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Carey On

Andreas from Pussy Goes Grrr here, to celebrate an oft-forgotten cult figure. Friday marked the 82nd birthday of Timothy Agoglia Carey (1929-1994), one of Hollywood's consummate weirdos. Carey worked for four decades as a character actor, generally playing villains or oddballs. Whatever the size or significance of the role, he tackled it with sleazy gusto, complete with verbal tics and a grotesque snarl. His eccentric presence added considerably to movies like the psychedelic Head and two of the Frankie-and-Annette beach party movies, where he played the nefarious, scenery-chomping South Dakota Slim.

However, Carey's most memorable roles came with two renowned directors...

Kubrick, who cast him as a puppy-loving marksman in The Killing and as a sniveling scapegoat in Paths of Glory, and Cassavetes, who let Carey wax philosophical in Minnie and Moskowitz and The Killing of a Chinese Bookie. Both directors knew exactly how best to use him, letting him wander along the margins of their respective films and steal the occasional scene with his uniquely menacing mannerisms.

Carey's bizarre behavior wasn't just limited to the screen, though. Legends abound of how he forced Cassavetes to confront a band of attack dogs while wearing a protective suit, or how Marlon Brando stabbed him with a pen on the set of One-Eyed Jacks. He wrote and directed a single film, 1962's The World's Greatest Sinner, and it's a testament to his ethos of provocation and weirdness at any cost. In it, he stars as a mild-mannered insurance salesman who suddenly decides to become a rock-and-roll messiah and start a cult of his own. The execution is somewhat disappointing, but you couldn't ask for a weirder premise.

Still, Carey's strange power works best when confined to short bits in otherwise conventional films. Every so often, you can catch him mugging frantically or babbling wildly in a movie like East of Eden or Crime Wave, and be grateful for the added dose of madness.

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Reader Comments (2)

Carey is absolutely brilliant in Paths of Glory. According to the Paths Blu-ray he is one of the few actors who were permitted to extensively improvise in a Kubrick film. It got to the point where he was driving Emile Meyer who plays the priest up a wall with his wild ad libbing but Kubrick recognized what a great presence he was and gave him a lot of space. Great character actor.

March 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMichael C

Thank you so much for this insightful appreciation of my most favorite actor in the whole wide world!

March 17, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMarisa Y

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