Quote of the Week

Timothy Carey. The face. The jowls. The unshaven stubble. Those teeth. How he stood. How he walked… and fuckin’ hell, how the man talked! Oozing his way across screens, TV, and drive-in… big movies, tiny oddities, TV appearances.

Was Ernest Borgnine gunning him down in “Airwolf” once? I’m pretty sure that happened. He gave off the impression of smelling like an egg and pepper sandwich, or even a chain-smoking gravedigger in the words of one onlooker to his crazed career.

His appearances in Kubrick films always fascinated me as this was clearly a character who played by his own highly idiosyncratic, possibly hypocritical rules — who operated from a revised script that existed only in his head, occupying a parallel film universe to characters he’d share the screen with.

Drawing attention to himself with little twitches and odd ticks — you couldn’t help but stare at him. He stole every scene he was in just by breathing heavily… Then came his work with Cassavetes, another genuine celluloid crazy who did things his way. Obviously they got on great for a while and sweated through several films together.

I’d heard about The World’s Greatest Sinner for years without getting hold of a copy. In the interim, his other acting roles and interview in Psychotronic were fetishized to a terrifying degree… Then: a breakthrough. My chance finally came when his son Romeo presented a print at the Egyptian Theater. I was inexplicably sitting behind Poison Ivy and Lux Interior of The Cramps when the film began to go through the projector and without a doubt it changed my life. Or were they there a little later at a Maria Montez night?

These life-changing, namedropping experiences happen thick and fast in retrospect and begin to stick to each other like filthy magazine fragments in the gutter.

The World's Greatest Sinner

Pic of the Day: “Across the Wide Missouri” revisited

Our “Timothy in color” theme this week continues with another look at his first verifiable film role (the jury is still out regarding his supposed appearance in Billy Wilder‘s Ace in the Hole, aka The Big Carnival), that of a corpse in William Wellman‘s Across the Wide Missouri (1951). Even though Wellman undoubtedly could have gotten anyone for the part, nobody could lay in freezing cold water with two arrows in his back like Tim.

Across the Wide Missouri

“I’ll never forget the director [William Wellman],” Tim recounted in the Psychotronic Video interview, “he was a great director, a tough director. I had two arrows in my back laying in the water. I couldn’t hold still, it was so cold and my teeth were chattering. The director said, ‘Keep that jerk still, he’s supposed to be dead!’ I had just come from dramatic school in New York. I thought I was a great actor, I’m the only one who did.”

Quote of the Week

Although some directors consider Carey “hard to work with” his talents have been used in devious ways many times. He’ll do an incredible screen test, they tell him “thanks but no thanks” and have another actor study his performance and copy it for the actual film! 

Timothy’s son, Romeo Carey, directed him in a 1988 short called THE DEVIL’S GAS. In ’89, Timothy, (along with Johnny Legend), was a guest on the L.A. public access program, Little Art’s Poker Party. He acted out scenes from some of his films, sang “Jambalaya,” talked about Dali and making wind and said, “The combustible engine has got to go. It’s like glorifying arsenic.” 

– Psychotronic Video magazine #6, Summer 1990; interview by Michael Murphy and Johnny Legend, research by Michael J. Weldon

The Devil's Gas

Quote of the Week

“You mean you’ve never heard of WORLD’S GREATEST SINNER?”

This was a question posed to me not too long ago by a friend; too many drinks and joints in while surveying his collection of rare films and memorabilia. To tell the truth, I didn’t know what the hell he was talking about, and could only stare back at him with a kind of slack-jawed goggle reserved for Alabama rats attempting to study astrophysics. In turn, my friend quickly dropped down to the floor, mumbling about some article in Psychotronic Video as he threw the cabinet of his entertainment center open, revealing a gaggle of VHS tapes, imported DVDs, and even spindles of DVDr recordings of late night TCM showings. From one of the spindles came a disc, probably buried six or seven deep, with the words “World’s Greatest Sinner” crudely scribbled on it with a black Sharpie. For a second I was semi-stressed, as neither of our wives were present, and I feared I was going to get exposed to some kind of super sick snuff flick he had hidden amongst bootlegs of forgotten Warren Oates roles.

Instead, what I got was entranced by the first forty-five minutes of arguably one of the strangest, most fascinating bits of cinema I’d ever laid eyes on. Dubbed by some as one of the “worst films ever made”, WORLD’S GREATEST SINNER was the work of one Timothy Carey, a Brooklyn born character actor who was attempting to produce, write and direct what he considered to be a “truly controversial” film. The story of a suburban everyman who becomes a rock megalomaniac, WORLD’S GREATEST SINNER is undoubtedly odd, but also hypnotic in its purpose; a kind of counter-culture document made before the term “counter-culture” was even part of our pop culture vernacular. And while it practically ruined his career in 1962, WORLD’S GREATEST SINNER has come to find a ROOM-like cult amongst psychotronic film fans*, because underneath the film’s seemingly inept veneer is an odd commentary on race and religion the likes of which were unheard of in the late 50s and early 60s.

*Zack Carlson of the Alamo Drafthouse recently put on a screening of WORLD’S GREATEST SINNER as his “goodbye film” before leaving as a programmer for the famed Texas theater chain

Jacob Knight, “Remembering Timothy Carey: The World’s Greatest Bit Actor”; Very Aware (July 26, 2013)

The World's Greatest Sinner

Quote of the Week

After that [The Wild One], I tried to get into PRINCE VALIANT (54, Robert Wagner starred). So I went to Western Costume to dress up like Sir Black [sic; the character’s name is actually Brack. The part eventually went to James Mason], the heavy in it.They fitted me in this outfit, all sashed pants and that had a medieval glove with a weapon from that era. And I thought, how am I gonna get in there, so I went to climb the fence at 20th Century Fox, but I couldn’t make it because of the clothes I had on. It was right near a golf course and a golfer helped me over with a ladder. I told him I was an actor on the set who got lost. I tried to find the director, Henry Hathaway, but he wasn’t in his office so I went to the commissary where he was having lunch and said, “Here I am, Sir Black! My men number many. I’m here for the part. Do I get it?” I took out my knife. He said, “Put the knife away, you got the part.” Then I was escorted off the lot. I never got the part, but I enjoyed it. It was fun.

– Psychotronic Video magazine #6, Summer 1990; interview by Michael Murphy and Johnny Legend, research by Michael J. Weldon

The Wild One poster

Quote of the Week

“Somewhere around there I was kicked out of six films in a row. Then I did BAYOU and they wanted me to play the heavy, so I went down to Louisiana and played a Cajun, Ulysses. ‘What I want I gonna get and no dirty Yonkee from swell country is gonna take it away from me!’ Peter Graves takes away my woman and we have a big fight scene in the cemetery and I fall on an axe.” Carey’s Cajun bully was memorable (other characters refer to him as a shark and a snake), but his standout bit was doing an incredible uninhibited dance to accordion music. He hops in the air, does rubberleg moves, caresses himself and scratches like he has fleas, while a storm brews. The Ulysses dance is so good that it’s edited in several times. BAYOU was made at about the same time as Roger Corman‘s SWAMP WOMAN. Both featured Corman regulars Jonathan Haze and Ed Nelson. BAYOU was directed by Harold Daniels who had co-directed the famous roadshow hit, THE PRINCE OF PEACE with William Beaudine.

– Psychotronic Video magazine #6, Summer 1990; interview by Michael Murphy andJohnny Legend, research by Michael J. Weldon

Bayou

Quote of the Week

You know, I was always a hound for publicity. They were doing the Academy Awards and Brando was up for it. Well, I knew him from The Wild One, I knew he was going to get it (for On the Waterfront), so I was getting dressed up for it and I was going to go up there and get it before he got there, but some guy from Western Costume who was dressing me up talked me out of it.

Psychotronic Video magazine #6, Summer 1990; interview by Michael Murphy and Johnny Legend, research by Michael J. Weldon

Congratulations to all of tonight’s Oscar winners!

The Wild One