This is an online encyclopedia of personalities of Old Time Radio. It is designed for educational and entertainment purposes.

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Thursday, February 28, 2008

Jack Carson (1910-63)

John Elmer Carson was born October 27, 1910, in Carman, Manitoba. Although he was born in Canada, he grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. His father was in the insurance business. He was a U.S. citizen by his parents' U.S. citizenship. It was in college that Jack first made a name for himself in acting. At 6'2" and 220 pounds, he was a big man. He was pegged to be Hercules in a production at Carleton College. During the performance, he clumsily knocked over everything on the stage. A fellow student, Dave Willock (1909-90), saw a talent for comedy so, after graduating, the two had a vaudeville act... Willock and Carson. The two went to Hollywood together in 1937. Eventually, they would work separately but continue their friendship until Jack's death. Dave Willock was the narrator for the children's cartoon series, Wacky Races.

Jack's first radio gig was on the Kraft Music Hall in 1938. He did this program on a sporadic basis. He also performed on the Gulf/Lady Esther Screen Guild Theater, Birds Eye Open House, Camel Comedy Caravan, Lux Radio Theater, and numerous Armed Forces Radio Services shows during and after World War II. He was ineligible to enlist in the armed forces because of a heart murmur, so he went on several tours with the USO both in the United States and overseas.

In 1943, he began his own radio show for CBS, which was done at Columbia Square. By this time, he was a well establish motioned picture actor, who would gain critical acclaim for his portrayal of Wally Fay in Mildred Pierce (1945). Radio would be his mainstay into the middle '50s.

He would eventually break into TV but this would not prove to be what he was remembered for, since he died at such an early age. Married four times, it was his second wife who gave him two children. His brother, Robert S. "Bob" Carson (1909-79), was a busy character actor in the movies.

In 1962, Jack was rehearsing for a Broadway play, Critics Choice, when he collapsed with stomach pains. It wasn't for many months that these pains proved to be stomach cancer. Jack quit the Broadway play and began writing a book about his personal relationship with Jesus Christ as a Christian believer.

He died on January 2, 1963, at his home in Encino (Los Angeles), California. He was only 52. Dick Powell also died on the same day of the same affliction. They were close friends.

During the early 1940s, before he got his own radio program, when he had no other acting work, he was often not seen for many weeks. He later admitted that during this time he had been touring America, working for the Clyde Beatty Circus as a clown.

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