Quote of the Week

Timothy Carey, the name has a certain aura to it. Some cinephiles know this feeling, those who go out on a limb and watch what little role he has. Carey, a character actor who zigzagged through the latter half of American cinema’s history, from A to Z pictures and everything in between, had a special talent. He could make a thin role into something memorable. He threw his 6’ 4’’ body around and spoke with a voice that sounded more like a cement mixer. He stole scenes, evaporating the memory of those that came before and after it.

Only Stanley Kubrick and John Cassavetes managed to integrate Carey into their films seamlessly. For both filmmakers, he appeared twice in their work. For Kubrick: The Killing (1956) and Paths of Glory (1957). For Cassavetes: Minnie and Moskowitz (1971) and The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (1976). They were able to rein in Carey, controlling his high-strung acting for maximum effect. In Paths of Glory, in fact, Carey gives a career-performance. An interlude from the psychotics he often played, as Private Ferol, Carey is a smooth man, someone who would fit in with Jack Kerouac and co., not WWI France. By film’s end, he becomes unraveled. Along with Ralph Meeker and Joe Turkel, he’s one of the soldiers court-martialed and executed. “I don’t want to die,” he repeats, sniveling, whimpering, and crying as he faces the firing squad.

For every friend, Carey had three or four enemies, people who couldn’t tolerate his brand of free-wheeling, combusting improvisation. Fact and legend often blur in Hollywood history. In Carey’s case, there seems to be more legend than fact. His bouts with actors and directors are tabloid-worthy and tailor-made to his outsider persona. Billy Wilder and James B. Harris fired him. Elia Kazan dubbed his guttural lines. Richard Widmark and Karl Malden beat him. Marlon Brando stabbed him with a pen. Always cheeky, Carey proclaimed that he was fired more than any other actor in Hollywood.

Paths of Glory

Quote of the Week

This week’s quote is from an independently published memoir by and about Robert Austin Brady, acting coach and former member of the American Mime Theater. He was briefly employed as assistant and driver to Stanley Kubrick, just before Kubrick started shooting 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). Apparently while driving Kubrick around, Brady got a chance to chat with him quite a bit about his films. While discussing Paths of Glory (1957), this choice interchange occurred. It is a remarkable, and let’s face it, rather disappointing read, for Kubrick throws major shade at Timothy, and also at Karl Malden.

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BOB: Absolutely. I think that was Kirk Douglas‘s best performance, and George Macready, who can also play heavy-handed, was terrific. And Timothy Carey, in several scenes, was riveting–unforgettable. You cast him earlier, in “The Killing“.

SK: Never again. He was wild–almost dangerous to have around. He was almost impossible to direct. He never matched his movements to his lines. He accidentally hit Ralph Meeker so hard in the face that we had to stop shooting for the day. He was brilliant, but impossible. As a matter of fact, my next film was going to be “One Eyed Jacks” with Marlon Brando as star/producer. I brought in Calder Willingham to adapt the script. Calder and I adapted “Paths of Glory“. I worked on the script for two months but then I decided to drop the project. My main reason was that Brando fired Calder, and my enthusiasm faded. The other factor was casting. Marlon had promised Karl Malden and Timothy Carey, the co-starring parts. I knew Karl Malden was not a worthy adversary for Marlon. He lacks charm and empathy. I don’t think he’s a good actor. I wanted Paul Newman for the part, or somebody like that, somebody the audience could feel some sympathy for and I certainly didn’t want to work with Timothy Carey again. So, Brando wound up directing.

One-Eyed Jacks

Quote of the Week

Scene

1957 / Paths of Glory – Timothy Carey kills a cockroach.

U.S. Director: Stanley Kubrick. Cast: Ralph Meeker, Timothy Carey.

Why It’s Key: A quintessential character actor achieves his apotheosis when his character kills a bug.

To cover up his vain blunders, a French general (George Macready) in World War I orders three of his soldiers (Ralph Meeker, Joe Turkel, Timothy Carey), chosen almost at random, to be court-martialed and then shot by a firing squad for dereliction of duty, as an example to their fellow soldiers. When their last meal is brought to them, they can mainly only talk desperately about futile plans for escape and the hopelessness of their plight. Then Corporal Paris (Meeker) looks down at a cockroach crawling across the table and says, “See that cockroach? Tomorrow morning, we’ll be dead and it’ll be alive. It’ll have more contact with my wife and child than I will. I’ll be nothing, and it’ll be alive.” Ferol smashes the cockroach with his fist and says, almost dreamily, “Now you got the edge on him.”

We’re apt to laugh at the absurdism and grotesquerie of the moment — especially Timothy Carey’s deadpan delivery, as if he had a mouthful of mush and was soft-pedaling the phrase like Lester Young on his tenor sax. One of the creepiest character actors in movies, he doesn’t fit the period; even if we accept him as a French soldier, accepting him as one in World War I is more of a stretch, because he registers like a contemporary beatnik. That’s also how he comes across in East of Eden, One-Eyed Jacks, The Killing, or The Killing of Chinese Bookie. But for precisely that reason, he gives the line the existential ring it deserves.

Paths of Glory

Pic of the Day: “Paths of Glory” promotional still

Today’s pic is another promotional still from Stanley Kubrick‘s Paths of Glory (1957). Col. Dax (Kirk Douglas) is going over his notes during the court-martial of the three scapegoated prisoners (Timothy, Ralph Meeker and Joe Turkel).

Paths of Glory

My husband is especially fond of Tim’s rather rakishly defiant stance in this pic. I most definitely share that fondness.

Quote of the Week

Truly one of the greats, actor Timothy Carey was unparalleled in his career in his portrayals of creepy, scary, dirty, slimy swarthy bastards. No one did it better — no one ever will.

In addition to a very eclectic filmography as an actor,  he also directed at least one bonafide classic. (ITEM: I just spell-checked “Bonafide, and got “Bonaire!” Hahaha!)

Sadly, Timothy Carey died on May 11, 1994 as a result of his fourth stroke in less than six years, right before THE INSECT TRAINER went on stage.

IMO, he was both “The World’s Greatest Sinner,” and “The World’s Greatest Actor.” Certainly the former for his brilliant film of the same name, and certainly the latter in the categories of “Cult Actor” and “Villain!”

First about his being typecast as a “villain.” If you’re not familiar with the man’s work, just take a look at that mug of his. He was born to play the no good, the swarthy nasty who always gets the girl (although frequently, she doesn’t want him) and the downright evil — and he loved every minute of it. And it wouldn’t be too surprising if you were not familiar with his work. That’s part of what makes him a “Cult Actor” – you’ve got to work to find him. But the funny part is, you’ve probably seen him before because he was one of Stanley Kubrick’s favorite actors (but even Stanley probably couldn’t find roles for him in 2001 or Barry Lyndon).

NOTE: Sorry, but I need a break here. Eventually, I’ll probably write many pages on this unique actor. In the meantime, don’t miss his performance as the sleazy, racist “Horse Sniper” in Kubrick’s early classic, The Killing. Also, check-out Kubrick’s following film, the one even most all critics agree is a classic, Paths of Glory, where Carey is one of three soldiers sentenced to die (along with another fave, Ralph Meeker, who can be seen in just about the best example of film noir, Kiss Me Deadly), and his slow, measured breakdown into a whiny weasel begging for his life. And, you get Kirk Douglas, too. Finally, don’t miss his wild, uninhibited dance in Poor White Trash (aka Bayou), where Cajun-Carey out-Ziggys Bowie! I’m not kiddin’. In fact, the filmmakers liked it so much, they edited in/repeated the dance about four or five times in the film.

– Punchinello Beat/Scott Morrow, “Timothy Carey: Greatest Cult Actor”; 2005 (accessed 02/01/2015. Angelfire site; sorry about that!)

The Killing of a Chinese Bookie

 

Pic of the Day: “Paths of Glory” revisited

To observe the 94th birthday anniversary of the great Ralph Meeker, we present another pic from Stanley Kubrick‘s Paths of Glory (1967). Col. Dax (Kirk Douglas) meets with the scapegoated prisoners (Timothy, Joe Turkel and Meeker).

Paths of Glory

Meeker, born Ralph Rathgeber in Minneapolis, was discouraged from pursuing an acting career by the dedicated educators at Northwestern University. We are fortunate that he chose to ignore that advice! After an impressive stage career, he made his film debut in 1951. For the next thirty years he made his mark portraying tough guys and ne’er-do-wells, often with a vulnerable streak. For me, his top three roles were in Paths, The Naked Spur (1953) and (as the definitive Mike Hammer, as far as I’m concerned) Kiss Me Deadly (1955). He passed away from a heart attack at the far-too-young age of 67 in 1988.

Video of the Week: “Paths of Glory”

Our video for this week is from Stanley Kubrick‘s Paths of Glory (1957). It’s the scene in which the doomed prisoners (Ralph Meeker, Joe Turkel, and Timothy) ruminate over their fate. They have just rejected their last meal, fearing it may have been poisoned.

An unfortunate cockroach also meets his fate. I’ve always suspected that Tim’s play The Insect Trainer was inspired, at least in part, by his desire to make amends to the cockroach.