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from the trailer for the film
The Hard Way (1943).
|Born||John Elmer Carson
October 27, 1910
Carman, Manitoba, Canada
|Died||January 2, 1963
Encino, Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Cause of death
|Spouse(s)||Elizabeth Lindy (1938-1939)
Kay St. Germain Wells (1941-1950) 2 children
Lola Albright (1952-1958)
Sandra Jolley (1961-his death)
Carson was one of the most popular character actors during the "golden age of Hollywood", with a film career spanning the 1930s, '40s and '50s. Though he was primarily used in supporting roles for comic relief, his work in films such as Mildred Pierce (1945) and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958) displayed his mastery of "straight" dramatic actor roles as well. He worked for RKO and MGM (cast opposite Myrna Loy and William Powell in Love Crazy), but most of his memorable work was for Warner Brothers. His trademark character was the wisecracking know it all, typically and inevitably undone by his own smug cockiness.
He was born in Carman, Manitoba, to Elmer and Elsa Carson. Shortly afterwards, the family moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, which he always thought of as his home town even though there is no known evidence that he ever became a U.S. citizen. He attended high school at Hartford School, Milwaukee, and St. John's Military Academy, Delafield, but it was at Carleton College that he acquired a taste for acting.
Because of his size — 6 ft 2 in (1.9 m) and 220 lb (100 kg), his first stage appearance (in a collegiate production) was as Hercules. In the midst of a performance, he tripped and took half the set with him. A college friend, Dave Willock, thought it was so funny he persuaded Carson to team with him in a vaudeville act — Willock and Carson — and a new career was born. This piece of unplanned business would be typical of the sorts of things that tended to happen to Carson in many of his film roles.
During the 1930s, as vaudeville declined from increased competition from radio and the movies, Willock and Carson sought work in Hollywood. Carson initially landed bit roles at RKO Radio Pictures in films such as Bringing Up Baby (1938), starring Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn. Radio was another source of employment for the team, starting with a 1938 appearance on the Kraft Music Hall when Bing Crosby hosted the show. This led to a number of other appearances culminating in Carson's own radio show in 1943.
From 1950-51, Jack was one of four alternating weekly hosts of the Wednesday evening NBC Television comedy-variety show Four-Star Revue. (The others were veterans Jimmy Durante and Ed Wynn, and up-and-coming young Danny Thomas.) The second season was his last with the show, when it was renamed All-Star Revue.
His success in radio led to the start of a lucrative film career. An early standout role for Carson was as a mock-drunk undercover G-Man opposite Richard Cromwell in Universal Pictures's anti-Nazi action drama entitled Enemy Agent. This led to contract-player status with Warner Brothers shortly thereafter. While there, he was teamed with Dennis Morgan in a number of films, supposedly to compete with the popular Bing Crosby - Bob Hope "Road to …" pictures.
Most of his work at Warner Brothers was limited to light comedy work with Morgan, and later Doris Day (who in her autobiography would credit Carson as one of her early Hollywood mentors). Critics generally agree that Carson's best work was in Mildred Pierce (1945), where he played the perpetually scheming Wally Fay opposite Joan Crawford in the title role. Also in 1945 he played the role of Harold Pierson, the second husband of Louise Randall, played by Rosalind Russell, in Roughly Speaking. Another role which won accolades for him was as publicist Matt Libby in A Star is Born (1954).
His TV appearances, extending into the early 1960s, included The Martha Raye Show, The Guy Mitchell Show and The Polly Bergen Show in 1957; Alcoa Theatre and Bonanza (Season 1, Ep.9: "Mr. Henry Comstock") in 1959; Thriller ("The Big Blackout") in 1960; and The Twilight Zone (Season 2, Ep. 14: "The Whole Truth") in 1961.
His TV pilot, Kentucky Kid, was under consideration as a potential series for NBC, but was not picked up by the network. The proposed series would have had Carson playing a veterinarian widower who raises horses and has an adopted Chinese child.
His far-less-famous brother Robert (Bob) was also a character actor.
In 1962, while rehearsing the Broadway play Critic's Choice, he collapsed and was subsequently diagnosed with stomach cancer. He died in Encino in 1963, at 52 years of age. The early death of the burly Carson, whose screen image was one of energy and vitality, made front page news, along with the death of fellow actor Dick Powell, who died on the same day. Carson was entombed in Glendale's Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery.
Carson married four times: Elizabeth Lindy (married 1938, divorced 1939), Kay St. Germain (m. 1941, div. 1950), Lola Albright (m. 1952, div. 1958) and Sandra Jolley (1961–1963), former wife of Forrest Tucker and daughter of character actor I. Stanford Jolley. Carson had a romantic relationship between his second and third marriages with Doris Day, in 1950–51, but she left him for Marty Melcher, who would become her third husband.
- Stage Door (1937) with Katharine Hepburn, Ginger Rogers and Lucille Ball
- You Only Live Once (1937) with Henry Fonda
- Two Many Wives (1937) with Anne Shirley
- Vivacious Lady (1938) with Ginger Rogers and James Stewart
- Bringing Up Baby (1938) (uncredited) with Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant
- Carefree (1938) with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers
- The Saint in New York (1938) with Louis Hayward as Simon Templar
- Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) with James Stewart
- Destry Rides Again (1939) with Marlene Dietrich and James Stewart
- I Take This Woman (1940) with Spencer Tracy and Hedy Lamarr
- Enemy Agent" (1940) with Richard Cromwell
- Lucky Partners (1940) with Ronald Colman, Ginger Rogers, Spring Byington and Harry Davenport
- Typhoon" (1940) with Dorothy Lamour and Robert Preston
- Parole Fixer (1940) with William Henry
- Queen of the Mob (1940) with Ralph Bellamy
- Mr. & Mrs. Smith (1941) with Carole Lombard and Robert Montgomery
- The Strawberry Blonde (1941) with James Cagney and Olivia de Havilland
- Love Crazy (1941) with William Powell and Myrna Loy
- The Bride Came C.O.D. (1941) with James Cagney and Bette Davis
- Navy Blues (1941) with Ann Sheridan
- The Male Animal (1942) with Henry Fonda and Olivia de Havilland
- Larceny Inc (1942) with Edward G. Robinson and Jane Wyman
- Wings For The Eagle (1942) with Ann Sheridan
- Gentleman Jim (1942) with Errol Flynn, Alan Hale, William Frawley and Ward Bond
- The Hard Way (1943) with Ida Lupino
- Princess O'Rourke (1943) with Olivia de Havilland, Robert Cummings and Charles Coburn
- Thank Your Lucky Stars (1942) with Bette Davis, Errol Flynn, Ida Lupino and Olivia de Havilland
- The Doughgirls (1944) with Ann Sheridan and Alexis Smith
- Arsenic and Old Lace (1944) with Cary Grant and Priscilla Lane
- Hollywood Canteen (1944)
- Shine On, Harvest Moon (1944) with Ann Sheridan
- Make Your Own Bed (1944) with Jane Wyman and Alan Hale
- Roughly Speaking (1945) with Rosalind Russell
- Mildred Pierce (1945) with Joan Crawford, Ann Blyth and Eve Arden
- One More Tomorrow(1946) with Ann Sheridan
- The Time, the Place and the Girl (1946) with Dennis Morgan and Janis Paige
- Two Guys from Milwaukee (1946) with Dennis Morgan
- Love and Learn (1947) with Martha Vickers
- April Showers (1948) with Ann Sothern
- Romance on the High Seas (1948) with Janis Paige, Don DeFore, and Doris Day
- Two Guys from Texas (1948) with Dennis Morgan and Dorothy Malone
- April Showers (1948) with Anne Sothern
- John Loves Mary (1949) with Ronald Reagan, Wayne Morris and Edward Arnold
- My Dream Is Yours (1949) with Doris Day
- It's a Great Feeling (1949) with Doris Day
- Bright Leaf (1950) with Gary Cooper, and Lauren Bacall
- The Good Humor Man (1950) with George Reeves, and Lola Albright
- Mr. Universe (1951) with Vince Edwards
- The Groom Wore Spurs (1951) with Ginger Rogers
- Dangerous When Wet (1953) with Esther Williams and Fernando Lamas
- A Star Is Born (1954) with Judy Garland and James Mason
- Red Garters (1954) with Rosemary Clooney
- Phffft! (1954) with Judy Holliday, Jack Lemmon, and Kim Novak
- Ain't Misbehavin' (film) (1955) with Rory Calhoun
- Magnificent Roughnecks (1956) with Mickey Rooney
- Bottom Of The Bottle (1956) with Van Johnson and Joseph Cotton
- The Tattered Dress (1957) with Jeff Chandler, Jeanne Crain, Gail Russell
- The Tarnished Angels (1958) with Rock Hudson, Robert Stack, and Dorothy Malone
- Rally 'Round the Flag, Boys! (1958) with Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward, and Joan Collins
- Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958) with Elizabeth Taylor, Paul Newman, and Burl Ives
- The Bramble Bush (1960) with Richard Burton
- King Of The Roaring 20s (1961) with David Janssen
- Sammy the Way Out Seal (1962) with Robert Culp and Billy Mumy
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Jack Carson.|
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- Jack Carson Fansite
- Jack Carson at the Internet Movie Database
- Jack Carson at the Internet Broadway Database
- Jack Carson at Find a Grave