Pic of the Day: “Across the Wide Missouri” revisited

Our “Timothy in color” theme this week continues with another look at his first verifiable film role (the jury is still out regarding his supposed appearance in Billy Wilder‘s Ace in the Hole, aka The Big Carnival), that of a corpse in William Wellman‘s Across the Wide Missouri (1951). Even though Wellman undoubtedly could have gotten anyone for the part, nobody could lay in freezing cold water with two arrows in his back like Tim.

Across the Wide Missouri

“I’ll never forget the director [William Wellman],” Tim recounted in the Psychotronic Video interview, “he was a great director, a tough director. I had two arrows in my back laying in the water. I couldn’t hold still, it was so cold and 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.”

Video of the Week: “Across the Wide Missouri”

12/01/15 EDIT: Another one bites the dust. Sorry about that!

This week’s video provides a look – a really quick look – at Timothy’s first official film appearance. It’s Across the Wide Missouri (1951), directed by William Wellman. Fast-forward to 35:06 and you’ll see Tim’s grand film debut – as a corpse. But like I say, don’t blink or you’ll miss it!

Tim spoke several times in interviews about his escapades during the making of the film in Durango, Colorado, involving director Wellman and the film’s star, Clark Gable. This was also silent Western star Jack Holt‘s final film. Enjoy!

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

Quote of the Week

We are indebted to 50 Westerns From the 50s blogger Toby Roan (and his wife!) for this week’s quote. This is the earliest newspaper tidbit about Timothy that I’ve seen to date.

Timothy Carey of Brooklyn followed Horace Greeley‘s advice, went West and landed a screen role with Clark Gable in Across the Wide Missouri.

The lanky young Brookridge High School alumnus, following several seasons playing pro baseball, found himself in Colorado.

He heard that Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer was about to film the outdoor saga near Durango. With summer stock experience in the east to his credit, Carey set up housekeeping at an abandoned cabin near the studio location.

He finally met Director William Wellman, who gave him the role of French Dunord, Gable’s trapper friend.

Not being a member of the regular Hollywood group, Carey has the distinction of being the only screen actor to share a cabin with several chipmunks.

– “Hollywood Newsreel,” Lebanon (PA) Daily News, August 24, 1950

Across the Wide Missouri

The entirety of Tim’s role as “French Dunord, Gable’s trapper friend”

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)

 

Pic of the Day: “Across the Wide Missouri”

Our pics this week are going to have something of a theme – Timothy’s death scenes. He gave his all in his death scenes. He once quoted Marlon Brando as telling him, “Tim, you’re the only actor that I ever worked with that even in death, you move.” His first official screen appearance was that of a corpse, in William A. Wellman‘s Across the Wide Missouri (1951). He is uncredited as the late French fur trapper Baptiste DuNord, killed by Indians.

Across the Wide Missouri

“I worked on the show, I played a dead man in it, it was a great part!” Timothy said in the Psychotronic interview. “You could only see my back, I was laying in the water. I’ll never forget the director (William Wellman), he was a great director, a tough director. I had two arrows in my back laying in the water. I couldn’t hold still, it was so cold and 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.”

Pic of the Day: “Across the Wide Missouri” revisited

It says “revisited,” but it’s the same pic I posted over a year ago. That’s because this is it! This is only shot of Timothy in his grand film debut in William Wellman‘s Across the Wide Missouri (1951). He appears as the corpse of fur trapper Baptiste DuNord. Yes, that’s right –  the corpse.

Across the Wide Missouri

“The first time I worked was in a Clark Gable film in Colorado,” said Tim in the Psychotronic interview. “… And I was sent one time in New York by an agent who used to handle Clark Gable by the name of Chamberlain Brown. I was just an extra in Across the Wide Missouri (MGM, 1951). Gable had a home up there they rented for him. I went there and said I was working on the picture. They invited me in and gave me tea and crumpets and were very hospitable to me. I started working on the show three days later and he was a little embarrassed that he wined and dined an atmosphere player at his home. I worked on the show, I played a dead man in it, it was a great part! You could only see my back, I was laying in the water. I’ll never forget the director (William Wellman), he was a great director, a tough director. I had two arrows in my back laying in the water. I couldn’t hold still, it was so cold and 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.”