Quote of the Week

The Brooklyn-born Carey was physically imposing—a strapping 6’4”—making him ideal for roles as brutish heavies, and he resembled a love child of Nicolas Cage and John Turturro. His penchant for improvisation—bizarre dancing, unscripted outbursts, mumbled nonsense—often got him into trouble with directors and other actors, but made lifelong fans of Jack Nicholson (who wrote Head and likely borrowed elements of Carey’s persona for his performance in The Shining [1980]); [John] Cassavetes (who claimed Carey had the “brilliance of Eisenstein”); and Quentin Tarantino, who considered Carey for the role of crime boss Joe Cabot in Reservoir Dogs (1992).

For mondo video devotees, Carey sealed his immortality with the self-written/produced/directed oddity The World’s Greatest Sinner (1962), which can be characterized as [Elia] Kazan’s A Face in the Crowd (1957) as directed by Ed Wood Jr. The film, which has some of the same proto–John Waters tackiness of The Honeymoon Killers (1970), tells the tale of a bored insurance salesman who becomes an early Elvis-style rockabilly sensation. Noting the frenzy he inspires in his audiences, he begins calling himself “God,” founds a religious cult, and runs for President. Carey and his singularly untalented “band” played their own detuned rock ‘n’ roll in the concert scenes, but the film was scored by a young, pre–Mothers of Invention Frank Zappa. Narrated by the devil and featuring the real God at the climax, Sinner was admired by Elvis himself (who asked Carey for a print) and remains one of Martin Scorsese’s favorite rock ‘n’ roll films.

Andrew Hultkrans, “Carey On”; Art Forum, October 12, 2010

The World's Greatest Sinner

Quote of the Week

Born in Brooklyn, in 1929, Carey went to acting school and was a full-on believer of always being “in the moment” – a tendency that led to sudden, sometimes enraging improvisation (that beer he throws in Marlon Brando‘s face in “The Wild One” was not planned). But Kubrick saw something, and rescued Carey from years of bit parts to cast him first as the gunman in “The Killing,” and then as one of the railroaded soldiers in “Paths of Glory.”

It was a good match. Kubrick understood the importance of actors but didn’t have the slightest understanding of how they did what they did, or even how to guide them. It was one of the director’s few artistic failings, and it could lead to hundreds of frustrating takes or over-the-top performances. But some actors – like Malcolm McDowell, like Peter Sellers – saw this as a freedom.

So did Carey. His most memorable scene in “Paths of Glory,” in fact – with the sentenced soldier moaning “I don’t want to die” – was made up on the spot.

There’s something of a John Turturro in the young Carey, and those two movies with Kubrick suggested the kind of long collaboration that Turturro would later have with Spike Lee, or the Coen Brothers. And, in fact, Carey later had a part in “One-Eyed Jacks,” a film Kubrick had been signed to direct, before star Marlon Brando took over. But Kubrick went on to other projects, and he and Carey never worked again.

Stephen Whitty, “The World’s Wildest Actor”; The New Jersey Star-Ledger (October 21, 2008)

One-Eyed Jacks

Quote of the Week

This one is full of some oft-repeated rumors and half-truths, but is still worth a look.

Imagine an actor with the wild, manic stare of a skid-row John Turturro, the gangly rebel stance of Jerry Lee Lewis and the acting presence of a secure-ward Nicolas Cage. Even then you’re still not close to the twisted screen presence of the great Tim Carey.[…]

Right from the start, Carey’s unique approach to acting – frowning and mumbling like a dope addict plotting to overthrow the world – got him into trouble. His key scene in The Wild One (1954) was his unscripted decision to shake up a can of beer and squirt it in Brando‘s face. His performance in East of Eden so incensed Elia Kazan that the director physically attacked Carey on set and then re-dubbed all of Tim’s surreal mutterings. However, Brando eventually patched it up with Carey and cast him as the oddball Howard Tetley in the portly star’s directorial debut, One-Eyed Jacks (1961). By the end of filming, Brando was so impressed by Carey’s unique performance that he ended up stabbing him with a fountain pen.

– Andrew Male, “Timothy Carey,” Bizarre magazine #27 (January 2000)

Brando and Tim on the One-Eyed Jacks set