Joe is aces at extolling underappreciated character actors from Hollywood’s classic period, but was dumbfounded when Frank suggested profiling today’s subject — Timothy Carey, a product of the early 1950’s.
Joe said he had never heard of him, but once he saw the face he knew him. We think it’s a reaction you may well have. So, who IS this guy, anyway.
Let’s just say that long before offscreen craziness became chic among contemporary Hollywood actors, Carey was regarded as the genuine article.
A big guy (he stood 6-feet-4) his specialty was playing supporting characters who were either violent criminals or psychotics, often both. He did so with such convincing power that those he worked with became convinced he really was nuts. He was scary, declared child actor Charles Herbert.
Carey had a way of spitting out his lines through clenched teeth that proved especially menacing. And, he often proved disruptive on movie sets.
He unnerved stars by improving in disconcerting ways: spraying Marlon Brando in the face with beer in 1953’s motorcycle epic, The Wild One; portraying a bordello buncer who threatens James Dean in 1955’s East of Eden. (Brando later cast him in his 1961 western, One-Eyed Jacks, and weary of his behind the cameras antics, wound up stabbing him with a pen.)
Carey is understood to have been the only actor Eden director Elia Kazan ever physically assaulted on the set. Let’s say he wasn’t the easiest actor to corral.
Still he worked a lot — nearly 100 credits from 1951 until 1964, the year he died of a stroke at age 65. Carey is most notable in the films he made for director Stanley Kubrick. He is the sniveling French private unjustly condemned to death in 1957’s Paths of Glory. The year before he excelled as a hit man hired to shoot a racehorse in Kubrick’s The Killing.
Also, watch for him as a slobbering gangster grappling with Gene Nelson down a steep staircase in Andre De Toth’s tidy 1953 noir, Crime Wave. Carey claimed he never drinked, smoked nor snorted any illicit substances. I got my own cocaine, he said, my own personality.
He put it best: Hollywood never saw a guy like me. They think I’m a man from another planet.