Pic of the Day: “Ambush” revisited

Kicking off the week is another look at Bix Courtney, the ill-tempered outlaw of the Kung Fu episode “Ambush.” It was first broadcast on April 4, 1975. Here he confronts series star David Carradine.

Ambush - 1975The son of legendary character actor John Carradine (also in this episode), David created his own legend over the years as a gifted, award-winning actor, musician and martial artist. He topped off a memorable career with his wonderful performance as the title character of Quentin Tarantino‘s Kill Bill: Vols. 1 & 2 (2003-4). His accidental death in 2009 robbed us of a great talent.

Quote of the Week

Many kind, deifying and admiring words have been written to extol the virtues of Timothy William Carey, the hulking, Irish-Italian Brooklynite actor who was notoriously difficult to work with. From his death in 1994 ebbed a slow but mighty wave of fans who have been able to articulate the importance of his long and varied career (although it must be said, even if he himself stressed the importance of always being a different character, he was ALWAYS Tim Carey in his roles).  He is often mentioned in the same breath as Crispin Glover (because of his overindulgence in bit-parts and screen stealing mania) and also Andy Kaufman (for his ability to irritate everybody on a set and spontaneous outbursts of “creativity”), however, there was a quality inextricably unsurpassed in Carey that makes him quite separate from those who share his title as simply a Hollywood provocateur.  He was an example par excellence of the mutinous mutant, the graceful pig, the real hero of those beneath the underdog. 

His representations of unstable deadbeats (Cassavetes’ Minnie and Moskowitz), men on death row (Kubrick’s Paths of Glory) or righteous fartists (his own The Insect Trainer) all have the honor of being loved by him – characters with nothing else in common but expedient exaggeration – but are still always losers, always hated by all around them, apart from himself.  In one of his glorious interviews, he announced, “Characters as evil as the ones I play just can’t be allowed to remain in society. The only time I managed to “stay alive” all the way through a picture was when I wrote and produced one myself”.  However this clever byline has a witty double entendre; for his overacting, radical excitement and inability to cooperate or be boring, he was fired from almost as many roles as he was able to snag.  That, and a piety about his art that made him give up done deals to be in the first two Godfathers, or roles with Tarantino and Coppola.  It is immediately apparent from looking at his career that the directors that gave him the most rope (his beloved Cassavetes and the early Kubrick work) were the ones that got the most out of him.

Jimmy Trash, “Timothy Carey: Hollywood Provocateur”; Network Awesome Magazine, April 25, 2013

Paths of Glory

Quote of the Week

‘Dernsie’ is, as we’ll shortly see, the character who eventually became known as ‘Lord High ‘n’ Low’ and played in Head by Timothy Carey. Carey was not, however the first choice for the role…

The Criterion subtitles transcribe ‘I’ll choke from excitement’ as ‘I’m too old for excitement’. While this may well have been true as far as Timothy Carey was concerned [Ed. note: HA HA HA!!!], it’s still incorrect. […]

Since these pages are additional it’s probably safe to assume that this initial scene with ‘Dernsie’/’Lord High ‘n’ Low’ didn’t form part of earlier drafts. The character’s later appearance in the story (in the infamous scene where his ‘cripple’ act at Mike’s birthday becomes a laughing matter) was present however – and the script descriptions for that scene provide a proper introduction, if not for the character then at least for the actor they had in mind for the role – Bruce Dern (see ‘Changes’ – Page 68, Shot 228). The character name ‘Dernsie’ being no more than a matey moniker for one of the film-makers’ friends. A year earlier, Dern had appeared alongside Peter Fonda in The Trip (1967), a film also scripted by Jack Nicholson, and would later play opposite Nicholson himself in The King of Marvin Gardens (1972), directed by Bob Rafelson.

Quite why Bruce Dern didn’t take the role written specifically for him in Head is unknown, but Timothy Carey handles it affably. To describe Carey’s contributions to the world of film-making as ‘underground’ probably doesn’t do him justice. His most notorious contribution to the genre being the self-written, self-financed and self-starring The World’s Greatest Sinner (1962), a low-budget (but some maintain genius) satire on religion – which also provided Head guest star Frank Zappa with one of his earliest music-scoring commissions. Carey’s twisted cinematic visions ensured that he never trod the path of Hollywood respectability, yet he was often spoken of in hushed tones as a pioneer by the likes of Jack Nicholson, Stanley Kubrick and Quentin Tarantino. Indeed, Carey was purportedly originally offered the role of the gang boss in Reservoir Dogs until Harvey Keitel, as executive producer, intervened (the film is dedicated to him all the same).

SOTCAA (Some of the corpses are amusing): EDIT NEWS: The Monkees – Head – ‘Changes’ – Page 10

HEAD production shot

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head_prodshot_lordhigh03

HEAD production shot

 

Quote of the Week

Timothy Agoglia Carey was born Timothy William Carey in 1924 [sic; actually 1929]. And it was all uphill from there. A hulk at 6-foot-4, the man was born to play every weird, menacing background figure any movie ever needed. Often, he was called upon to do just that. Carey’s anarchistic and sometimes violent sense of whimsy wouldn’t allow him to just stand there behind the big names and glower. Too much kinetic energy bound up; it got released. […]

A polarizing figure both onscreen and off, Carey could be intimidating by just saying “Hello.” His reputation for unpredictability kept him from being cast in big movies (Spartacus, The Grifters, Reservoir DogsTarantino dedicated the script to him) and got him into trouble with others – he and Elia Kazan almost came to blows on East of Eden (the actual fight is apocryphal); Richard Widmark and Karl Malden both did their own improvising during fight scenes with Carey in The Last Wagon and One-Eyed Jacks respectively, making sure that punches and kicks were not pulled. Also on One-Eyed Jacks, Brando got his revenge for the beer gag [in The Wild One] by stabbing Carey with a pen.

But those who were friends with him, good friends, were friends until the end. Longtime buddy John Cassavetes, who cast Carey in Minnie and Moskowitz and The Killing of a Chinese Bookie, considered him to be a genius on a par with Sergei Eisenstein. Carey’s loyalty to Cassavetes led him to turn down the role of Luca Brazzi in The Godfather. […]

In Head, he played Lord High ‘n’ Low, the representation of everything evil in marketing, who tried to get the Monkees to sell their sweat and nail clippings. In Fast-Walking, he played the towering lunatic inmate Bullet. And in Beach Blanket Bingo, he played South Dakota Slim, who straps Linda Evans to a buzzsaw. Maybe you don’t know the name (even I have to confess that for years I confused him with both Timothy Leary and Professor Irwin Corey), but you know who he is. The face’ll get ya every time.

Mike Watt, “The World’s Greatest Sinner (1962)”, Fervid Filmmaking: 66 Cult Pictures of Vision, Verve and No Self-Restraint (McFarland and Company, 2013; Kindle Edition)

Fast-Walking

 

Pic of the Day: “The Outfit” revisited

Today we take another look at John Flynn‘s The Outfit (1973). Ill-tempered thug Jake Menner is not too happy about Earl Macklin (Robert Duvall) interrupting his card game. I am not 100% certain who the actor sitting next to Timothy is.

Many of Tim’s previous co-stars appear in this great film, including Robert Ryan, Elisha Cook Jr., Marie Windsor, Tom Reese, Roland LaStarza, Emile Meyer, and Roy Jenson. Flynn also directed the cult favorite Rolling Thunder (1977), the inspiration for Quentin Tarantino’s short-lived film distribution company.

Pic of the Day: “Bloodhounds of Broadway” revisited

Today’s pic is a rather roundabout way of celebrating the birthday anniversary of Timothy’s good friend, the fabulous (and notorious) Lawrence Tierney. Unfortunately, they never made any films together. However, Tim did appear in Bloodhounds of Broadway (1952), where, as we can see here, he has an unfortunate encounter with the fist of Scott Brady, Tierney’s brother. How’s that for several degrees of separation?

[Quentin] Tarantino brought me in to read [for Reservoir Dogs],” Timothy told Grover Lewis in 1992. “He’d done a terrific script with my name on the top – inspiration by Timothy Carey. Harvey Keitel didn’t want me on the show. He was afraid – I could tell when I walked in. He had the right to say yea or nay to any actor. Larry Tierney got the part. Larry’s a good friend of mine, and he called me up later and kind of apologized.”

Quote of the Week

“It’s amazing how people get so afraid and weak. I was up for a big part in Bonnie and Clyde, but Arthur Penn took one look at me and almost fainted in my arms. He’d heard that I’d gotten into a punch-out with Elia Kazan on East of Eden. Which wasn’t true. But because of the garbled story and Penn’s weakness, I didn’t get the part. The same with Stephen Frears years later on The Grifters – weakness. The same with Harvey Keitel’s weakness on Reservoir Dogs. Tarantino brought me in to read. He’d done a terrific script with my name on the top – inspiration by Timothy Carey. Harvey Keitel didn’t want me on the show. He was afraid – I could tell when I walked in. He had the right to say yea or nay to any actor. Larry Tierney got the part. Larry’s a good friend of mine, and he called me up later and kind of apologized.”

– “Cracked Actor,” Film Comment Jan/Feb 2004; interview conducted in 1992 by Grover Lewis