CHAIN OF EVIDENCE (1956). Want to know if you should watch this one? Two words: Timothy Carey. Really, what more inducement do you need? Mind you, Carey has a minor role here, playing a thug who beats affable parolee Jimmy Lydon (erstwhile star of Paramount’s Henry Aldrich films) so badly that Lydon develops amnesia and goes off to work as an auto mechanic in Saugus. Yeah, Saugus … These detective movies have an almost fetishistic devotion to geography, as if the writers were working with open copies of The Thomas Guide. Whereas a lot of Hollywood crime movies of this vintage were shot in LA but rarely got site specific, these films name-drop streets, intersections, and such outlying municipalities as Saugus (long since incorporated into Santa Clarita), Ventura, and Imperial Valley, which adds to the verisimilitude. CHAIN OF EVIDENCE (these titles are fairly interchangeable and have little relevance to the actual plots) is an odd mash-up of Arthur Lubin’s IMPACT (1949) and Tay Garnett’s THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE (1946), as the amnesiac is hired as a handyman by a rich guy (THE WILD ONE‘s Hugh Sanders) and winds up the fall guy in a murder plot hatched by the millionaire’s avaricious wife (Tina Carver, later the heroine of FROM HELL IT CAME) and her lover (Ross Elliott). Directed by Paul Landres (who went from this to the Allied Artists shockers THE VAMPIRE and THE RETURN OF DRACULA), CHAIN OF EVIDENCE is just peppy enough and well cast (Dabbs Greer turns up as a sympathetic doctor) to keep the middling plot moving to another sitcom-like finish. Poor John Close is knocked down the cast roster even further this time out, playing a state trooper with about twenty seconds of screen time. Timothy Carey gets three scenes and stamps through each one of them like his feet are on fire.
Our pic of the day shows Timothy in a rather unusual on-screen condition – absolutely soaking wet. In Jerry Hopper‘s Alaska Seas (1954), marine repairman Wycoff gets tossed in the drink by unscrupulous fisherman Matt Kelly (Robert Ryan) after a dispute over a repair bill. Things go downhill from there.
Hopper, the cousin of actress Glenda Farrell, was an editor at Paramount before settling into the director’s chair. His first wife was noir favorite Marsha Hunt. He racked up some impressive directing credits on both the large and small screens. One of them is one of my favorite lesser-known noirs, Naked Alibi (1954), with Sterling Hayden and Gloria Grahame.
The first time I met [Francis Ford] Coppola, he kept asking me to do The Godfather. So I did a little Italian scene and they kept asking me to come up to San Francisco to do a tape there, but I didn’t go up, I just didn’t feel like going. I was in the middle of doing Tweet’s Ladies of Pasadena. Later on, he wanted me to do The Godfather II, so I went down to Paramount and did a scene. My son was with me, eating some Italian pastries and at one point I reached into the pastry box and pulled out a gun and shot Coppola. He was just shocked. He didn’t know what to do, but he wanted me even more after that, but I never went there. It just never materialized.
Coppola and Marlon Brando on the set of The Godfather (1972)
GL: I’m still trying to digest the fact that you passed up a role in The Godfather.
TC: I was offered a spot in both The Godfather and The Godfather Part II. To play Luca Brasi in the first one, and the Mafioso boss who gets killed on the stairs at the opening of the second one. But I didn’t do either show, because if I had, I woulda been just like any other actor – out for the money. Francis [Ford Coppola] wanted me on the show, but I kept saying no. To get out of going to New York, I kept saying I wanted more money, and they got tired of it, I guess…
GL: What kept you out of Godfather Part II?
TC: I went to talk to Francis at Paramount. I already had the part, but I still wanted to do a scene. Francis and his pals were sitting around his office and I brought a box of cannolis and Italian pastries as gifts. I said, “I brought you this gift to pay respect to my friends,” and I reached down into those dripping cannolis and pulled out a gun – boom boom! – and blew the hell out of all of them. And then I shot myself and staggered over and fell on [producer Fred] Roos’s desk – all the contracts went flying. And Coppola grabbed my blank gun and shot me back – bang bang! – like a kid. It was byootiful – I took ’em completely by surprise. Francis was stunned, “How much do you want?” But Roos didn’t like it, so he went to work and influenced Coppola against me.
One guy, a little guy, was sitting there watching everything. A young kid with a camera, but he wasn’t filming. He just sat there with a mean, kind of miserly . . . I could tell he was afraid by the lines on his face. Like he needed two inches of Chinese tonic. It was Martin Scorsese, somebody said.
– “Cracked Actor,” Film Comment Jan/Feb 2004; interview conducted in 1992 by Grover Lewis