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John Elmer Carson
October 27, 1910
Carman, Manitoba, Canada
|Died||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 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. He also acted in dramas such as Mildred Pierce (1945), A Star is Born (1954), and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958). 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.
John Elmer Carson was born on October 27, 1910, in Carman, Manitoba, Canada to Elmer[a] and Elsa Carson (née Brunke). He was the younger brother of actor Robert Carson (1909–1979). 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". 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
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, 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).
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
- You Only Live Once (1937) (with Henry Fonda) – Attendant in First Gas Station (uncredited)
- Too Many Wives (1937) (with Anne Shirley) – Hodges
- It Could Happen to You (1937) – Truck Driver (uncredited)
- On Again-Off Again (1937) – Cop (uncredited)
- Reported Missing (1937) – Logantown Airport Radioman (uncredited)
- Music for Madame (1937) – Assistant Director
- Stage Door (1937) (with Katharine Hepburn, Ginger Rogers and Lucille Ball) – Mr. Milbanks
- Stand-In (1937) – Tom Potts
- A Damsel in Distress (1937) – Bit Role (uncredited)
- High Flyers (1937) (with Bert Wheeler, Robert Woolsey, and Lupe Vélez) – Dave Hanlon
- Quick Money (1937) – Coach Woodford
- She's Got Everything (1937) – Ransome (uncredited)
- Crashing Hollywood (1938) – Dickson
- Everybody's Doing It (1938) – Detective Lieutenant (uncredited)
- Bringing Up Baby (1938) (with Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant) – Circus Roustabout (uncredited)
- Night Spot (1938) – Shallen
- Maid's Night Out (1938) – Rollercoaster Ride Attendant (uncredited)
- Condemned Women (1938) – Plainclothes Policeman (uncredited)
- This Marriage Business (1938) – 'Candid' Perry
- Go Chase Yourself (1938) – Warren Miles
- Law of the Underworld (1938) – Johnny
- Vivacious Lady (1938) (with Ginger Rogers and James Stewart) – Charlie – Waiter Captain
- The Saint in New York (1938) (with Louis Hayward as Simon Templar) – Red Jenks
- Having Wonderful Time (1938) – Emil Beatty
- Carefree (1938) (with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers) – Connors
- Mr. Doodle Kicks Off (1938) – Football Player Rochet
- The Kid from Texas (1939) (with Dennis O'Keefe and Buddy Ebsen) – Stanley Brown
- Fifth Avenue Girl (1939) (with Ginger Rogers) – Minnesota – a Sailor (uncredited)
- The Escape (1939) – Chet Warren
- Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) (with James Stewart) – Sweeney Farrell – Newsman (uncredited)
- Legion of Lost Flyers (1939) (with Richard Arlen and Andy Devine) – Larry Barrigan
- Destry Rides Again (1939) (with Marlene Dietrich and James Stewart) – Jack Tyndall
- The Honeymoon's Over (1939) – Tom Donroy
- City of Chance (1940) – Narration – Prologue (voice, uncredited)
- Parole Fixer (1940) (with William Henry) – George Mattison
- I Take This Woman (1940) (with Spencer Tracy and Hedy Lamarr) – Joe
- Young as You Feel (1940) – Norcross
- Shooting High (1940) – Gabby Cross
- Enemy Agent (1940) (with Richard Cromwell) – Ralph
- Typhoon (1940) (with Dorothy Lamour and Robert Preston) – Mate
- Alias the Deacon (1940) – Sullivan
- Girl in 313 (1940) – Police Lt. Pat O'Farrell
- Queen of the Mob (1940) (with Ralph Bellamy) – FBI Agent Ross Waring
- Lucky Partners (1940) (with Ronald Colman, Ginger Rogers, Spring Byington and Harry Davenport) – Freddie
- Sandy Gets Her Man (1940) – Policeman Tom Garrity
- Love Thy Neighbor (1940) – Policeman
- 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) – Officer Patrick 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) – Biff Jones
- 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, episode of anthology TV series Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color) (with Robert Culp and Billy Mumy) – Harold Sylvester (final appearance)
|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".
- "Jack Carson". www.tcm.com. Retrieved February 17, 2021.
- 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.
- Currey, Josiah Seymour (2021). Memoirs of Milwaukee County, Volume 3. Loschberg: Jazzybee Verlag. ISBN 9783849661076. Retrieved June 10, 2022.
- "Jack Carson". Classic Images. Archived from the original on June 22, 2017. Retrieved June 22, 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.
- Davis, Ronald L. (2007). Words into Images: Screenwriters on the Studio System. University Press of Mississippi. p. 25. ISBN 9781604739121. Retrieved June 8, 2022.
- Armstrong, Richard; et al. (2007). The Rough Guide to Film. London: Rough Guides. p. 72. ISBN 9781848361256. Retrieved June 8, 2022.
- Dixon, Wheeler Winston (2019). Film Noir and the Cinema of Paranoia. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. pp. 18–19. ISBN 9781474467766. Retrieved June 10, 2022.
- 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.
- Canote, Terence Towles. "American Rural Comedies of the Sixties Part Four". A Shroud of Thoughts. Retrieved June 8, 2022.
- "Jack Carson | Hollywood Walk of Fame". www.walkoffame.com. Retrieved June 26, 2016.
- "Jack Carson". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 26, 2016.
- "Hall of Fame a gala premiere". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Let's Go section, Page 2. Retrieved December 29, 2014.
- Day, Doris; Hotchner, A.E. (October 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.
- "The Jack Carson Acting Contest". free-classic-radio-shows.com.
- 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.
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