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Timothy Carey Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (4) | Mini Bio (1) | Spouse (1) | Trade Mark (4) | Trivia (7) | Personal Quotes (25)

Overview (4)

Date of Birth 11 March 1929Brooklyn, New York City, New York, USA
Date of Death 11 May 1994Los Angeles, California, USA  (stroke)
Birth NameTimothy William Carey
Height 6' 4" (1.93 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Timothy Carey had one of the most unusual careers of all Hollywood character actors, obtaining full cult status for his portrayals of the doomed, the psychotic and the plain crazy. Carey's career was an "Only in America" type of story, and he retains his status as a Great American Original a decade after his death.

As a 22-year-old acting school graduate, he made his film debut in 1951 as a corpse in a Clark Gable western, but it was his brief, uncredited part as Chino, a member of Lee Marvin's motorcycle gang The Beetles in The Wild One (1953) that made an impression and was a harbinger of the unsavory things to come. Prone to improvising, it was the fearless Carey who came up with the idea of squirting beer in Marlon Brando's face, even though the Great Method Actor himself had expressed reservations about what Carey was up to. He also registered that year as the bordello bouncer who threatens James Dean in East of Eden (1955), making his face, if not his name (he was uncredited in both parts), known to the mass audience.

Carey followed this up with superb acting jobs in two Stanley Kubrick films, The Killing (1956) and Paths of Glory (1957). In the former he played the sociopath Nikki Arane, who is contracted to shoot a race horse, which he does with great glee. In "Paths of Glory" Carey had an atypically sympathetic role as French soldier Pvt. Ferol, unjustly condemned to be shot to atone for the stupidities of his generals during World War I. However, it was in Bayou (1957) that Carey reached his apotheosis as an actor: as the psychotic Cajun Ulysses, he crafted an indelible performance that went beyond the acceptable limits of cinema scenery-chewing. He became Ulysses, on-screen, the mad Cajun who epitomized evil, his insanity perfectly encapsulated in the psychotic jig Carey danced to more fully limn his character's madness. This classic exploitation film was re-cut and re-released as "Poor White Trash" (1961), and became a grindhouse Gone with the Wind (1939), playing to crowds until the 1970s (and becoming, retrospectively, one of the top-grossing films of 1957).

Carey's career as a Hollywod heavy was thus established, though many directors saw the talent lurking within his physically forbidding, 6'4" frame. His former co-star Brando directed him in One-Eyed Jacks (1961) (Brando's sole directorial effort), a film Kubrick originally was scheduled to direct, gunning down the shotgun-wielding heavy in the process. Francis Ford Coppola tried to hire him for The Godfather (1972) and The Godfather: Part II (1974), but Carey was working on his own project during the shooting of the first classic and turned down the opportunity to appear in the second. He did agree to appear in Coppola's The Conversation (1974), yet another classic, but walked off the set during filming. John Cassavetes gave him a prominent role in Minnie and Moskowitz (1971) and cast him as the second lead in The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (1976).

Carey's penchant for improvising (in the execution scene for "Paths of Glory," his character was supposed to remain silent, but Carey began moaning "I don't what to die," and Kubrick kept it in the film) coupled with his eccentric behavior gave him a reputation as difficult to work with in the 1960s. During that tumultuous decade, Carey spoofed his psycho screen image in Beach Blanket Bingo (1965), playing South Dakota Slim, who--like villains of old flickers--straps the second female lead to a buzzsaw. As the heavy Lord High-and-Low, he menaced The Monkees in the Jack Nicholson-penned Head (1968). Nicholson was one of his biggest fans.

Carey's greatest role was in a film he produced, wrote and directed himself, The World's Greatest Sinner (1962), in which he played a rock 'n roll-singing evangelist who, in a burst of hubris, names himself "God," runs for President and is struck down by God himself at the film's climax. As Clarence Hilliard, the insurance salesman who drops out of straight society, starts his own evangelical religion (using rock 'n roll music played by himself and a band featuring a woman saxophone player to whip up the crowds and manipulate the masses) and eventually runs for president, Carey fully realized his talent, a grindhouse, exploitation circuit John Gielgud assaying his Hamlet. Filmed fitfully between 1958 and 1961 for a total cost of approximately $100,000 (the shooting was sporadic because the production kept running out of money), it remains one of the most notorious works in grindhouse cinema--even Elvis Presley himself asked Carey for a copy! (Carey, always in character as The Jester, refused The King's request).

Carey's last film was Echo Park (1985). A favorite actor of cineaste/video store clerk Quentin Tarantino, he tested for the role of crime boss Joe Cabot in Tarantino's debut film, Reservoir Dogs (1992), but the tyro director didn't think he was right for the role. Instead, he cast Lawrence Tierney (equally great in the movie heavy and eccentricity departments) and dedicated the film to Carey.

Timothy Carey taught acting in his later years. This true American Original died of a stroke on May 11, 1994, at the age of 65. He is sorely missed, as his like will not be seen again.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Jon C. Hopwood

Spouse (1)

Doris Carey (? - 11 May 1994) (his death) (6 children)

Trade Mark (4)

Often spoke moving his lips while keeping his teeth closed
Often played probably psychotic characters with a volcanic temper
Often played sleazy, violent criminals
Tall frame and anvil-like face

Trivia (7)

Has a uniquely twisted screen presence that many great directors tried, and often failed, to harness. He was the only man Elia Kazan ever physically attacked on the set. Marlon Brando cast him in One-Eyed Jacks (1961) and ended up, in desperation and frustration, stabbing him with a pen. When John Cassavetes came to his house for the first time, Carey made him wear a bulky, padded suit and then turned his attack dog loose on him. Despite this odd happening, Cassevetes later declared that Carey had the "brilliance of Eisenstein."
Father of Romeo Carey.
Director Francis Ford Coppola wanted to cast him in both The Godfather (1972) and The Conversation (1974). Carey turned down the former and walked off the set of the latter.
Quentin Tarantino had a page in his script for Reservoir Dogs (1992) where he dedicated the movie to some of his inspirations. Timothy Carey was at the very top. He also auditioned for the role of Joe Cabot, but Tarantino didn't think that he was right for the role.
Performed a spoken word introduction for Brooklyn garage punk band The A-Bones' 1993 cover recording of the theme to The World's Greatest Sinner (1962), which was released as a 45 on the Australian Giant Claw label.
His father was Irish and his mother was Italian.
Met his wife Doris Carey in 1957 in Germany while acting in Paths of Glory (1957).

Personal Quotes (25)

[Charles Herbert, who as a child actor worked with Carey on The Boy and the Pirates (1960)] He, on that movie, probably scared me more than The Colossus of New York (1958)! But he was a nice man, and he always tried to make you feel, "I'm not really crazy," and you would say, "Okay." And then he would walk away and you'd go, "He's CRAZY!" He was a scary man.
[on his attempt to audition for the role of "Sir Black", the villain, in Prince Valiant (1954)] I went to Western Costume . . . they fitted me in this outfit, all sashed pants and that had a medieval glove with a weapon from that era. And I thought, "How am I gonna get in there?", so I went to climb the fence at 20th Century-Fox, but I couldn't make it because of the [costume] I had on. It was right near a golf course and a golfer helped me over with a ladder. I told him I was an actor on the set who got lost. I tried to find the director, Henry Hathaway, but he wasn't in his office so I went to the commissary where he was having lunch and said, "Here I am, Sir Black! My men number many. I'm here for the part. Do I get it?" I took out my knife. He said, "Put the knife away, you got the part." Then I was escorted off the lot. I never got the part, but I enjoyed it. It was fun.
[on how difficult it was for him to get work early in his career] Someone took me over to see Laslo Benedek, who directed The Wild One (1953), and he liked me, but he wouldn't let me drive a motorcycle. I guess he didn't trust me. He thought I'd run over a few people.
You can't leave the film industry to the money people, they degrade it, they make people nothing.
[on whether he ever drank or did drugs] No, I'm a teetotaler. I never even smoked. People were always offering me grass or cocaine. I got my own cocaine -- my own personality. I am cocaine. What do I need that stuff for?
If you wanna be a good actor, go to the zoo and watch the rhino -- look at the way he moves. Watch the weasel, every part involves a new body pattern.
The truth is, I never really cared about conventional success. I was probably fired more than any other actor in Hollywood.
[eulogy for John Cassavetes] His grace, humility. Artistry against all odds. His light will never be extinguished. Cassavetes, always perpendicular to humanity. Antidote to apathy in my life as a thespian. To me, he will always be a theanthropist. Hail Cassavetes.
[reflecting on if he would have done anything differently] I wouldn't conceal my farts. I wouldn't change anything. I've always wanted to do things my own way. Same with the play I've been writing for some years now, "The Insect Trainer." I know it's not gonna make it. Somebody else said that, too ... But that's the kind of thing I like -- something that reaches out.
[from a 1957 interview] I'm a big sort of lummox with an innate scorn for convention, an ambition to be a great actor that burns my insides, contempt for clothes and contempt for what other people think.
[on accusations of being a scene stealer] I wasn't trying to upstage anyone; I just wanted to do it for the good of the show. Sometimes I'd overdo it maybe. Sometimes I didn't do exactly what the director wanted, that's true ... I try so hard, you know. To me, it's like the last film I'm gonna make, and I want it to be the best.
[from a 1968 radio interview] Most of my roles, I've tried to make them diversified. In trying to make them diversified, I didn't get along with certain directors. Unfortunately, I hold the all-time record; I'm not proud of it, but it's a fact. I was asked to leave the set five times in a row. I guess I didn't read the book "How to Make Friends and Influence People." But it was a lot of fun. I'm the scourge of Hollywood. I remember an agent said to me, and it's the truth, when he mentioned my name to some casting director, the casting director just fell across the director's lap and fainted, he was so shocked by the fact that he mentioned Timothy Carey, you know. But I've been getting along with people now. I've been, you know, just sitting in my dressing room getting ready for the scene. As I told one of the assistant directors on my last picture, he gave me a very small dressing room, and I said, "You don't know my history as an actor, do you?" I got a better dressing room.
[on John Cassavetes] I wish I could get him [John Cassavetes] on the phone and speak to him ... I wish I had a direct wire to where he is. If there's a heaven, if there's a God, he's got to be right there. I feel his spirit around me ... John Cassavetes was different! He would inspire people. He didn't believe in anything negative; there wasn't a negative bone in his body. You could always call him up anytime and he was always there to give you a helping hand. Just incredible .. He had to drop dead and die, I mean it's just a shame. I don't know why he couldn't have stayed. He kept telling me he's OK, he's OK, but he wasn't.
I wanted to be a singer, but I was tone deaf, they said. So they put me in dramatic class. I really liked that. This was good training; this was the Stanislavsky method.
It's amazing how people get so afraid and weak. I was up for a big part in "Bonnie and Clyde," but Arthur Penn took one look at me and nearly fainted in my arms. He'd heard that I'd gotten into a punch-out with Elia Kazan on "East of Eden." Which wasn't true. But because of the garbled story and Penn's weakness, I didn't get the part. The same thing with Stephen Frears years later on "The Grifters" -- weakness. The same with Harvey Keitel's weakness on "Reservoir Dogs." Tarantino [Quentin Tarantino] brought me in to read. He'd done a terrific script with my name on top of it -- inspiration by Timothy Carey. Harvey Keitel didn't want me on the show. He was afraid -- I could tell when I walked in. He had the right to say yea or nay to any actor. Larry Tierney [Lawrence Tierney] got the part. Larry's a good friend of mine, and he called me up later and kind of apologized.
[on being in Marine boot camp at age 15] Marine boot camp was fine until I got to Paris Island, then I didn't like the Marine Corps. Oh, I could tell you things about the Marine Corps, boy. I'm not kidding. I called my mother and said, "I wanna get out of here!" I didn't like it at all. It wasn't what I believed it was going to be. I knew it wasn't going to be a tea party, but ... They beat me from pillar to post, you know, they called me "big stupe," kept on shooting me in the arm with this thing. The drill instructor said, "Look, I'm just as good as Jesus Christ." He was tough, this guy. They had a rifle range, you know, and I never could get in the right position. You had to kneel down and put your fanny on your heel. I just couldn't do that too good. And the drill instructor said, "I want this big stupe to fall over a locker box tonight." Every recruit has a locker box. If you fall over it, everybody can beat you up. So they came and beat me up that night. I ended up in the hospital. I tried to protect my knees, and they hit my knees with a baseball bat. And that was the Marine Corps.
[from a 1957 interview] I never walk through a scene. Whatever I do I do with enthusiasm -- and it didn't take me long to find out that the more enthusiastic I got about my work the less enthusiastic some of my fellow players got about me.
Coppola [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 Cassavetes [John Cassavetes], it would never affect him ... Coppola didn't have the sensitivity Cassavetes had. He's a good director, a nice fella, but he's no John. Nobody's a John Cassavetes. Nobody!
Acting is an intimate thing -- dealing with emotions. The script is only a blueprint -- not the final product. You've got to take the character and become it. You've got to live the role.
Every time a policeman gets a look at me I can see the wheels starting to turn in his head. He's positive that I'm on his "wanted" list for at least three major crimes.
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.
[from a 1968 newspaper interview] Characters as evil as the ones I play just can't be allowed to remain in society. The only time I managed to "stay alive" all the way through a picture was when I wrote and produced one myself.
Why are people afraid of me? One producer thought I was on dope. I don't even drink or smoke. I'm just enthusiastic. I don't need any stimulation.
I've been in and out of more jails on vagrancy charges -- the police always arrest me on suspicion because I look suspicious.
[from a 1957 newspaper article] People are finally beginning to understand me. The trouble is, people in Hollywood never saw a guy like me before. They think I'm a man from another planet.

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