Helen? (1971)

I am currently reading and greatly enjoying Harrington’s long-awaited (and posthumous, unfortunately for us) autobiography, Nice Guys Don’t Work in Hollywood: The Adventures of an Aesthete in the Movie Business. In fact, I’ve already used a couple of his observations about Tim for Quotes of the Week. Please do yourselves a favor and check out this book (and his short film collection while you’re at it); I predict you won’t be disappointed!

Pic of the Day: “Quaker Girl” revisited

Today’s pic takes another look at “Quaker Girl,” the second of two episodes of Gunsmoke in which Timothy appears. It was first broadcast on December 10, 1966. Opportunistic bad guys Dave Westerfeldt (Tom Reese) and Vern Morland (Ben Johnson) rely on their part-Indian tracker “Buster” Rilla to help them nab a killer.

Quaker Girl - 1966

Johnson and Timothy had previously both appeared in Marlon Brando‘s One-Eyed Jacks (1961), though not on-screen together. Johnson was certainly one of the greatest Western stars who ever lived. If he seemed like an authentic cowboy on-screen, that’s because he was one off-screen as well. He was ever at home in the saddle, having been discovered in 1940 in his home state of Oklahoma by Howard Hughes while he was a rodeo rider and ranch hand. Hughes hired him to run a herd of horses to California, Johnson ended up sticking around, and his Hollywood career began. He returned briefly to rodeo riding in 1953, but the pay in Hollywood was a lot better, so back he went. His father, Ben Johnson Sr., was also a champion steer roper and a legend in the rodeo world.

Pic of the Day: “The Outfit” revisited

And we’re back! Today we celebrate the 114th birthday anniversary of a true Hollywood legend. The great Robert Ryan appeared in two films with Timothy, Alaska Seas (1954) and The Outfit (1973). Here are the two of them from that latter film, directed by John Flynn. Tim’s nasty thug Jake Menner gets a dressing-down from his boss, Mailer (Ryan). Variety columnist Army Archerd appears in a sly cameo as Mailer’s butler.

The Outfit

Ryan, born in Chicago, was a gentle and compassionate man off-screen, belying his often cruel tough-guy cinematic persona. His politics were decidedly left of center, and he actively supported many civil rights and pacifist causes. He was, in fact, a co-founder of SANE, the National Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy. He once said, referring to the notorious Senator Joseph McCarthy, “I was involved in the things he was throwing rocks at but I was never a target. Looking back, I suspect my Irish name, my being a Catholic and an ex-Marine sort of softened the blow.”

Quote of the Week

Zappa still thought that the best way to get his music played was to write film scores and in June 1961 another opportunity presented itself: The World’s Greatest Sinner, one of the most eccentric (rather than experimental) films ever made. It was an independent movie produced, directed, written and starring the great character actor Timothy Carey – ‘the ugliest man alive’ – veteran of bit parts in everything from The Wild One (1954), where he throws beer in Brando’s face; East of Eden (1955); The Killing (1956) and Paths of Glory (1957). Brando liked him and used him in One-Eyed Jacks (1961). Frank always enjoyed Carey’s films, though he preferred the weird crazed ones like Rumble On the Docks (1956), a juvenile delinquent movie.

Frank met Timothy Carey at Wallach’s Music City in Hollywood while he was working on The Second Time Around, a western comedy. ‘A fellow came up to me and complemented me on my acting,’ recalled Carey. ‘He said he was a composer and the guy he came with, his next-door neighbour, played the guitar. I said, “What’s your name?” He said, “Frank Zappa.” So I said, “OK, I have something for you. We have no music for The World’s Greatest Sinner. If you can supply the orchestra and a place to tape it, you have the job.” And that’s what he did.’

The World’s Greatest Sinner is the story of a dissatisfied middle-aged insurance clerk named Clarence Hilliard who wakes up one day and decides that he is God: ‘We should be Gods, every one of us here, super human beings!’ He starts his own church, gets a guitar and fake goatee, acquires an Elvis Presley silver lame’ suit and works his audiences into a frenzy with wild, furious, rock ‘n’ roll shows, throwing himself around the stage, flopping about on his back as if he were having an epileptic fit and diving into the audience. He runs for President, has sex with 14-year-old groupies, seduces an 80-year-old woman for her money and drives a man to suicide. This disjointed, totally anarchic film uses flash forwards, upside down shots, breaks into full colour at the end and is narrated by the Devil, represented by a stentorian-voiced boa-constrictor. Just Zappa’s sort of film. Carey began work on it in 1958, shooting most of the scenes in his garage in El Monte. It cost $100,000 in total. […]

…In March [1962] Zappa was interviewed by the Pomona Progress-Bulletin about The World’s Greatest Sinner. Under the headline ONTARIO MAN WRITES SCORE FOR NEW FILM the paper described Tim Carey as ‘Hollywood’s “ugliest, meanest” character actor’ and revealed that Zappa played guitar, drums, piano and vibraphone. Zappa described the film as ‘arty’ and said, intriguingly, ‘The score is unique in that it uses every type of music.’ […]

His performance [on The Steve Allen Show on March 14, 1963] certainly irritated Timothy Carey whose movie had premiered six weeks before. Carey: ‘That’s where our friendship stopped. Steve asked him what films he did. He said he did The World’s Greatest Sinner, the world’s worst film, and all the actors were from skid row. It wasn’t true.’ Carey said that Frank was just saying that to curry favour. He described how on the opening night at the Directors’ Guild, Frank had been in such awe of his surroundings he walked into a window and banged his head. At the premiere at the Vista-Continental Theater in Hollywood on 30 January 1963, Carey, ever the showman, appeared in his silver lame’ preacher suit with GOD stitched on the sleeves and got the evening off to an exciting start by firing a .38 over the heads of the audience.

– Barry Miles, Zappa: A Biography (Grove Press, 2004)

Frank Zappa with Tim at the TWHS premiere