Canadian-born, character actor Jack Carson died on this day in 1963 and it’s time I dedicate something to the ever-entertaining and popular actor. I think you’ll agree that spending a bit of time with Mr. Carson is not a bad way to kick off a new year. Jack Carson is admired by all in classic film circles as he could always be counted on to improve whatever movie he appeared in. The same goes for his prolific radio career, which began with an appearance on Bing Crosby’s Kraft Music Hall in 1938.
In 1943 Jack was given his own show, The Jack Carson Show, a situation comedy in which he played a dumbed-down version of himself. The Jack Carson Show, which was sponsored by Campbell Soups, was officially titled “The Campbell Soup Show starring Jack Carson,” but very few referred to it as such. The show had a four-year run on NBC Radio and was a comedic take on Carson’s daily life.
Thematically The Carson Show is not particularly unique as many classic radio shows had similar plots with the differentiating factor being the show’s star. However, as you can see from the radio show ticket stub, it featured a fantastic cast of show business veterans. Dave Willock played Carson’s nephew Tugwell, a role reinvented from when Willock and Carson worked the vaudeville circuit years before. Willock was a great character actor who appeared in many films and TV shows between 1939 and 1983. I remember him specifically from Green Acres in which he appeared playing lots of different characters, but his list of credits is long. Then there’s Eddie Marr, another showbiz “regular,” who played Jack’s press agent and Arthur Treacher, one of Hollywood’s favorite butler types, played the butler on the show. You also get a few of my all-time favorites appearing regularly -the great Agnes Moorhead, the genius of Mel Blanc and the funny Irene Ryan (of The Beverly Hillbillies fame). All of that in addition to famous guest stars and, of course, Carson himself who’s a treat in any medium. Anyone familiar with the actor, whose talent (I believe) remains underrated, can picture his familiar double-take as one listens to these radio episodes.
Now, for your listening pleasure, The Jack Carson Show…
- From January 8, 1947 “Movie Magazine Interview”
- From February 13, 1946 with guest Frank Sinatra
- From October 23, 1946 “Trouble With the Phone Company”
- From November 13, 1946 “Meat Shortage”
- From December 11, 1946 with guest Dennis Morgan
It’s worth noting that there was also a television version of The Jack Carson Show, but it had a very short run. The radio show is definitely worth your time for silly, charming fun.
While starring on his radio show, Jack Carson played Wally Fay in Michael Curtiz’s Mildred Pierce (1945), perhaps his most famous role. He was yet to make two more significant marks with appearances in George Cukor’s A Star is born in 1954 and Richard Brooks’, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof in 1958. One of my favorite of his performances is in Raoul Walsh’s The Strawberry Blonde from 1941 in which he co-starred with James Cagney, Olivia de Havilland and Rita Hayworth. But I could easily go on and on – he was a fantastic actor!
“Fans are people who let an actor know he’s not alone in the way he feels about himself.” – Jack Caron