Quote of the Week

In Elia Kazan’s classic John Steinbeck adaptation East of Eden (1955) Carey is a pimp/bodyguard for Jo Van Fleet’s character in a brothel she runs and is ordered to throw her son Cal (played by James Dean) out the door when he comes to see her. Right away you notice a spark of brutality and weirdness from Carey’s arrival onscreen. As preparation for his role as “Joe” the pimp, Carey tried mumbling all his lines because he thought it was “how pimps talked”. At a certain point Kazan got so angry at his annoying interpretation, he stabbed Carey with a pen in the shoulder. He and Dean actually became friends during the production. One day they went on a car ride through Salinas after which Carey stated he would never get in a car with him again due to his reckless driving habits. Dean would later die in what is now an infamous car crash.

Peter (just Peter), “Mad As Hell Heroes: TIMOTHY CAREY… What a Character!”; Furious Cinema, November 11, 2013

on the set with James Dean

Quote of the Week

Carey’s career as a character actor began with the role of a dead man in Across the Wide Missouri, directed by William Wellman, who, Carey recalled, “was a great director and a tough director. I had two arrows in my back laying in the water. I couldn’t hold still, it was so cold 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.”

The pattern for Carey’s acting career was set. Director and player wrestled for control of a scene. Directors who afforded Carey room to operate, those who were able to understand his capabilities, worked well with him. Carey played the absolute heavy to the relative heavy in a string of hard-boiled dramas of the early ‘50s including Hellgate, The Big Carnival [aka Ace in the Hole] and Finger Man. […]

By the mid-50’s, Carey’s work had attracted the attention of a number of directors. Elia Kazan cast him in East of Eden, playing the bouncer at a brothel owned by James Dean’s mother. This experience would produce the only serious regret of Carey’s professional life. Kazan decided that the actor’s Brooklynese was not to his liking, and had Carey’s voice dubbed over, significantly marginalizing his presence in the film. He and Dean bonded during the production. This culminated in one of Dean’s infamous reckless Sunday drives through Salinas. After they returned to the set Carey said, prophetically, “I’m never getting in a car with him again.”

– Alex de Laszlo, “The Wonderful Horrible Life of Timothy Carey”, Uno Mas magazine, 1996

Across the Wide Missouri