Provocatively disavowing, then, the realist documentary mode, The Killing instead embraces a kind of ironic quotation that repurposes popular genre conventions and formulas. Take, for example, one of The Killing‘s most stingingly cynical moments, the charged scene in which a deranged sniper, played with reptilian charm by Timothy Carey, strikes up an unexpected friendship with an embittered African American war veteran working as a parking attendant, played with smoldering intensity by James Edwards. For a brief moment, the awkward and spontaneous connection between the white and black man almost seems to be directed by the other Stanley of postwar Hollywood – Stanley Kramer, whose trademark brand of overwrought social-problem melodrama would give rise a few years later to The Defiant Ones (1958), a heavy-handed, Oscar-winning allegory of troubled race relations. Yet just as suddenly, Kubrick and über-hard-boiled novelist Jim Thompson‘s screenplay subverts and renders ironic the social-problem formula evoked so effectively, with Carey’s demented killer unleashing a viscously casual racist barb that reveals his seemingly enlightened sympathies to be simply a convenient guise, a mocking echo of the clown mask donned by heist ringleader Johnny Clay (Sterling Hayden) during the climactic robbery.
- Haden Guest, “Kubrick’s Clockwork”, included in the booklet accompanying the Criterion Collection DVD of the film
To celebrate today’s broadcast of The Killing (1956) and Crime Wave (1954) on Turner Classic Movies, as part of their tribute to Star of the Month Sterling Hayden, we are featuring two videos this week that come from both of those films. First up is Timothy’s pivotal scene from The Killing, with the great James Edwards.
Next up is a bit of ephemera from Crime Wave that comes to us courtesy of the amazing Film Noir Foundation. It’s part of an interview with that film’s director, Andre’ De Toth. Timothy only appears in a still from the film, however. But that’s OK by us.
Don’t forget – both of these films air TONIGHT on Turner Classic Movies, starting at 5:00 pm PST!
[…] The world is awful, let’s face it.
Timothy Carey, a man no film (no world?) can contain, brilliantly so, faces it, and in fact, revels in the awfulness, smirking and smiling while petting his puppy – he knows everything’s shit. Fine. And we’re with his psycho intensity, we even like him in some sick way and Kubrick knows it. So the director makes us flinch. When Carey casually drops a racist remark to the agreeable African-American parking attendant (James Edwards), it’s one of the most startlingly nasty moments in the picture. How do you like your psychopath now?
Today, as we honor Dr. Martin Luther King and celebrate the achievements of the African-American community, we take another look at Stanley Kubrick‘s The Killing (1956). Hipster racehorse assassin Nikki Arcane sweet-talks the justifiably suspicious racetrack parking lot attendant (James Edwards) into letting him stay in his car during the race.
As I’ve mentioned previously (in fact, I’m about to plagiarize myself), Edwards was one of the first African-American actors in Hollywood to receive substantial film roles beyond the stereotypical mammies and Uncle Toms of the pre-World War II era. He made his film debut in Robert Wise‘s The Set-Up (1949), an auspicious beginning to a distinguished career. I especially enjoyed him in Sam Fuller‘s The Steel Helmet (1951).
Tim’s character here, Nikki Arcane, has been called racist, but I honestly don’t think he is. Note how he looks away and looks uncomfortable when he uses “that word.” He just wants Edwards to go away so he can get his job done, so he gets extra-nasty. The sad part is that Edwards’ character is probably so used to being treated poorly by white folks that he responds to what he perceives as Nikki’s kind treatment by making a bit of a pest of himself.
Today’s pic (don’t forget for all pics, you may click to embiggen) is another from Stanley Kubrick‘s The Killing (1956). Race horse assassin Nikki Arcane is about to have his epic encounter with the racetrack parking lot attendant (James Edwards).
Edwards was one of the first African-American actors in Hollywood to receive substantial film roles beyond the stereotypical mammies and Uncle Toms of the pre-World War II era. He made his film debut in Robert Wise‘s The Set-Up (1949), an auspicious beginning to a distinguished career. I especially enjoyed him in Sam Fuller‘s The Steel Helmet (1951).