Saturday, January 27, 2007

Ron Carey R.I.P.

Ron Carey, best known for playing Officer Carl Levitt on the TV series Barney Miller, died on January 16, 2007 from a stroke.

Carey was born Ronald Joseph Cicenia in Newark, New Jersey on December 11, 1935. Although he graduated from Seton Hall University with a Bachelor's degree in Communications, he decided to take up comedy instead. Carey started in New York, playing at various clubs. His routine involved jokes about his height (Levitt was 5 foot 7 inches tall, but behaved as if he was much shorter) and Italian "ethnic" jokes. Eventually he started appearing on various variety shows and talk shows, starting with The Merv Griffin Show in 1966. He appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show, The Mike Douglas Show, The Ed Sullivan Show, and The Tonight Show. In 1968 he appeared on Broadway in Lovers and Other Strangers.

In 1970 he broke into films playing a cab driver in the Jack Lemmon vehicle The Out of Towners. Bit parts and roles in the TV shows The Corner Bar and The Montefuscos followed. His first real success would come as part of the Mel Brooks' company of players. His first appearance in a Brooks film was in Silent Movie in 1976. He would also appear in High Anxiety and History of the World Part I.

Of course, by 1976 Carey would be cast in the role for which he was best known--Officer Levitt on Barney Miller. The eager to please, yet overconfident uniformed officer who wanted so badly to be a plain clothes detective. Fortunately for Levitt, he eventually received the promotion he'd wanted so much.

Following the end of Barney Miller Carey appeared on both small and big screens less and less. He had a role in the comedy Johnny Dangerously, as well as parts in the TV shows Have Faith and Lucky Luke. His last screen appearance was as the lead in the comedy short Food for Thought (it was nominated for an award at the Cannes Film Festival).

Barney Miller was one of my favourite shows of the late Seventies and early Eighties, and I still enjoy it to this day. And Carey was perfectly cast as Levitt. In some respects Carey's appearance always reminded me of a Bassett hound, which was perfect for Officer Levitt, who was always a bit too eager to please his superiors. It is sad that his career never really took off beyond his role in Barney Miller and various Mel Brooks films, as Carey was a very funny man. He will certainly be missed.

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