Quote of the Week

Timothy Carey, the name has a certain aura to it. Some cinephiles know this feeling, those who go out on a limb and watch what little role he has. Carey, a character actor who zigzagged through the latter half of American cinema’s history, from A to Z pictures and everything in between, had a special talent. He could make a thin role into something memorable. He threw his 6’ 4’’ body around and spoke with a voice that sounded more like a cement mixer. He stole scenes, evaporating the memory of those that came before and after it.

Only Stanley Kubrick and John Cassavetes managed to integrate Carey into their films seamlessly. For both filmmakers, he appeared twice in their work. For Kubrick: The Killing (1956) and Paths of Glory (1957). For Cassavetes: Minnie and Moskowitz (1971) and The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (1976). They were able to rein in Carey, controlling his high-strung acting for maximum effect. In Paths of Glory, in fact, Carey gives a career-performance. An interlude from the psychotics he often played, as Private Ferol, Carey is a smooth man, someone who would fit in with Jack Kerouac and co., not WWI France. By film’s end, he becomes unraveled. Along with Ralph Meeker and Joe Turkel, he’s one of the soldiers court-martialed and executed. “I don’t want to die,” he repeats, sniveling, whimpering, and crying as he faces the firing squad.

For every friend, Carey had three or four enemies, people who couldn’t tolerate his brand of free-wheeling, combusting improvisation. Fact and legend often blur in Hollywood history. In Carey’s case, there seems to be more legend than fact. His bouts with actors and directors are tabloid-worthy and tailor-made to his outsider persona. Billy Wilder and James B. Harris fired him. Elia Kazan dubbed his guttural lines. Richard Widmark and Karl Malden beat him. Marlon Brando stabbed him with a pen. Always cheeky, Carey proclaimed that he was fired more than any other actor in Hollywood.

Paths of Glory

Quote of the Week

Scene

1957 / Paths of Glory – Timothy Carey kills a cockroach.

U.S. Director: Stanley Kubrick. Cast: Ralph Meeker, Timothy Carey.

Why It’s Key: A quintessential character actor achieves his apotheosis when his character kills a bug.

To cover up his vain blunders, a French general (George Macready) in World War I orders three of his soldiers (Ralph Meeker, Joe Turkel, Timothy Carey), chosen almost at random, to be court-martialed and then shot by a firing squad for dereliction of duty, as an example to their fellow soldiers. When their last meal is brought to them, they can mainly only talk desperately about futile plans for escape and the hopelessness of their plight. Then Corporal Paris (Meeker) looks down at a cockroach crawling across the table and says, “See that cockroach? Tomorrow morning, we’ll be dead and it’ll be alive. It’ll have more contact with my wife and child than I will. I’ll be nothing, and it’ll be alive.” Ferol smashes the cockroach with his fist and says, almost dreamily, “Now you got the edge on him.”

We’re apt to laugh at the absurdism and grotesquerie of the moment — especially Timothy Carey’s deadpan delivery, as if he had a mouthful of mush and was soft-pedaling the phrase like Lester Young on his tenor sax. One of the creepiest character actors in movies, he doesn’t fit the period; even if we accept him as a French soldier, accepting him as one in World War I is more of a stretch, because he registers like a contemporary beatnik. That’s also how he comes across in East of Eden, One-Eyed Jacks, The Killing, or The Killing of Chinese Bookie. But for precisely that reason, he gives the line the existential ring it deserves.

Paths of Glory

Pic of the Day: “Paths of Glory” promotional still

Today’s pic is another promotional still from Stanley Kubrick‘s Paths of Glory (1957). Col. Dax (Kirk Douglas) is going over his notes during the court-martial of the three scapegoated prisoners (Timothy, Ralph Meeker and Joe Turkel).

Paths of Glory

My husband is especially fond of Tim’s rather rakishly defiant stance in this pic. I most definitely share that fondness.

Pic of the Day: “Paths of Glory” revisited

To observe the 94th birthday anniversary of the great Ralph Meeker, we present another pic from Stanley Kubrick‘s Paths of Glory (1967). Col. Dax (Kirk Douglas) meets with the scapegoated prisoners (Timothy, Joe Turkel and Meeker).

Paths of Glory

Meeker, born Ralph Rathgeber in Minneapolis, was discouraged from pursuing an acting career by the dedicated educators at Northwestern University. We are fortunate that he chose to ignore that advice! After an impressive stage career, he made his film debut in 1951. For the next thirty years he made his mark portraying tough guys and ne’er-do-wells, often with a vulnerable streak. For me, his top three roles were in Paths, The Naked Spur (1953) and (as the definitive Mike Hammer, as far as I’m concerned) Kiss Me Deadly (1955). He passed away from a heart attack at the far-too-young age of 67 in 1988.

Video of the Week: “Paths of Glory”

Our video for this week is from Stanley Kubrick‘s Paths of Glory (1957). It’s the scene in which the doomed prisoners (Ralph Meeker, Joe Turkel, and Timothy) ruminate over their fate. They have just rejected their last meal, fearing it may have been poisoned.

An unfortunate cockroach also meets his fate. I’ve always suspected that Tim’s play The Insect Trainer was inspired, at least in part, by his desire to make amends to the cockroach.

 

 

Pic of the Day: “Paths of Glory” revisited

You know, it’s funny – it’s so enjoyable discovering Timothy’s lesser-known works, that the classics sometimes get short shrift. It’s been almost a year since Paths of Glory got its own dedicated Pic of the Day, so let’s rectify that right now. Here he is during the court-martial scene in what is perhaps his most famous role, that of the doomed Pvt. Maurice Ferol in Stanley Kubrick‘s masterpiece. Fellow prisoners Cpl. Philippe Paris (Ralph Meeker) and Pvt. Pierre Arnaud (Joe Turkel) can be seen sitting behind him.

Paths of Glory

“I’ve seen Paths of Glory 10 or 15 times,” Tim told columnist Mel Heimer in 1958. “I think I’m very good in it. I was oh, kind of subdued in it. I liked the scene where I killed the cockroach… Now Paths of Glory is a different kind of picture. It’s bold. You might say it’s brazen. Women get a spiritual cry out of it.”

Pic of the Day: “Unwed Mother” revisited

Today’s pic takes another look at Unwed Mother (1958), Walter Doniger‘s cautionary tale of what can happen when you do the hanky-panky without benefit of marriage. As the beleaguered title character, Norma Moore pays a visit to Timothy’s unnamed back-alley abortionist. The expression on his face tells us all we need to know of his opinion of this little trollop – er, unfortunate woman.

Unwed Mother

Doniger began his Hollywood career as a scriptwriter in the 1940s. He directed his first film, Duffy of San Quentin (featuring two of Tim’s future Paths of Glory co-stars, George Macready and Joe Turkel), in 1954. He really made his mark in television, directing scores of episodes from the 1950s through the 70’s. His directing style was apparently a bit brusque. According to Robert Vaughn’s autobiography, while shooting this film Doniger clashed with Tim over certain characterizations Tim wished to bring to his character. Tim was forced to back down after Doniger threatened to have him kicked out of the Screen Actors Guild.