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

 

Quote of the Week

Whether looming over the strangely invertebrate James Dean as the muscle of the local brothel in East of Eden or buying the farm in a whisker-quick saloon shoot-out with Marlon Brando in One-Eyed Jacks, the disheveled, vertiginous Timothy Carey performed, through much of his career, as the kind of thespian rarity whose flickering presence, even when bereft of a fleshed-out “character,” struck a loud, long-resonating note in the frequently seam-riddled “seamless narratives” it embellished. Like a portal into a reality hidden from view by scopophobic hysteria, Carey materialized from an alternate universe devoid of heroes and legible story lines.

Available accounts and filmographies of Carey’s early career typify his roles in exploitation pictures as “oozing malevolence,” citing creepy gangster turns in Andre de Toth‘s Crime Wave and Harold D. Schuster‘s Finger Man, as well as uncredited parts in Billy Wilder’s The Big Carnival [aka Ace in the Hole – ed.] and William A. Wellman‘s Across the Wide Missouri. In 1953’s The Wild One, he got to spray Brando in the face with a shaken-up carbonated beverage – some say beer, others soda pop. He was physically attacked by Richard Widmark during the filming of The Last Wagon in 1956, and pummeled by Karl Malden on the set of One-Eyed Jacks, or so the legends go; according to some of Carey’s enthusiasts, his parts got progressively bigger in B-circuit pictures for a time, then shrank as his uninhibited behavior off-camera, and scene-swiping on, earned him the poisonous sobriquet of being “difficult.”

Only the sharpest and restive of “great” directors, and the most cynically astute hacks, recognized Carey’s innate ability to enlarge a piece of cinema into something beyond cinema. Anecdotal evidence reflects how often even those who perceived Carey’s ungovernable grandeur were either prevented from casting him, or themselves provoked by his antics into tossing him out of a picture.

He was, in effect, too much of what he was, too formidably present to evaporate into a peripheral presence; both his imposing physicality and his avid wish to smuggle something living into something simulated got him scotched from films like Bonnie and Clyde and The Grifters; the insecurity of Harvey Keitel purportedly scrapped a  major role in Reservoir Dogs; Carey, by his own account, sabotaged his own way out of The Godfather and Godfather II.

Gary Indiana, “Timothy Carey: The Refusal of the Repressed,” from Dead Flowers (Participant Press/VoxPopuli, 2011)

East of Eden (1955)

 

Quote of the Week

This is from the extras (Film Noir Web, disc 2) on the Reservoir Dogs (1992) tenth anniversary special edition DVD 2-disc set. The Kazan and Brando stories are apocryphal; Timothy always denied they took place. Also, Tim passed away not on his own birthday (March 11), but on the birthday of one of his heroes, Salvador Dali.

TIMOTHY (William) CAREY (1929-1994)

A lanky, saturnine character actor most famous for his work with Stanley Kubrick in PATHS OF GLORY… and most infamous for being the only man director Elia Kazan ever physically attacked on-set. Marlon Brando stabbed Carey with a pen on the set of ONE-EYED JACKS. John Cassavetes, who cast Carey in THE KILLING OF A CHINESE BOOKIE, declared that the actor had “the brilliance of Eisenstein” – after Carey put Cassavetes in a padded suit and turned an attack dog loose on him, during the actor/director’s first visit to his home.

Carey’s six-foot-five stature and laconic demeanor served him well in a number of tough-guy and character bits, and he later become a television regular on such shows as MANNIX, BARETTA, ELLERY QUEEN and CHiPS. He was apprehended scaling the fence at 20th Century-Fox in full armor, just to audition for PRINCE VALIANT, and later faked his own kidnapping while in Germany, during the shooting of PATHS OF GLORY.

His magnum opus was THE WORLD’S GREATEST SINNER (1962) – made nearly single-handedly over three years and released in 1962. Carey wrote the story of an insurance salesman who goes into politics and develops a God complex, then directed and starred. It featured a score by iconoclastic genius Frank Zappa. A second feature, TWEET’S LADIES OF PASADENA, remained in production from 1972 onward (Carey turned down a role in THE GODFATHER to work on it), but was never completed.

Carey also appeared in Kubrick’s THE KILLING, EAST OF EDEN, CRIME WAVE, and THE OUTFIT.

He died of a stroke on his own birthday, May 11, 1994.

Cassavetes directing Tim in The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (1976)

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