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From the trailer for The Hard Way (1943).
John Elmer Carson|
October 27, 1910
Carman, Manitoba, Canada
January 2, 1963 (aged 52)|
Encino, Los Angeles, California, U.S.
(m. 1938; div. 1939)
Kay St. Germain Wells
(m. 1941; div. 1950)
(m. 1952; div. 1958)
John Elmer "Jack" Carson (October 27, 1910 – January 2, 1963) was a Canadian-born, American film actor, with a film career spanning the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s. 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 Bros. 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[note 1] and Elsa Carson. His father was an executive with an insurance company. In 1914, the family moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, which he always thought of as his home town. 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. Carson became a U.S. citizen in California in 1949.
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 with "a very successful comedy team that played large and small vaudeville theatres everywhere in North America". 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. After the act with Willock broke up, Carson teamed with dancer Betty Alice Lindy for appearances in theaters on the Orpheum Circuit.
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. In 1942–1943, he was host of The Camel Comedy Caravan, and in the next season he starred in The New Jack Carson Show, which debuted on CBS June 2, 1943. Charles Foster wrote about the show in Once Upon a Time in Paradise: Canadians in the Golden Age of Hollywood: "It broke audience records regularly during the four years it was on the air. Hollywood's biggest stars ... lined up to do guest spots on the show."
In 1947–1948, he starred in The Sealtest Village Store".:299
Suspense episodes starring Jack Carson: June 28, 1959 "Analytical Hour" with John Hoyt and Sam Pierce.
From 1950 to 1951, Carson 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. 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.
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 Paramount's 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). One of his last film roles was as the older brother "Gooper" in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958).
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 brother Robert was also a character actor.
On February 8, 1960, Carson received two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his contributions to the television and radio industry. The television star is located at 1560 Vine Street, the radio star is at 6361 Hollywood Boulevard.
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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, aged 52. Carson was entombed in Glendale's Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery.
Carson married four times: Elizabeth Lindy (married 1938, divorced 1939), Kay St. Germain (1941–1950), Lola Albright (1952–1958), 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)
- Too Many Wives (1937, with Anne Shirley)
- High Flyers (1937, with Bert Wheeler, Robert Woolsey, and Lupe Vélez)
- Bringing Up Baby (1938, with Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant)
- Night Spot (1938)
- Vivacious Lady (1938, with Ginger Rogers and James Stewart)
- Carefree (1938, with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers)
- The Saint in New York (1938, with Louis Hayward as Simon Templar)
- Fifth Avenue Girl (1939, with Ginger Rogers)
- Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939, with James Stewart)
- Destry Rides Again (1939, with Marlene Dietrich and James Stewart)
- The Kid from Texas (1939, with Dennis O'Keefe and Buddy Ebsen)
- Legion of Lost Flyers (1939, with Richard Arlen and Andy Devine)
- 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) - Chuck Benson
- The Strawberry Blonde (1941, with James Cagney and Olivia de Havilland) - Hugo Barnstead
- Love Crazy (1941, with William Powell and Myrna Loy) - Ward Willoughby
- The Bride Came C.O.D. (1941, with James Cagney and Bette Davis) - Allen Brice
- Navy Blues (1941, with Ann Sheridan) - 'Buttons' Johnson
- Blues in the Night (1941) - Leo Powell
- The Male Animal (1942, with Henry Fonda and Olivia de Havilland) - Joe Ferguson
- Larceny, Inc. (1942, with Edward G. Robinson and Jane Wyman) - Jeff Randolph
- Wings for the Eagle (1942, with Ann Sheridan) - Brad Maple
- Gentleman Jim (1942, with Errol Flynn, Alan Hale, William Frawley and Ward Bond) - Walter Lowrie
- The Hard Way (1943, with Ida Lupino) - Albert Runkel
- Thank Your Lucky Stars (1943, with Bette Davis, Errol Flynn, Ida Lupino and Olivia de Havilland) - Himself
- Princess O'Rourke (1943, with Olivia de Havilland, Robert Cummings and Charles Coburn) - Dave Campbell
- Shine On, Harvest Moon (1944, with Ann Sheridan) - The Great Georgetti
- Make Your Own Bed (1944, with Jane Wyman and Alan Hale) - Jerry Curtis
- The Doughgirls (1944, with Ann Sheridan and Alexis Smith) - Arthur Halstead
- Arsenic and Old Lace (1944, with Cary Grant and Priscilla Lane) - O'Hara
- Hollywood Canteen (1944) - Himself
- Roughly Speaking (1945, with Rosalind Russell) - Harold C. Pierson
- Mildred Pierce (1945, with Joan Crawford, Ann Blyth and Eve Arden) - Wally Fay
- One More Tomorrow (1946, with Ann Sheridan and Jane Wyman) - Patrick 'Pat' Regan
- Two Guys from Milwaukee (1946, with Dennis Morgan) - Buzz Williams
- The Time, the Place and the Girl (1946, with Dennis Morgan and Janis Paige) - Jeff Howard
- Love and Learn (1947, with Martha Vickers) - Jingles Collins
- April Showers (1948, with Ann Sothern) - Joe Tyme
- Romance on the High Seas (1948, with Janis Paige, Don DeFore, and Doris Day) - Peter Virgil
- Two Guys from Texas (1948, with Dennis Morgan, Dorothy Malone and Bugs Bunny) - Danny Foster
- John Loves Mary (1949, with Ronald Reagan, Wayne Morris and Edward Arnold) - Fred Taylor
- My Dream Is Yours (1949, with Doris Day and Bugs Bunny) - Doug Blake
- It's a Great Feeling (1949, with Doris Day) - Himself
- The Good Humor Man (1950, with George Reeves and Lola Albright) - Chris Malley - Dr. Monaco
- Bright Leaf (1950, with Gary Cooper and Lauren Bacall) - Chris Malley - Dr. Monaco
- Mr. Universe (1951, with Vince Edwards) - Jeff Clayton
- The Groom Wore Spurs (1951, with Ginger Rogers) - Ben Castle
- Dangerous When Wet (1953, with Esther Williams and Fernando Lamas) - Windy Weebe
- Red Garters (1954, with Rosemary Clooney) - Jason Carberry
- A Star Is Born (1954, with Judy Garland and James Mason) - Matt Libby
- Phffft (1954, with Judy Holliday, Jack Lemmon, and Kim Novak) - Charlie Nelson
- Ain't Misbehavin' (1955, with Rory Calhoun) - Hal North
- The Bottom of the Bottle (1956, with Van Johnson and Joseph Cotten) - Hal Breckinridge
- Magnificent Roughnecks (1956, with Mickey Rooney) - Bix Decker
- The Tattered Dress (1957, with Jeff Chandler, Jeanne Crain, Gail Russell) - Sheriff Nick Hoak
- The Tarnished Angels (1957, with Rock Hudson, Robert Stack, and Dorothy Malone) - Jiggs
- Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958, with Elizabeth Taylor, Paul Newman, and Burl Ives) - Gooper Pollitt
- Rally Round the Flag, Boys! (1958, with Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward, and Joan Collins) - Capt. Hoxie
- The Bramble Bush (1960, with Richard Burton) - Bert Mosley
- The Big Bankroll (1961, with David Janssen) - Timothy W. 'Big Tim' O'Brien
- Sammy the Way Out Seal (1962, TV Series, with Robert Culp and Billy Mumy on Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color) - Harold Sylvester
|1940||The Lux Radio Theatre||His Girl Friday|
|1943-1947||The Jack Carson Show|
|1946||The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show||Guest Jack Carson|
- The "Jack Carson" section in the book Once Upon a Time in Paradise: Canadians in the Golden Age of Hollywood gives the father's name as "Edward L. Carson".
- Foster, Charles (2003). Once Upon a Time in Paradise: Canadians in the Golden Age of Hollywood. Dundurn. pp. 59–77. ISBN 9781550024647. Retrieved 22 June 2017.
- "Jack Carson". Classic Images. Archived from the original on 22 June 2017. Retrieved 22 June 2017.
- Terrace, Vincent (1999). Radio Programs, 1924-1984: A Catalog of More Than 1800 Shows. McFarland & Company, Inc. p. 60. ISBN 978-0-7864-4513-4.
- "Air Ya Listenin?". The Mason City Globe-Gazette. Iowa, Mason City. June 2, 1943. p. 2. Retrieved May 5, 2016 – via Newspapers.com.
- Terrace, Vincent (2011). Encyclopedia of Television Shows, 1925 through 2010 (2nd ed.). Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers. p. 520. ISBN 978-0-7864-6477-7.
- "Jack Carson | Hollywood Walk of Fame". www.walkoffame.com. Retrieved 2016-06-26.
- "Jack Carson". latimes.com. Retrieved 2016-06-26.
- "Hall of Fame a gala premiere". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Let's Go section, Page 2. Retrieved 2014-12-29.
- Day, Doris; Hotchner, A.E. (Oct 1976) . Doris Day: Her Own Story (Bantam mass market paperback) (6th printing ed.). New York: William Morrow. p. 108. ISBN 0-553-02888-X.
- "Jack Carson Is Suspense Star". Harrisburg Telegraph. November 2, 1946. p. 19. Retrieved September 28, 2015 – via Newspapers.com.
- "Listen to and download the Burns and Allen Radio Programs, The Jack Carson Acting Contest, Courtesy of Jimbo Berkey". free-classic-radio-shows.com.
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