I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book. - Groucho Marx

Timothy Carey: Hollywood Provocateur

by Jimmy Trash
April 25, 2013

“I never really cared about conventional success. I was probably fired more than any other actor in Hollywood.”

Many kind, deifying and admiring words have been written to extol the virtues of Timothy William Carey, the hulking, Irish-Italian Brooklynite actor who was notoriously difficult to work with. From his death in 1994 ebbed a slow but mighty wave of fans who have been able to articulate the importance of his long and varied career (although it must be said, even if he himself stressed the importance of always being a different character, he was ALWAYS Tim Carey in his roles).  He is often mentioned in the same breath as Crispin Glover (because of his overindulgence in bit-parts and screen stealing mania) and also Andy Kaufman (for his ability to irritate everybody on a set and spontaneous outbursts of “creativity”), however, there was a quality inextricably unsurpassed in Carey that makes him quite separate from those who share his title as simply a Hollywood provocateur.  He was an example par excellence of the mutinous mutant, the graceful pig, the real hero of those beneath the underdog. 

His representations of unstable deadbeats (Cassavettes’ Minnie and Moskowitz), men on death row (Kubrik’s Paths of Glory) or righteous fartists (his own The Insect Trainer) all have the honor of being loved by him – characters with nothing else in common but expedient exaggeration - but are still always losers, always hated by all around them, apart from himself.  In one of his glorious interviews, he announced, “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”.  However this clever byline has a witty double entendre; for his overacting, radical excitement and inability to cooperate or be boring, he was fired from almost as many roles as he was able to snag.  That, and a piety about his art that made him give up done deals to be in the first two Godfathers, or roles with Tarantino and Coppola.  It is immediately apparent from looking at his career that the directors that gave him the most rope (his beloved Cassavettes and the early Kubrik work) were the ones that got the most out of him.

His staunch career self-sabotage was not without good reason.  His single realized vehicle, The World’s Greatest Sinner (which I don’t have to write about as it is all over the net with good info) is a remarkable film, shot over 3 years about a discontent familyman cum megalomaniac rockabilly god cum quasi Jim Jones figure was only a touch on what the man wanted to achieve in his lifetime.  Most spectacular of his goals that failed to see the light of day was the finished pilot for a television series that pre-dated John Waters’ own style, “Tweet’s Ladies of Pasadena.”  It was a wild, colorful trash masterpiece about a knitting club that wished to clothe all the naked animals of Pasadena – and was financed by John Cassavettes.  The incredible and totally new style of the show which would later make Waters a lengend never saw the light of day.  Similarly his last piece which was adopted by his sonafter his death, “The Insect Trainer,” was based on the texts by Salvadore Dali on the philosophy of famous French farter Le Petomane, a 19th century caberet “’musician’. These projects would have left an even more impressive cult figure than the one we have now from The World’s Greatest Sinner.

His larger than life personality, his sweetness, his ability to be appreciated by B-Movie trashniks and Method Acting scholars alike all certainly mean he deserves every word on the epitaph on his tombstone: "A Super Nova of Original Thespian Talent."


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Singer/organist/writer Jimmy Trash is an Australian born musician, journalist, dj and herald of low-brow art and psychedelic culture through his own festival, Trashfest, and many other mediums. He is available for shamanistic healing, bacchanalian instruction and nerdy weird music exchanges.