Quote of the Week

This is an insightful piece that deserves to be quoted in its entirety.

*****

The World’s Greatest Sinner, Timothy Carey

In the spring of 2009 Vox Populi hosted a show and 3 screenings featuring the works of Timothy Carey. Timothy Carey was an actor, director, screenwriter and producer who, like his friend John Cassavetes, remains more famous for the films he made to finance his own smaller and independent pictures. The approach to the business of making films that these two men took is perhaps more relevant today than it was in the 1960s and 1970s. That is to say, through their example, shouldn’t every struggling filmmaker be capable of producing films on their own terms and far from meddling hands? Perhaps, but it is the importance of Timothy Carey to American cinema which I intend to address today, and perhaps in the process answer the question I have posed above.

After a string of bit roles, most notably in early Kubrick films (The Killing and Paths Of Glory), Timothy Carey was able to make a film of his own titled The World’s Greatest Sinner (1962).

In this film, Carey stars as a working stiff who quits his job, forms a hit rock band, then rallies his fan base around him into a Satanic religious cult financed by elderly women he’s seduced. Like Roger Corman’s early films of social commentary (The Intruder), The World’s Greatest Sinner makes heavy use of character actors and non-professionals. However, Carey distinguishes himself here better than Corman managed to. Carey, an actor himself, was better at casting non-professionals, placing them in roles closer to their own lives and thus allowing them to behave and “perform” more organically. Carey also embraces the black and white photography in his film, as opposed to heavily lighting the sets, which was customary for low budget films, assuming they would play mostly at drive-ins. Carey works with high contrast compositions, similar to the film noir genre, though not so rigorous.

This gives his film a very edgy quality that allows it to be equal parts confrontational and nightmarish as well as having a true-to-life atmosphere facilitated by his performers. Those aesthetic mechanisms are what make Carey’s satire of the music industry so impressionable and haunting. Without such skill to the formalist trappings of the film, its premise would seem ridiculous and would have been easily dismissed by audiences as campy excess. Another significant fact worth noting is that the films score was composed by a young Frank Zappa.

However, despite the then iconoclastic nature of his film, Carey was never able to procure a distributor, leaving his film on the festival circuit for years till the advent of cable. Carey, unlike Cassavetes, lacked the personal resources to self-distribute his films. Regardless, The World’s Greatest Sinner has gone on to become a high profile cult film with a large fan base and the influence accompanied by such an audience.

Sadly, The World’s Greatest Sinner is the closest Timothy Carey ever came to domestic distribution, since the rest of his films are either incomplete or have only been shown in competition a handful of times.  Despite these setbacks to his own filmmaking career, Carey has appeared in a number of films spanning a wide variety of genres during the 1960s and 1970s.  Of these films, his work with John Cassavetes is the most significant and lasting.

Timothy Carey first worked with John Cassavetes in the film Minnie & Moskowitz (1971), playing Morgan Morgan.  According to film scholar Ray Carney, the scene in which Carey appears was done as a favor by Cassavetes to help him finance one of his own films. Regardless of the motivation, Carey gives a hysterical performance, improvising almost all of his lines opposite of Seymour Cassel.  Next, Carey appeared in Cassavetes’ personal and allegorical film about a life in show business, The Killing Of A Chinese Bookie.

Carey appears more in the original cut of the film from 1976, playing a gangster out to collect money from Ben Gazzara’s character Cosmo.  Again, Cassavetes allowed Carey a comical freedom with his portrayal of the gangster, often appearing while stuffing his face with food.

Of all the films Carey acted in outside his own, the two made with Cassavetes are among his best, and certainly surpass his foray into exploitation films in regards to the quality of his performance and the film in general.  To this day, Timothy Carey is among those filmmakers cited as the “Godfathers” of American Independent films, and is therefore worth checking out.

– Robert Curry, “The World’s Greatest Sinner, Timothy Carey”; Zimbo Films, April 12, 2012

The World's Greatest Sinner

Video of the Week: “The Killing of a Chinese Bookie”

Here’s another one from the archives. It’s John Cassavetes‘ enigmatic The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (1976) in its entirety. It features one of Timothy’s most memorable performances as Flo, the intriguing mix of glad-handing bonhomie and brute force behind a rather mediocre collection of Hollywood gangsters.

Cassavetes’ examination of the risks a creative artist is sometimes forced to take has few equals in modern cinema. It’s a challenging film but ultimately rewarding. Enjoy!

Pic of the Day: “The Killing of a Chinese Bookie” revisited

Today we need to take another look at the handsome mug of Flo, the garrulous torpedo of John CassavetesThe Killing of a Chinese Bookie (1976). Here he reminds an off-screen Cosmo (Ben Gazzara) that $23,000 is a lot of money.

The Killing of a Chinese BookieTaking up the foreground on the right side of the pic is Robert Phillips, who my MSTie pals will recognize as the exasperated police chief of Mitchell (1975). “You’re gonna get me mad, Mitchell, and when that happens I wouldn’t want to be in your shoes. Now get out.”

Quote of the Week

In the landscape of television, public access has always been the equivalent to the wild, wild west. You will see and hear things that you would never see on “regular” or “for pay” television. It’s a field that many an artist and personality has created and prospered in. One man that fits this bill oh so nicely is Art Fein and his long running Los Angeles access show, Art Fein’s Poker Party. Billed as a “rock & roll talk show” and running since 1984, Fein’s likable personality coupled with a history of stellar guests, including Brian Wilson, Jeffrey Lee Pierce, Richard Carpenter and the Legendary Stardust Cowboy have all helped make Poker Party a cult favorite. But like a Cajun dancing Elvis from Hell, it was one guest in particular that made Art Fein’s Poker Party history.

On June 12th, 1989, along with Paul Body, Richard Blackburn (director of Lemora: A Child’s Tale of the Supernatural, a film I cannot recommend enough) and host Fein himself, was the man, Timothy Agoglia Carey. Carey, famous for his unforgettable turns in films like Stanley Kubrick’s The Killing and Paths of Glory, as well as John CassavetesThe Killing of a Chinese Bookie, had already long-earned the reputation of wild card by the time of this episode’s taping. This nearly six minutes of pure brazen gold plays out like a gift for anyone in the know of this not nearly heralded enough artist and true blue genius. In fact, it is so good that it is also a great introduction to the charisma and beautiful madness that was and forever is Timothy Carey for the uninitiated.

Here, Carey talks about his work with Cassavetes, as well as briefly his own film, the incomparable rock & roll religious parable of sorts, The World’s Greatest Sinner. Even better is Carey’s recollections of his work in both the campy AIP (American International Pictures) classic, Beach Blanket Bingo, as well as his last mainstream feature film, Echo Park. While neither description is entirely accurate, both actually would have made said films even better, between his talk of murder-by-bongos or women literally weeping from the painful indigestion after eating his character’s pizza. It makes one yearn for an entire universe as seen through Timothy-Carey-Vision. Dreaming is free but in the meantime, we at least thankfully have this great clip courtesy of Art Fein’s Poker Party.

Heather Drain, “World’s Greatest Sinner on Public Access: Cult Actor Timothy Carey on ‘Art Fein’s Poker Party’; Dangerous Minds (January 5, 2015)

Quote of the Week

Truly one of the greats, actor Timothy Carey was unparalleled in his career in his portrayals of creepy, scary, dirty, slimy swarthy bastards. No one did it better — no one ever will.

In addition to a very eclectic filmography as an actor,  he also directed at least one bonafide classic. (ITEM: I just spell-checked “Bonafide, and got “Bonaire!” Hahaha!)

Sadly, Timothy Carey died on May 11, 1994 as a result of his fourth stroke in less than six years, right before THE INSECT TRAINER went on stage.

IMO, he was both “The World’s Greatest Sinner,” and “The World’s Greatest Actor.” Certainly the former for his brilliant film of the same name, and certainly the latter in the categories of “Cult Actor” and “Villain!”

First about his being typecast as a “villain.” If you’re not familiar with the man’s work, just take a look at that mug of his. He was born to play the no good, the swarthy nasty who always gets the girl (although frequently, she doesn’t want him) and the downright evil — and he loved every minute of it. And it wouldn’t be too surprising if you were not familiar with his work. That’s part of what makes him a “Cult Actor” – you’ve got to work to find him. But the funny part is, you’ve probably seen him before because he was one of Stanley Kubrick’s favorite actors (but even Stanley probably couldn’t find roles for him in 2001 or Barry Lyndon).

NOTE: Sorry, but I need a break here. Eventually, I’ll probably write many pages on this unique actor. In the meantime, don’t miss his performance as the sleazy, racist “Horse Sniper” in Kubrick’s early classic, The Killing. Also, check-out Kubrick’s following film, the one even most all critics agree is a classic, Paths of Glory, where Carey is one of three soldiers sentenced to die (along with another fave, Ralph Meeker, who can be seen in just about the best example of film noir, Kiss Me Deadly), and his slow, measured breakdown into a whiny weasel begging for his life. And, you get Kirk Douglas, too. Finally, don’t miss his wild, uninhibited dance in Poor White Trash (aka Bayou), where Cajun-Carey out-Ziggys Bowie! I’m not kiddin’. In fact, the filmmakers liked it so much, they edited in/repeated the dance about four or five times in the film.

– Punchinello Beat/Scott Morrow, “Timothy Carey: Greatest Cult Actor”; 2005 (accessed 02/01/2015. Angelfire site; sorry about that!)

The Killing of a Chinese Bookie

 

Quote of the Week

Alex Cox, director of Repo Man (1984) and Sid and Nancy (1986), talks about almost hiring Timothy for his debut student film Edge City (aka Sleep is for Sissies) (1980). Part 2 of his tale next week!

‘If you’re looking for a really out-there actor,’ Michael Miner said one day, ‘there’s always Timothy Carey.’ Timothy Carey was a powerful actor with an outstanding history: he’d worked for Kubrick in The Killing and Paths of Glory, Brando in One-Eyed Jacks, and Cassavetes in The Killing of a Chinese Bookie.

Michael had a number for him, and I called it. It was an agricultural feed store, out in the desert somewhere. They had another number, where a woman answered, and I had a long conversation with a madman, to whom I promptly mailed a copy of the script. Timothy Carey liked it, liked the character of Beauregard, and so we met. Unlike some actors, Carey was more imposing in person than on film. He looked about six foot six, and had a powerful voice, black-and-white hair, and staring eyes. He talked constantly, a little bit about the script, but mostly about farting, about the importance of not suppressing the breaking of wind, about how Western society was doomed, due to its suppression of the fart. On and on like this he went, in the same way as Harry Dean [Stanton] was apt to get into a longish diatribe about the Jews, not that Harry was anti-Semitic – he thought the Christian culture every bit as bad and stupid as the Jewish one – but he did tend, given a trapped interlocutor, to go on about the Jews. Timothy’s obsession, expressed in public, in a much louder voice, was the beauty and importance of the fart.

For all that Timothy Carey seemed nuts, he was a very fine actor, putting on a performance for me and everyone else in Dairy Queen. He was the most egomaniacal thespian I’d yet met, and thus, I suspect, one of the most insecure and damaged. He was also a director, having authored and starred in a feature of his own, The World’s Greatest Sinner.

– Alex Cox, X Films: True Confessions of a Radical Filmmaker (I.B. Tauris, 2008)

Edge City (1980) in four parts on YouTube

 

Bonus: John Cassavetes

“You can defeat fear through humor, through pain, through honesty, bravery, intuition, and through love in the truest sense.” – John Cassavetes, born this date in 1929. A great friend and mentor to Timothy. Would that the both of them were still with us, but their spirits live on.

With John Cassavetes

"Anti-Academy Awards party" given by Tim for John Cassavetes and Gena Rowlands

Cassavetes directing Timothy in The Killing of a Chinese Bookie

On the set of Bookie

Minnie and Moskowitz, 1971

Pic of the Day: “The Killing of a Chinese Bookie” revisited

We’ll be closing out the week by taking another look at Flo, the enigmatic muscle behind a gang of mediocre Hollywood gangsters in John CassavetesThe Killing of a Chinese Bookie (1976). In a film full of great close-ups, this is one of the best.

The Killing of a Chinese Bookie

Ara Corbett tells us in the Filmfax article “Rebels With a Cause: The Timothy Carey-John Cassavetes Partnership,” “Plans to film Confession, a script that Cassavetes wrote with his son Nick, three years later never materialized, though the plan was to reunite the acclaimed A Woman Under the Influence team of Peter Falk and Gena Rowlands along with Cassavetes’ daughter, Zoe, and Carey as a gangster named Ibizza.” Good Lord – how epic would that have been? We can only dream.

Quote of the Week

That long face, those droopy eyes – Timothy Carey is unmistakable, unpredictable, and electrifying with those lizard features that became both a blessing and a curse. […]

A true maverick known for improvising and getting fired, he’s worked with Roger Corman, Coppola, and Cassavetes, including a memorable turn as a mafia heavy in The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (we know just from the look in Carey’s eyes that Ben Gazzara is in deep, deep shit).

Carey is an actor to get excited about; like Bruce Dern, there’s a manic energy inside him, a screw loose combined with a fearless realism. He often didn’t seem like an actor at all, more like a wonderfully intuitive amateur dragged out of a skid row bar and slid in front of the camera.

Nic Cage wishes he was Timothy Carey, but Carey didn’t have things easy…

“I can’t even take a stroll through a park. As soon as women see my face they start gathering up their children and running for home.” – Timothy Carey

Rob Munday, “A Face in the Crowd: Timothy Carey”; Video City London (12.13.13)

The Killing of a Chinese Bookie

Pic of the Day: “Convicts 4” revisited

In honor of today being the 84th birthday anniversary of the late great Ben Gazzara, today’s pic is another from Convicts 4 (1962), directed by Millard Kaufman. John Resko ponders his predicament after unexpectedly meeting up with his childhood friend Nick in the prison yard at Dannemora.

Convicts 4

Tim and Gazzara would meet again in John CassavetesThe Killing of a Chinese Bookie (1976). Unfortunately Tim only garners a passing mention in Gazzara’s autobiography, In the Moment: My Life as an Actor (2004). I was hoping for some great stories! Gazzara’s presence on the silver screen is highly treasured and greatly missed.