Monday, July 6, 2015

Godspeed Jack Carter

Comedian Jack Carter died on June 28 2015 at the age of 93. His career spanned over 75 years and included hosting his own television show and appearances in films such as The Horizontal Lieutenant (1962) and The Extraordinary Seaman (1969).

Jack Carter was born Jack Chakrin in Brooklyn, New York on June 24 1922. It was when he was in high school that he began performing. He appeared in summer stock productions and made his film debut in the short "The Devil's Daughter". That same year he appeared in the short "Straight to Heaven". He appeared on radio as a contestant on Major Bowes' Amateur Hour. It was in the early Forties he took the stage name "Jack Carter" and began working as a stand-up comic in nightclubs. During World War II he served in the United States Army Air Corps.

Following the war Jack Carter made his debut on Broadway in 1947 in the musical revue Call Me Mister. That same year he appeared in the films Sepia Cinderella (1947)  and Miracle in Harlem (1948).  In 1949 Jack Carter became the first host of Cavalcade of Stars on the Dumont network, the legendary variety show that would launch the career of Jackie Gleason (another one of the show's hosts).  In 1950 he moved from Dumont to NBC, where he hosted his own show, The Jack Carter Show, under the umbrella title of Saturday Night Revue under which was also included the legendary Your Show of Shows.

In the Fifties Jack Carter took over as the host of Stage Show, which was originally hosted by  Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey. He also served as a guest host of The Tonight Show Starring Jack Paar. He guest starred on such shows as The Ed Sullivan Show, The Kate Smith Evening Hour, Tales of Tomorrow, Texaco Star Theatre, What's My Line, The Colgate Comedy Hour, Studio One, G.E. Theatre, The Eddie Fisher Show, Perry Como's Kraft Music Hall, and The Chevy Showroom Starring Andy Williams. He appeared in the film It Happened to Jane (1959). He appeared on Broadway in Top Banana and Mr. Wonderful.

In the Sixties Jack Carter appeared on television on such variety and talk shows as The Tonight Show, Password All-Stars, The Judy Garland Show, The Jimmy Dean Show, The Joey Bishop Show, Art Linkletter's House Party, The Jackie Gleason Show, The Dean Martin Show; Hollywood Palace, and The Ed Sullivan Show. He also guest starred on such shows as The Roaring 20's, Hennesy, Make Room for Daddy, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Dr. Kildare, Ensign O'Toole, Burke's Law, The Dick Van Dyke Show, Combat!, Ben Casey, Batman, The Lucy Show, I Dream of Jeannie, The Wild Wild West, Julia, The Name of the Game, and  Mannix. He appeared in the films The Horizontal Lieutenant (1962) and Viva Las Vegas (1964).

In the Seventies Mr. Carter guest starred on such shows as The David Frost Show; Medical Centre; The Hollywood Squares; O'Hara, Treasury; McCloud; The Partners; The $25,000 PyramidCade's County; McMillan & Wife; Love, American Style; Match Game; Hawaii Five-O; Emergency!; Sanford & Son; The Merv Griffin Show; The Rockford Files, Ellery Queen; Switch; The Love Boat; and Archie Bunker's Place. He appeared in the films The Resurrection of Zachary Wheeler (1971), Won Ton Ton: The Dog Who Saved Hollywood (1976), The Amazing Dobermans (1976), The Happy Hooker Goes to Washington (1977), The Glove (1979), Alligator (1980), and The Octagon (1980).

In the Eighties Jack Carter appeared in such shows as Fantasy Island; Cover Up; Growing Pains;, Fame; Mike Hammer; Murder, She Wrote; and Tales from the Darkside. He appeared in such films as History of the World: Part I (1981), The Funny Farm (1983), Love Scenes (1984), The Trouble with Dick (1987), Death Blow: A Cry for Justice (1987), Satan's Princess (1989), Sexpot (1990), and Caged Fury (1990).

In the Nineties Jack Carter guest starred on such shows as Empty Nest, Blossom, Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, Cybill, Baywatch, Living Single, Caroline in the City, Coach, Diagnosis Murder, Touched by an Angel, and 3rd Rock from the Sun. He appeared in the films In the Heat of Passion (1992), The Opposite Sex and How to Live with Them (1992), Prima Donnas (1995), The Modern Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1998), Pastry, Pain and Politics (1998), October 22 (1998), and
Play It to the Bone (1999).

From the Naughts into the Teens Jack Carter appeared as a guest voice on King of the Hill and appeared on such TV shows as Andy Richter Controls the Universe, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, ER, Monk, Parks and Recreation, New Girl, Rules of Engagement, and the American version of Shameless. He appeared in the films One Last Ride (2004), Cougar Club (2007), The Great Buck Howard (2008), Let Go (2011), and Mercy (2014).

Jack Carter was an incredibly talented man. He was a gifted mimic, capable of doing convincing imitations of celebrities from Ed Sullivan to Ray Middleton. And while much of his humour would be considered sexist today, he could be very funny. He had a wonderfully acerbic sense of humour and was a master of the put-down. Of course, he was also wonderfully self-deprecating. Jack Carter probably put down no one more than himself; he once famously said he was not a "has-been", but a "never-was". Over all Jack Carter's comedy could be described as downright impetuous at times.

Of course, he was a frequent guest star on television shows, and he displayed a good deal talent as an actor. He played everything from a wild disc jockey (Hot Rod Harry in an episode of Batman) to a television host angry over the death of his son (on Dr. Kildare) to the over-protective manager of a boxer (on Combat!). Much as Jack Carter was able to mimic nearly any celebrity, he also seemed to have a knack for being able to play any role given him. While Jack Carter joked about being a "never was", in truth he was a very talented comedian and actor who "always was".

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