Jack Carson


Actor
Jack Carson

About

Also Known As
John Elmer Carson
Birth Place
Carmen, Manitoba, CA
Born
October 27, 1910
Died
January 02, 1963
Cause of Death
Cancer

Biography

An affable second banana in numerous screen comedies throughout the 1940s and 1950s, Jack Carson's comic talent was featured in such memorable films as "The Strawberry Blonde" (1941) and "Arsenic and Old Lace" (1944), as well as a slew of musical comedies in which he was partnered with the equally likable Dennis Morgan. Tall, burly and blessed with a flexible face that won over moviegoer...

Photos & Videos

Arsenic and Old Lace - Scene Stills
Cat On a Hot Tin Roof - Behind-the-Scenes Photos
Mildred Pierce - Lobby Card Set

Family & Companions

Elizabeth Lindy
Wife
Married in 1938; divorced in 1939.
Kay St Germain
Wife
Married in 1941; divorced in 1950.
Lola Albright
Wife
Actor. Married in 1952; divorced in 1958.

Biography

An affable second banana in numerous screen comedies throughout the 1940s and 1950s, Jack Carson's comic talent was featured in such memorable films as "The Strawberry Blonde" (1941) and "Arsenic and Old Lace" (1944), as well as a slew of musical comedies in which he was partnered with the equally likable Dennis Morgan. Tall, burly and blessed with a flexible face that won over moviegoers by curling into broad expressions of total disbelief, Carson began in vaudeville and radio before moving into features in the late '30s. He remained a popular comic performer well into the 1950s, but also displayed a talent for drama, most notably in "Mildred Pierce" (1945) and as the venomous publicist in "A Star is Born" (1954). In the 1950s, he segued smoothly into television, where he worked at a breathless pace as a guest performer and host on countless variety shows, including his own, "The Jack Carson Show" (NBC, 1954-55). In 1962, Carson collapsed during rehearsal for a Broadway play; the cause was stomach cancer, which would claim his life the following year on the same day as actor Dick Powell. Though never a bona fide movie star, Jack Carson left behind a diverse body of character work that continued to inspire laughs decades after his passing.

He was born John Elmer Carson on Oct. 27, 1910 in the small farming town of Carman in southern Manitoba, Canada. Shortly after his birth, his parents, insurance salesman Elmer Carson and his wife Elsa, relocated Carson and his older brother, Robert, to Milwaukee, WI. Carson showed no interest in acting until he attended Carleton College; there, he literally stumbled into his future career when, dressed as Hercules for a college stage production, he tripped and nearly demolished half the set. A school friend, Dave Willock, thought that the combination of Carson's burly frame - he stood at 6'2" and weighed 220 pounds as an adult - and physical comedy was perfect for vaudeville, and he soon convinced Carson to form an act with him. Billed as Willock & Carson, they soon became staples of the vaudeville stage and later radio before making their way to Hollywood in 1936. Not long after their arrival, Carson landed a plum supporting role in the show business satire "Stand-In" (1937) opposite Humphrey Bogart, but after signing with RKO, found himself stranded in small, often uncredited roles in such major features as "Bringing Up Baby" (1938), "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" (1939) and "Destry Rides Again" (1939) while maintaining a slightly higher profile in B Westerns and thrillers.

Carson's fortunes improved after signing with Warner Bros. in 1941. There, he began a series of comic supporting roles, often as bluff blowhards or happy-go-lucky sidekicks in such A-list pictures as "The Strawberry Blonde" (1941), opposite James Cagney and Rita Hayworth, "Gentleman Jim" (1942) with Errol Flynn and "Arsenic and Old Lace" (1944) with Cary Grant. He traded heavily on his signature move, a peerless double take that endeared him to audiences for much of the 1940s. During this period, Warner groomed Carson to become a comic lead in the vein of Bob Hope, but the actor lobbied to move into dramatic roles. He earned two fine showcases for his acting talents in "Mildred Pierce" (1945) as Joan Crawford's lovelorn friend and supporter, and "Roughly Speaking" (1945) as Rosalind Russell's reckless but faithful husband. Despite these fine turns, Warner wanted Carson as a comic, and he soon found himself partnered with Dennis Morgan in a string of 15 lightweight musical comedies throughout the late '40s. Big band singer Doris Day soon abetted the duo as an ersatz Dorothy Lamour before becoming a movie star in her own right. Carson continued to support Day, most notably in "My Dream is Yours" (1949). The pair also enjoyed a brief off-screen romance between 1950 and 1951 before Day married her third husband, Marty Melcher.

Despite his hectic film schedule, Carson would frequently slip away from Hollywood for extended periods of time during the 1940s. No one - save his second wife, Kay St. Germain - knew of his whereabouts during these absences. Years later, Carson would reveal that he moonlighted as a clown with the Clyde Beatty Circus, traveling throughout the United States and performing before hundreds of audience members while completely disguised in greasepaint. The chance to perform pratfalls and broad comedy along the lines of his vaudeville origins remained a hobby for Carson for several years.

Carson continued to work steadily throughout the 1950s while parlaying his likable screen persona into guest and host work in the new medium of television. From 1950 to 1951, he alternated with Jimmy Durante, Ed Wynn and Danny Thomas as host of the variety series "All Star Revue" (NBC, 1950-53), and then earned his own summer replacement program, "The Jack Carson Show," which featured his old vaudeville partner, Dick Wilcox. His feature work was consistent if largely unremarkable during the decade, save for his fine dramatic turn as the backstabbing publicity chief in the Judy Garland showcase "A Star is Born" (1954) and as Paul Newman's oafish yet secretly venal brother in "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" (1958). After completing his final screen turn in "Sammy, the Way-Out Seal" for "Walt Disney" (ABC/CBS/NBC, 1958-1990), Carson fell ill during a rehearsal for the Broadway production of Ira Levin's play "Critic's Choice" in 1962. Subsequent diagnosis revealed that he had been suffering from stomach cancer for some time. The disease would claim Carson's life on Jan. 2, 1963, several hours before another well-loved screen star, Dick Powell, would also lose his life to cancer. Despite his occasionally thick-skulled comic persona, Carson was one of Hollywood's most well-read individuals, and was completing a book about religion at the time of his premature death.

By Paul Gaita

Filmography

 

Cast (Feature Film)

Sammy, the Way-Out Seal (1962)
King of the Roaring 20's--The Story of Arnold Rothstein (1961)
"Big Tim" O'Brien
The Bramble Bush (1960)
Bert Mosley
Rally 'Round the Flag, Boys! (1959)
Capt. Hoxie
The Tarnished Angels (1958)
Jiggs
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958)
Gooper Pollitt
The Tattered Dress (1957)
Nick Hoak
The Bottom of the Bottle (1956)
Hal Breckenridge
Magnificent Roughnecks (1956)
Bix Decker
Ain't Misbehavin' (1955)
Harold North
Phffft (1954)
Charlie Nelson
Red Garters (1954)
Jason Carberry
A Star Is Born (1954)
Matt Libby
Dangerous When Wet (1953)
Windy Webbe
The Groom Wore Spurs (1951)
["Wild"] Ben Castle
Mister Universe (1951)
Jeff Clayton
The Good Humor Man (1950)
Biff Jones
Bright Leaf (1950)
Christopher Malley
John Loves Mary (1949)
Fred Taylor
My Dream Is Yours (1949)
Doug Blake
It's a Great Feeling (1949)
Himself
Always Together (1948)
Character in movie
Two Guys from Texas (1948)
Danny Foster
Romance on the High Seas (1948)
Peter Virgil
April Showers (1948)
Joe Tyme
Love and Learn (1947)
Jingles [Collins]
The Time, the Place and the Girl (1946)
Jeff Howard
One More Tomorrow (1946)
Pat Regan
Two Guys from Milwaukee (1946)
Buzz Williams
Mildred Pierce (1945)
Wally Fay
Roughly Speaking (1945)
Harold Pierson
Hollywood Canteen (1944)
Make Your Own Bed (1944)
Jerry Curtis
The Doughgirls (1944)
Arthur Halstead
Shine on Harvest Moon (1944)
The Great Georgetti
Arsenic and Old Lace (1944)
O'Hara
Princess O'Rourke (1943)
Dave
The Hard Way (1943)
Albert Runkel
Thank Your Lucky Stars (1943)
Himself
Gentleman Jim (1942)
Walter Lowrie
Wings for the Eagle (1942)
Brad Maple
Larceny, Inc. (1942)
Jeff Randolph
The Male Animal (1942)
Joe Ferguson
Navy Blues (1941)
"Buttons" Johnson
Mr. and Mrs. Smith (1941)
Chuck [Benson]
Love Crazy (1941)
Wardrobe Willoughby
Blues in the Night (1941)
Leo Powell
The Bride Came C.O.D. (1941)
Allen Brice
The Strawberry Blonde (1941)
Hugo Barnstead
Typhoon (1940)
The mate
Enemy Agent (1940)
Ralph
Love Thy Neighbor (1940)
Policeman
Shooting High (1940)
Gabby Cross
Alias the Deacon (1940)
Sullivan
Sandy Gets Her Man (1940)
Tom [Gerrity]
I Take This Woman (1940)
Joe [man calling for Dr. Decker in subway]
Girl in 313 (1940)
Pat O'Farrell
Queen of the Mob (1940)
Ross Waring
Lucky Partners (1940)
Freddie Harder
Parole Fixer (1940)
George Mattison
Young As You Feel (1940)
Norcross
Destry Rides Again (1939)
Jack Tyndall
The Kid from Texas (1939)
Stanley Brown
Legion of Lost Flyers (1939)
Larry Barrigan
The Honeymoon's Over (1939)
[Tom] Donroy
The Escape (1939)
Chet Warren
Fifth Avenue Girl (1939)
Sailor in Central Park
The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle (1939)
Director
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)
Sweeney
Go Chase Yourself (1938)
Warren Miles
Everybody's Doing It (1938)
Lieutenant
Law of the Underworld (1938)
Johnny
Condemned Women (1938)
Plainclothes policeman
Having Wonderful Time (1938)
Emil Beatty
Crashing Hollywood (1938)
Dickson
Vivacious Lady (1938)
Waiter captain
Night Spot (1938)
Shallen
Mr. Doodle Kicks Off (1938)
Bill Rochet
Carefree (1938)
Connors
This Marriage Business (1938)
"Candid" Perry
The Saint in New York (1938)
Red Jenks
Bringing Up Baby (1938)
Roustabout
The Toast of New York (1937)
Reporter
Quick Money (1937)
Coach Woodford
Too Many Wives (1937)
Hodges
Stand-In (1937)
Tom Potts
High Flyers (1937)
Dave Hanlon
Music for Madame (1937)
Assistant director
She's Got Everything (1937)
Ransome
Stage Door (1937)
Mr. Millbanks
On Again--Off Again (1937)
Policeman
You Only Live Once (1937)
First gas station attendant
It Could Happen to You (1937)
Truck driver
A Damsel in Distress (1937)
Reported Missing (1937)
Radio announcer
Ghost Patrol (1936)
Mac
Circle of Death (1935)
Jerry Carr

Cast (Special)

Amos Burke: Who Killed Julie Greer? (1961)
Fairchild
Johnny Come Lately (1960)
Johnny Martin
How's Business? (1959)
Augie Adams
Another Day, Another Dollar (1959)
Augie Adams
Arroyo (1955)
Lamar Kendall
Operation Entertainment (1954)

Cast (Short)

So You Want to Be in Pictures (1947)
The Road to Victory (1944)
Narrator

Misc. Crew (Short)

The Soundman (1950)
Archival Footage

Life Events

Photo Collections

Arsenic and Old Lace - Scene Stills
Here are some scene stills from Frank Capra's Arsenic and Old Lace (1944), starring Cary Grant, Priscilla Lane, and Raymond Massey.
Cat On a Hot Tin Roof - Behind-the-Scenes Photos
Here are several photos taken behind-the-scenes during production of MGM's Cat On a Hot Tin Roof (1958), starring Paul Newman, Elizabeth Taylor, and Burl Ives, and directed by Richard Brooks.
Mildred Pierce - Lobby Card Set
Here is a set of Lobby Cards from Mildred Pierce (1945), starring Joan Crawford. Lobby Cards were 11" x 14" posters that came in sets of 8. As the name implies, they were most often displayed in movie theater lobbies, to advertise current or coming attractions.
Romance on the High Seas - Lobby Cards
Here are a few Lobby Cards from Romance on the High Seas (1948), starring Doris Day. Lobby Cards were 11" x 14" posters that came in sets of 8. As the name implies, they were most often displayed in movie theater lobbies, to advertise current or coming attractions.
It's a Great Feeling - Lobby Card Set
Here is a set of Lobby Cards from Warner Bros' It's a Great Feeling (1949), starring Dennis Morgan, Doris Day, and Jack Carson. Lobby Cards were 11" x 14" posters that came in sets of 8. As the name implies, they were most often displayed in movie theater lobbies, to advertise current or coming attractions.
The Tarnished Angels - Lobby Cards
Here are a few Lobby Cards from The Tarnished Angels (1957), directed by Douglas Sirk and starring Rock Hudson, Robert Stack, and Dorothy Malone. Lobby Cards were 11" x 14" posters that came in sets of 8. As the name implies, they were most often displayed in movie theater lobbies, to advertise current or coming attractions.
The Tarnished Angels - Scene Stills
Here are several scene stills from Universal Pictures' The Tarnished Angels (1957), directed by Douglas Sirk and starring Rock Hudson, Robert Stack, and Dorothy Malone.
The Tarnished Angels - Behind-the-Scenes Stills
Here are some photos taken behind-the-scenes during production of Universal Pictures' The Tarnished Angels (1957), directed by Douglas Sirk and starring Rock Hudson, Robert Stack, and Dorothy Malone.
Dangerous When Wet - Movie Poster
Here is the American One-Sheet Movie Poster for MGM's Dangerous When Wet (1953), starring Esther Williams. One-sheets measured 27x41 inches, and were the poster style most commonly used in theaters.

Videos

Movie Clip

Strawberry Blonde, The (1941) - We Have A Lady Present Biff (James Cagney) is ready to abandon buddy Hugo (Jack Carson) when he finds out the friend Virginia (Rita Hayworth) has brought to their clandestine date is a nurse, the headstrong Amy (Olivia de Havilland), early in Raoul Walsh's The Strawberry Blonde, 1941.
April Showers (1948) - Can't Make Empty Seats Laugh! Opening from a screenplay by Peter Milne based on a story by the vaudevillian turned radio and Broadway raconteur Joe Laurie Jr., introducing leads Jack Carson and Ann Sothern as the fictional “Two Tymes,” performing a chestnut by Percy Wenrich and Edward Madden, in Warner Bros.’ April Showers, 1948.
April Showers (1948) - Have A Cigar! Vaudeville stars since their son Buster (Robert Ellis) joined their act, the Tymes (Jack Carson, Ann Sothern) arrive for their big gig in New York and find out from Barnes (Joseph Crehan) that they’re not legal, Billy Curtis walking in with the solution, and Mel Blanc providing the nutty dubbed voice, in Warner Bros.’ April Showers, 1948.
April Showers (1948) - Small Tyme! In turn-of-the-century San Francisco, Robert “Bobby” Ellis in his first scene in a performance that won him a rare “special certificate” citation from the A.M.P.A.S, as precocious Buster “Small” Tyme, home from military school to his vaudevillian parents’ (Jack Carson, Ann Sothern) hotel, S.Z. Sakall the proprietor, in April Showers, 1948.
High Flyers (1937) - She Is So Stout... The stars are introduced as carnival aviators, Robert Woolsey as bespectacled Pierre, Bert Wheeler as Jerry, dealing with rotund Otto Fries, cop George Irving, then Jack Carson as reporter Dave, whom we discover is tricking them into a jewel heist, in High Flyers, 1937.
High Flyers (1937) - You Need A Hobby Horace Opening with and RKO budget and aesthetic probably not suitable for MGM, a song by Dave Dreyer and Herman Ruby (the credited choreographer is Eduardo Cansino, Rita Hayworth's dad), introducing Jack Carson and Marjorie Lord, then Margaret Dumont and Paul Harvey, then third-billed Lupe Velez, in the Wheeler & Woolsey vehicle High Flyers, 1937.
High Flyers (1937) - I Always Get My Man The song is an original by RKO staffers Dave Dreyer and Herman Ruby, Lupe Velez is lively maid Juanita, doing a Dolores Del Rio schtick, in theory explaining how she proposes the frightened household should deal with the nasty criminals in their midst, in the Wheeler & Woolsey comedy High Flyers, 1937.
Two Guys From Texas (1948) - Every Day I Love You Both the leading men will get a private musical interlude with Dorothy Malone as decorative dude rancher Joan, first Dennis Morgan (later Jack Carson) as Steve with a Sammy Cahn-Jule Styne original, later recorded by both Frank Sinatra and Vaughn Monroe, in Warner Bros., in Two Guys From Texas, 1948.
Two Guys From Texas (1948) - There's Music In The Land Opening for Warner Bros. the follow-up to Two Guys From Milwaukee (1946), also produced by Alex Gottlieb and directed by David Butler, real-life best-buddy Wisconsinites Jack Carson and Dennis Morgan as song and dance men about to be stranded, with a Sammy Cahn-Jule Styne original, greeted by Andrew Tombes, in Two Guys From Texas, 1948.
Two Guys From Texas (1948) - That's What The Dudes Want First shot of Dorothy Malone as Joan, Texas dude ranch proprietor, with aide Pete (Monte Blue) then joined by the stars Dennis Morgan and Jack Carson, as an un-booked night club act, who turn out to be old pals of employee Maggie (Penny Edwards), in Warner Bros. Two Guys From Texas, 1948.
Two Guys From Texas (1948) - Ever Watch That Guy Operate? Dennis Morgan as visiting Steve has just finished serenading dude ranch owner Joan (Dorothy Malone) and they retire to join roommates (Jack Carson as animal-phobic Danny, Penny Edwards as Maggie), for a clever bit directed by David Butler from the script by I.A.L Diamond and Allan Boretz for Warner Bros., in Two Guys From Texas, 1948.
Two Guys From Texas (1948) - Hankerin' Dorothy Malone as dude ranch owner Joan, in blue this time, having encouraged Jack Carson as traveling entertainer Danny in his pursuit, despite earlier efforts by his more suave buddy (Dennis Morgan), also with a Sammy Cahn-Jule Styne tune, on the very same set, in Warner Bros., in Two Guys From Texas, 1948.

Trailer

Hollywood Canteen -- (Original Trailer) Half of Hollywood pitches in to help a serviceman and a starlet find love at the Hollywood Canteen (1944)
Navy Blues (1941) - (Original Trailer) Look for a young Jackie Gleason with lots of Warners' best comedians in the service comedy Navy Blues (1941).
Wings for The Eagle - (Original Trailer) A draft dodger (Dennis Morgan) rediscovers his patriotism working at an aircraft factory in Wings for The Eagle (1942).
Mr. Doodle Kicks Off - (Original Trailer) A millionaire will stop at nothing to turn his son into a star athlete in Mr. Doodle Kicks Off (1938) co-starring Jack Carson.
Mildred Pierce -- (Original Trailer) A woman turns herself into a business tycoon to win her selfish daughter a place in society in Mildred Pierce (1945) starring Joan Crawford in an Oscar-winning role.
Roughly Speaking -- (Original Trailer) Rosalind Russell is a headstrong woman who ends up with two marriages and seven children in the true story of Louise Randall Pierson.
Arsenic and Old Lace - (Original Trailer) A young man (Cary Grant) about to be married discovers his two aunts are poisoning lonely old men in Arsenic and Old Lace, (1944).
Rally Round the Flag, Boys! - (Black-and-white Trailer) Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward star in Leo McCarey's comedy Rally 'Round the Flag, Boys! (1959) about a suburban town disrupted by a missile base.
Tarnished Angels, The - (Original Trailer) A newsman falls for the wife of a barnstorming pilot whose work he's covering in Douglas Sirk's The Tarnished Angels (1958) starring Rock Hudson.
Two Guys From Texas - (Original Trailer) Two vaudevillians on the run from crooks try to pass themselves off as cowboys in Two Guys From Texas (1948) starring Dennis Morgan and Jack Carson.
Romance on the High Seas -- (Original Trailer) Singer Doris Day gets mixed up in a series of romantic problems during a Caribbean cruise in Romance on the High Seas (1948) featuring "It's Magic" and other songs by Jule Styne & Sammy Cahn.
Two Guys From Milwaukee - (Original Trailer) Dennis Morgan and Jack Carson salute their real-life hometown in the wacky comedy Two Guys From Milwaukee (1946).

Promo

Companions

Elizabeth Lindy
Wife
Married in 1938; divorced in 1939.
Kay St Germain
Wife
Married in 1941; divorced in 1950.
Lola Albright
Wife
Actor. Married in 1952; divorced in 1958.

Bibliography