The second picture I did was for Allied Artists and was titled Unwed Mother, a very provocative title for the late fifties. It starred Timothy Carey, an actor who had scored in Stanley Kubrick’s Paths of Glory alongside Kirk Douglas. In our picture, Timothy played the role of an abortionist (also pretty frisky stuff for that time). When he arrived on the set to do his scene, dressed appropriately in a cheap dark suit, he opened his black medical bag and from it brought out some of the ugliest, vilest-looking knives, tools, hammers, and sundry stuff you’d likely see only in some triple-X horror movie. This bag had not been furnished by the prop department, nor was a bag of that kind mentioned in the script. It was all Timothy’s idea, and he had to be talked out of using it in his scene by the director [Walter Doniger], who threatened to have him fired and, if possible, kicked out of the Screen Actors Guild. He finally did acquiesce, and I heard very little about or from him since then.*
Part 2 of director Alex Cox‘s tale of his encounter with Timothy during the filming of his student film Edge City (aka Sleep is for Sissies) (1980):
Clearly, Timothy was right for the part of the mysterious, mythological madman, the wisdom-dispensing grail-o-matic at the end of Roy’s desert quest. I offered him the part, making it clear that there wasn’t any money, this being a student film. He told me this was fine. What was important, he said, was somewhere he could be quiet and prepare, on set, before we filmed. This was a reasonable (if inconvenient) request; in my head I saw myself pitching a tent, in the foothills of the Santa Monica Mountains.
Timothy also thought that some of his observations, particularly regarding farts, might fit the character of Beauregard. I couldn’t have agreed more. How much film would it use up? Not that much. I could always cut the fart stuff out – though, if Timothy said it with the passion he evidently felt, it would probably be better than the lines I’d scripted.
I spoke to him a couple of times at his home in El Monte. The LA County Fair was held in nearby Pomona, and Timothy urged me to attend it, in particular so I could marvel at its enormous pigs. I said I’d try, and returned to issues of the shoot: costume, location, date, etc.
My plan was to shoot our showdown on one of the trails above Will Rogers Park. This was then an unspoiled and wild part of LA, whose canyons and roadless areas had so far defeated the developers. If you got deep enough into it, and looked the right way, all you could see was desert hills and the ocean. I was giving Timothy the directions to Will Rogers when he hit me up for cash. And he didn’t mean gas money, he meant a fee.
I’d already explained I had no money, that the film was being made via a ‘UCLA waiver’ by which Screen Actors Guild members could work for no money without breaking the guild’s rules. I reminded Timothy of the waiver, but he was now unwavering. ‘You must be able to come up with something,’ he told me, ‘even if it’s as little as 10,000 bucks.’
$10,000 was more than the entire budget of the film. I told him I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t pay for anything, beyond gas, food, film, and his fucking tent.
I saw him only once thereafter, a couple of years down the line. I was going to a screening at the Hitchcock Theater on the Universal lot. And there was Timothy, sitting in the guard’s booth with the guard, singing and playing the guitar. He fixed me with an intense gaze, and serenaded me as I passed.
Very sad to hear of the death yesterday of Larry D. Mann, age 91. He was the Canadian character actor perhaps best known as the voice of Yukon Cornelius in the television Christmas classic Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964). He received a memorable manhandling from Timothy as T-Bone, the unfortunate used car salesman, in the Baretta episode “Set Up City” (10.29.75).
“There’s a scene in ‘Set Up City’ where Timothy roughs up a used car salesman,” the episode’s director, Curtis Harrington, told Penny Blood magazine. “Timothy was a bit out of control because he really hurt the other actor who later sued through the Screen Actors’ Guild.” I have no doubt that it was a case of Tim not knowing his own strength and not meaning any deliberate harm. We wish Mann peaceful rest and thank him for letting us know that “Bumbles bounce!”
Today’s pic takes another look at Unwed Mother (1958), Walter Doniger‘s cautionary tale of what can happen when you do the hanky-panky without benefit of marriage. As the beleaguered title character, Norma Moore pays a visit to Timothy’s unnamed back-alley abortionist. The expression on his face tells us all we need to know of his opinion of this little trollop – er, unfortunate woman.
Doniger began his Hollywood career as a scriptwriter in the 1940s. He directed his first film, Duffy of San Quentin (featuring two of Tim’s future Paths of Glory co-stars, George Macready and Joe Turkel), in 1954. He really made his mark in television, directing scores of episodes from the 1950s through the 70’s. His directing style was apparently a bit brusque. According to Robert Vaughn’s autobiography, while shooting this film Doniger clashed with Tim over certain characterizations Tim wished to bring to his character. Tim was forced to back down after Doniger threatened to have him kicked out of the Screen Actors Guild.
PENNY BLOOD: How did you manage to direct a peculiar talent like Timothy Carey in What’s the Matter with Helen? (1971) and in “Set Up City,” a 1975 episode of Baretta?
HARRINGTON: I’m in that little club that includes Stanley Kubrick and John Cassavetes: directors who admired Timothy Carey for his uniqueness. The thing about Timothy was that he was as eccentric offscreen as on. That eccentricity is what we all loved, but it was not entirely controllable. Producers did not like to work with Timothy because he never did two takes the same way. The only way I got him on “Set Up City” was because the star of the show, Bobby Blake, gave his approval. But I adored Timothy Carey and was very happy to have him play a tramp in What’s the Matter with Helen? and a criminal in “Set Up City.” He was very inventive. He would ad-lib extra lines. Some of them were so funny that I would burst out laughing in the middle of a take. Of course, my laugh was on the soundtrack so we’d have to do another take, which was kind of embarrassing.
There’s a scene in “Set Up City” where Timothy roughs up a used car salesman. Timothy was a bit out of control because he really hurt the other actor who later sued through the Screen Actors’ Guild. When I first met Timothy, I was terrified of him. I couldn’t imagine that I’d ever work with him. But he knew who I was. One day I ran into him on the Fox lot and he hugged me and said: “Oh Curtis, you are the greatest, man! You’re the best!” I realized that he really liked me and I had nothing to fear. (Laughs) So I took him into my heart.