Timothy Carey became known as a pioneer of underground film due to his rarely seen 1962 film, The World’s Greatest Sinner, a film in which he starred, as well as wrote, directed, and produced. Carey’s character, Clarence Hilliard, is an insurance salesman who abandons everything to become a roadside evangelist, a rock star, and soon changes his name to god and runs for president. A 1971 review in the LA Free Press makes reference to Carey’s particularly dark critique of “the always close and always dangerous alliance between religion and politics in this pie-in-God’s sky country.” […]
For both Carey and his longtime collaborator John Cassavetes, working the mainstream, mostly as secondary character actors, was just a means to their optimistic ends. All proceeds gathered on the inside served to fuel their independent projects, which they resolutely considered art. Despite their inherent critique of middle-class America and society in general, neither figured themselves as part of an underground. They expressed ambivalence toward such distinctions that would necessarily alienate them from their desired audience, and seemed to imply no doubt that the public would comprehend their innovate approach as driven by economic necessities – not underground “style.”
Previously unbeknownst to us, Romeo Carey, upon his first visit to the [Dead Flowers] exhibition in Philadelphia, revealed the origin of one of Timothy Carey’s signature “dances,” first devised for the camera in Bayou (1957, directed by Harold Daniels, re-released in 1961 as Poor White Trash), and revisited in other noteworthy Carey performances such as Beach Blanket Bingo (1965, William Asher) and The World’s Greatest Sinner. Arriving in New Orleans to shoot Poor White Trash, Carey apparently asked a cab driver for a recommendation as to where he might learn a distinctive Cajun dance. He was promptly driven to Leon Prima‘s 500 Club on Bourbon Street, where he witnessed The Cat Girl [Lilly Christine], considered the most publicized Burlesque performer of her time, and rendered the experience into one of his most characteristically eccentric performances.
– Lia Gangitano, “Afterword and Acknowledgements,” from Dead Flowers (Participant Press/VoxPopuli, 2011)