Several years ago we wrote about character actor Jack Carson.
We asked: why isn’t he remembered more often as the superb talent that he was?
We have some theories.
— For one thing, he didn’t live long. His movie career began as an extra at RKO in 1937 when Carson was in his late Twenties. At the age of 52, some 120 mostly undistinguished movie and tv roles later, the once hard drinking, six-feet-two-inch actor died of stomach cancer.
— Carson did not present himself as strictly a dramatic actor. He was a proud song-and-dance man, who once toured the vaudeville circuit with his first wife, Betty Alice Lindy, a dancer. And much of his best movie work can be found in comedies, a genre that somehow continues to be largely ignored by oh-so-serious critics and scholars.
— Carson would do kooky things from a strictly professional standpoint. He used to disappear from Hollywood for weeks on end, with strict instructions to his wife NOT to disclose his whereabouts. Turns out he was touring incognito as a clown in a traveling circus.
— Of his many movie titles, only a few stand out. There’s Mildred Pierce, of course. He puts in a solid dramatic turn in George Cukor’s A Star Is Born with Judy Garland. Ditto in 1958’s Cat on a Hot Tin Roof with Paul Newman. Then there is Frank Capra’s Arsenic and Old Lace with Cary Grant. He also worked with Bob Hope and Bing Crosby.
(If you have a favorite Jack Carson movie, we’d love to hear about it.) Well, we finally — years later (such is the power of the internet) — heard from one reader, Jean, who said: Carson was great in ‘Red Garters’.
Red Garters is a 1954 film starring Rosemary Clooney, Carson and Guy Mitchell (pictured above). It’s a musical spoof of westerns, and it’s original and delightful. We highly recommend it. And, yes, Carson was great in it.