I usually don’t post on Saturdays, but as the legendary Sterling Hayden was born 100 years ago today, I couldn’t not post. Timothy appeared in three films with him: Hellgate (1952), Crime Wave (1954) and The Killing (1956), getting a chance to really interact with him only in the latter film. It’s too bad there weren’t more, but what we have is choice. Hayden was a true iconoclast, the very definition of “rugged individualism.” They just don’t make ’em like that anymore. Sir, we salute you.
We learned last week of the passing of lovely star Joan Leslie at the age of 90. Timothy was lucky enough to share the screen with her (and Sterling Hayden), however briefly, in one of his earliest film appearances. That film was Hellgate (1952), the entertaining Western prison drama written and directed by Charles Marquis Warren.
Almost always the “good girl,” Leslie played against type to most memorable effect in the underrated noir thriller RepeatPerformance (1947). An accomplished singer and dancer as well as an actress, it was always a treat to watch her practice her craft. She will indeed be missed.
Provocatively disavowing, then, the realist documentary mode, The Killing instead embraces a kind of ironic quotation that repurposes popular genre conventions and formulas. Take, for example, one of The Killing‘s most stingingly cynical moments, the charged scene in which a deranged sniper, played with reptilian charm by Timothy Carey, strikes up an unexpected friendship with an embittered African American war veteran working as a parking attendant, played with smoldering intensity by James Edwards. For a brief moment, the awkward and spontaneous connection between the white and black man almost seems to be directed by the other Stanley of postwar Hollywood – Stanley Kramer, whose trademark brand of overwrought social-problem melodrama would give rise a few years later to The Defiant Ones (1958), a heavy-handed, Oscar-winning allegory of troubled race relations. Yet just as suddenly, Kubrick and über-hard-boiled novelist Jim Thompson‘s screenplay subverts and renders ironic the social-problem formula evoked so effectively, with Carey’s demented killer unleashing a viscously casual racist barb that reveals his seemingly enlightened sympathies to be simply a convenient guise, a mocking echo of the clown mask donned by heist ringleader Johnny Clay (Sterling Hayden) during the climactic robbery.
To celebrate today’s broadcast of The Killing (1956) and Crime Wave (1954) on Turner Classic Movies, as part of their tribute to Star of the Month Sterling Hayden, we are featuring two videos this week that come from both of those films. First up is Timothy’s pivotal scene from The Killing, with the great James Edwards.
Next up is a bit of ephemera from Crime Wave that comes to us courtesy of the amazing Film Noir Foundation. It’s part of an interview with that film’s director, Andre’ De Toth. Timothy only appears in a still from the film, however. But that’s OK by us.
Already anticipating the screenings of Crime Wave (1954) and The Killing (1956) next month as Turner Classic Movies celebrates its Star of the Month for May, Sterling Hayden, today’s pic takes another look at the former film. It’s one of the best examples of film noir ever, directed by Andre’ De Toth.
This intensely red-tinted lobby card features Hayden and Mack Chandler rounding up Timothy and Gene Nelson, as Phyllis Kirk looks on. I encourage you not to miss this film if you haven’t seen it. It’s a winner in every respect.
EDITOR’S NOTE 10/20/2015: Another one bites the dust. My apologies.
Our video this week features another of Timothy’s early film appearances, fleeting and dubbed over as it is. It’s Charles Marquis Warren‘s Hellgate (1952), starring a man Tim would encounter again on-screen, Sterling Hayden. Tim can be seen very early in the film as one of bad guy James Anderson‘s henchmen.
This entertaining combination of Western and prison drama boasts an impressive cast – in addition to Hayden and Anderson, Joan Leslie, Ward Bond, and James Arness are also on board. It’s possible that Tim appears again amongst the extras in the prison scenes, but I haven’t been able to catch a glimpse of him. Perhaps you might be more successful than I – if so, please let me know! Enjoy!
But Carey’s genius was the very thing that kept him from ever having a chance at being a famous actor. Famous actors demand love. Carey loved to be hated. You look at him in a scene–take one of his two scenes in Kubrick‘s The Killing–and he’s just the most despicable bastard you ever saw. His enormous, baggy eyes roll up and away from whomever he’s talking to, like the person’s not even there, just a voice in his head; his jaw is locked like a rabies victim, teeth clenched in a Kirk Douglas burlesque as he spits out his lines in mumbly, beatnik rebop. “What’s wrong, mister?” asks the black parking-lot attendant. “You’re wrong, nigger!” Carey blasts. You don’t see Carey’s face when he delivers the epithet, but you feel the menace–you can’t wait for him to die, and you miss him when he’s gone.
Earlier in that same film, when Sterling Hayden‘s grit-tough Johnny offers him $5,000 to shoot a horse, Carey looks like he’s forever on the verge of drunkenly cracking up, calling Hayden “Pops,” and stroking a puppy in between firing off rounds from a shotgun. There’s something in Carey’s insouciance, his refusal to take the terms of a film seriously, that simultaneously takes you out of the film and beckons you into the actor. It’s not exactly being a ham (though it’s that, too); it’s more like a kind of super-realism, a heightened sense that what you’re seeing is acting, and that the acting–especially since Carey was almost always hired to play a psycho–is the opposite of pretend.