Jack Carson

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Jack Carson
Jack Carson in The Hard Way trailer.jpg
From the trailer for The Hard Way (1943).
John Elmer Carson

(1910-10-27)October 27, 1910
DiedJanuary 2, 1963(1963-01-02) (aged 52)
Encino, Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Years active1937–1962
Elizabeth Lindy
(m. 1938; div. 1939)

Kay St. Germain Wells
(m. 1941; div. 1950)

(m. 1952; div. 1958)

Sandra Jolley
(m. 1961)

John Elmer Carson (October 27, 1910 – January 2, 1963) was a Canadian-born, American film actor. Carson often played the role of comedic friend in films of the 1940s and 1950s, including The Strawberry Blonde (1941) with James Cagney and Arsenic and Old Lace (1944) with Cary Grant.[1] He also acted in dramas such as Mildred Pierce (1945), A Star is Born (1954), and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958).[1] He worked for RKO and MGM (where he was cast opposite Myrna Loy and William Powell in Love Crazy, 1941), but most of his notable work was for Warner Bros.

Early years[edit]

John Elmer Carson was born on October 27, 1910, in Carman, Manitoba, Canada to Elmer[2][a] and Elsa Carson (née Brunke).[3] He was the younger brother of actor Robert Carson (1909–1979). His father was an executive with an insurance company.[2] 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".[2] After the act with Willock broke up, Carson teamed with dancer Betty Alice Lindy for appearances in theaters on the Orpheum Circuit.[4]


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,[5] and in the next season he starred in The New Jack Carson Show, which debuted on CBS June 2, 1943.[6] 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."[2]

In 1947–1948, he starred in The Sealtest Village Store.[5]: 299 

Film career[edit]

Guest stars for the 1961 premiere episode of The Dick Powell Show, "Who Killed Julie Greer?". Standing, from left: Ronald Reagan, Nick Adams, Lloyd Bridges, Mickey Rooney, Edgar Bergen, Jack Carson, Ralph Bellamy, Kay Thompson, Dean Jones. Seated, from left, Carolyn Jones and Dick Powell.

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 popular films known as the "Two Guys" movies,[7] supposedly to compete with Paramount's popular Bing CrosbyBob Hope Road to … pictures.[8]

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.[9] 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).


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.

Carson also had his own variety program, The Jack Carson Show on NBC (1954–1955)[10] and was the announcer on the television version of Strike It Rich.[10]: 1028 

His TV appearances, extending into the early 1960s, included 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; The Twilight Zone (Season 2, Ep. 14: "The Whole Truth") in 1961; and in perhaps his last TV appearance in Alfred Hitchcock Presents (Season 7, Ep. 35: "The Children of Alda Nuova") from June 5, 1962.

His TV pilot, Kentucky Kid, was under consideration as a potential series for NBC, but was shelved when Carson became ill with stomach cancer. Carson would have played a veterinarian widower who raises horses and has an adopted Chinese child. The series was revived by NBC as Kentucky Jones starring Dennis Weaver in the Carson role.[11]


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.[12][13]

In 1983, after his death, Jack Carson was inducted into the Wisconsin Performing Artists Hall of Fame along with his film pal, Dennis Morgan, who was also from Wisconsin.[14]

Personal life[edit]

Carson and Elizabeth Lindy were married in 1938 and divorced 1939. He was married to Kay St. Germain from 1941 to 1950. He and Lola Albright were married from 1952 to 1958. Carson was married from 1961 until his death in 1963 to Sandra Jolley, former wife of actor Forrest Tucker and daughter of character actor, I. Stanford Jolley. Carson had a romantic relationship with Doris Day in 1950–51, but she left him for Marty Melcher, who would become her third husband.[15]

On August 26, 1962, while rehearsing the play Critic's Choice in Andover, New Jersey, he collapsed on stage. An early diagnosis deemed it a stomach disorder, but two months later, stomach cancer was discovered while he was undergoing an unrelated operation. He died in Encino on January 2, 1963, at age 52. Carson was entombed in Glendale's Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery.

His brother Robert was also a character actor.

Selected filmography[edit]

Radio appearances[edit]

Year Program Episode/source
1940 The Lux Radio Theatre His Girl Friday
1943–1947 The Jack Carson Show
1946 Suspense Easy Money[16]
1946[17] The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show Guest Jack Carson
1959 Suspense Analytical Hour


  1. ^ 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".


  1. ^ a b "Jack Carson". www.tcm.com. Retrieved February 17, 2021.
  2. ^ a b c d Foster, Charles (2003). Once Upon a Time in Paradise: Canadians in the Golden Age of Hollywood. Dundurn. pp. 59–77. ISBN 9781550024647. Retrieved June 22, 2017.
  3. ^ Currey, Josiah Seymour (2021). Memoirs of Milwaukee County, Volume 3. Loschberg: Jazzybee Verlag. ISBN 9783849661076. Retrieved June 10, 2022.
  4. ^ "Jack Carson". Classic Images. Archived from the original on June 22, 2017. Retrieved June 22, 2017.
  5. ^ a b 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.
  6. ^ "Air Ya Listenin?". The Mason City Globe-Gazette. Iowa, Mason City. June 2, 1943. p. 2. Retrieved May 5, 2016 – via Newspapers.com. icon of an open green padlock
  7. ^ Davis, Ronald L. (2007). Words into Images: Screenwriters on the Studio System. University Press of Mississippi. p. 25. ISBN 9781604739121. Retrieved June 8, 2022.
  8. ^ Armstrong, Richard; et al. (2007). The Rough Guide to Film. London: Rough Guides. p. 72. ISBN 9781848361256. Retrieved June 8, 2022.
  9. ^ Dixon, Wheeler Winston (2019). Film Noir and the Cinema of Paranoia. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. pp. 18–19. ISBN 9781474467766. Retrieved June 10, 2022.
  10. ^ a b 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.
  11. ^ Canote, Terence Towles. "American Rural Comedies of the Sixties Part Four". A Shroud of Thoughts. Retrieved June 8, 2022.
  12. ^ "Jack Carson | Hollywood Walk of Fame". www.walkoffame.com. Retrieved June 26, 2016.
  13. ^ "Jack Carson". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 26, 2016.
  14. ^ "Hall of Fame a gala premiere". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Let's Go section, Page 2. Retrieved December 29, 2014.
  15. ^ Day, Doris; Hotchner, A.E. (October 1976) [1975]. Doris Day: Her Own Story (Bantam mass market paperback) (6th printing ed.). New York: William Morrow. p. 108. ISBN 0-553-02888-X.
  16. ^ "Jack Carson Is Suspense Star". Harrisburg Telegraph. November 2, 1946. p. 19. Retrieved September 28, 2015 – via Newspapers.com. icon of an open green padlock
  17. ^ "The Jack Carson Acting Contest". free-classic-radio-shows.com.

Further reading[edit]

  • Alistair, Rupert (2018). "Jack Carson". The Name Below the Title : 65 Classic Movie Character Actors from Hollywood's Golden Age (softcover) (First ed.). Great Britain: Independently published. pp. 65–67. ISBN 978-1-7200-3837-5.

External links[edit]