Quote of the Week

During the 1970s, Carey put nearly all of his energy into his follow-up to THE WORLD’S GREATEST SINNER, TWEET’S LADIES OF PASADENA. He turned down a big part in THE GODFATHER, as he was in the throes of making TWEET’S. After Francis Ford Coppola convinced Carey to read for THE GODFATHER: PART II, during his screen test Carey pulled a gun from a lunch box and shot Coppola (with blanks of course). Instead of being scared or incensed, Coppola wanted Carey for his work now more than ever. This didn’t occur, however, until THE CONVERSATION, where Carey was an uncredited security expert. [Editor’s note: My understanding is that the part Timothy was to play ended up going to Allen Garfield.]

There were plans of Carey appearing in APOCALYPSE NOW. His idea for the character was to be a member of a Marine K9 unit. He spent all day picking fleas from the necks of his killer dogs, petting them and talking to them like his children. It sounds like a brilliant moment, but of all the things Coppola threw into the mix for APOCALYPSE, this didn’t make it.

– Sam McAbee, “Timothy Carey: Saint of the Underground,” Cashiers du Cinemart #12 (2001)

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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

Carey’s final project as a film director is Godfarter III (1989), an audition piece for Coppola, who was looking to cast the role of an elderly Mafia don for The Godfather: Part III (1990). Coppola considered Carey too young for the part (and may also have been put off by Carey’s earlier eccentricities on The Godfather). Carey tried to convince the director that he could tackle the role of Don Altobello, but it wasn’t meant to be, and Eli Wallach was eventually cast in the part.

Godfarter III consists mostly of scenes taken directly from the original script by Coppola and Mario Puzo. Romeo Carey recalls, “It was basically a screen test, but you also get to see behind-the-scenes of the making of the screen test and how my father worked with actors. I shot the screen test. I got a call from my father. He said, ‘Bring your camera tomorrow morning, I am going to shoot a screen test for Francis.’ I showed up at his studio the next day with my camera and lights. In a single day, he put the project together, complete with the use of the Hilton Hotel, a limo, props, ten bodyguards in suits for his entrance, and his acting friend Robert Miano. My dad’s intention was to prove to Francis that he could play an 80-year-old Don. (Carey was then 60.) We powdered his face white and sprayed his hair white. In the end, my dad was happy with the screen test and felt satisfied. I shot what he told me to shoot and then I edited the footage for him, and he sent it to Francis. Francis liked it a lot and was interested in my father for the part, but Dad suffered another massive stroke a few days after the shoot.”

– Harvey F. Chartrand, “Timothy Carey: The World’s Greatest Director!”, FilmFax Plus, April/June 2004, No. 102

Godfarter III is available for purchase from Absolute Films

Godfarter III

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)

Quote of the Week

GL: I’m still trying to digest the fact that you passed up a role in The Godfather.

TC: I was offered a spot in both The Godfather and The Godfather Part II. To play Luca Brasi in the first one, and the Mafioso boss who gets killed on the stairs at the opening of the second one. But I didn’t do either show, because if I had, I woulda been just like any other actor – out for the money. Francis [Ford Coppola] wanted me on the show, but I kept saying no. To get out of going to New York, I kept saying I wanted more money, and they got tired of it, I guess…

GL: What kept you out of Godfather Part II?

TC: I went to talk to Francis at Paramount. I already had the part, but I still wanted to do a scene. Francis and his pals were sitting around his office and I brought a box of cannolis and Italian pastries as gifts. I said, “I brought you this gift to pay respect to my friends,” and I reached down into those dripping cannolis and pulled out a gun – boom boom! – and blew the hell out of all of them. And then I shot myself and staggered over and fell on [producer Fred] Roos’s desk – all the contracts went flying. And Coppola grabbed my blank gun and shot me back – bang bang! – like a kid. It was byootiful – I took ’em completely by surprise. Francis was stunned, “How much do you want?” But Roos didn’t like it, so he went to work and influenced Coppola against me.

One guy, a little guy, was sitting there watching everything. A young kid with a camera, but he wasn’t filming. He just sat there with a mean, kind of  miserly . . . I could tell he was afraid by the lines on his face. Like he needed two inches of Chinese tonic. It was Martin Scorsese, somebody said.

– “Cracked Actor,” Film Comment Jan/Feb 2004; interview conducted in 1992 by Grover Lewis

Quote of the Week

“[Francis Ford] Coppola wanted me so much to be in The Godfather. But the stage wasn’t right. I just would have made a lot of money, and when you make a lot of money, it doesn’t help an artist because the more money you have, the more trouble you have. Except to make a film, that’s different, of course, but [John] Cassavetes, it would never affect him… Coppola didn’t have the sensitivity that Cassavetes had. He’s a good director, a nice fella, but he’s no John. Nobody’s a John Cassavetes. Nobody!”

– “Rebels With a Cause: The Timothy Carey-John Cassavetes Partnership,” Filmfax #56 (May/June 1996), article and interview by Ara Corbett

Quote of the Week

Our quote for this week is once again not by Timothy, but about him. It’s from an unpublished interview with his younger brother, George Carey:

Timmy’s big mistake of all time was not taking the part of Luca Brasi in The Godfather. He had the part, no question about it, but then decided he didn’t want to get involved. I was taking calls from Paramount and Francis Ford Coppola definitely wanted Timmy in the film as Luca Brasi. Basically, Timmy was replaced (by Lenny Montana, a former wrestler). That part was Timmy’s. All he had to say was he wanted it. But – that was Timmy. He passed that up and it was a big mistake. One of Hollywood’s top agents (Walter Kohner) personally told me that if Timmy would only cooperate by playing the game, he could be one of the big stars. He told me this personally right in his office. He was Timmy’s agent for a while, and it’s really remarkable, when you think of it, that Timmy had this guy as his agent. I think Timmy’s biggest problem was that he had hostility with certain directors. Maybe they thought his acting methods were too outlandish. Once the cameras were rolling, Timmy might do a scene in a totally different way than it was rehearsed. Sometimes, the directors retaliated by taking his name off the credits.

Filmfax article (not published) by Harvey Chartrand, 2003