Now is the time to praise Jack Carson. Yes, Jack Carson - supreme character actor, companionable sidekick, likable screen presence.
I mention him because Carson (1910-1963) pops up on Turner Classics during its Star of the Month tribute to Jack Lemmon.
The two Jacks appear together in Mark Robson's "Phffft!," airing tomorrow, Wednesday, 7 January at 8 p.m., est., on TCM.
Carson arrived in Hollywood in 1937, found work at RKO as an extra and proved to be an adjustible wrench, an actor who could do anything - Sing. Dance. Do Comedy. Handle heavy drama. And support the star without upstaging the star. Which is very important in terms of career longevity.
Carson made something like a hundred movies, plus innumerable TV appearances, and he was especially effective in the 1950s when he provided titanic support in such films as George Marshall's 'Red Garters" (1954), Robson's "Phffft!" (1954), George Cukor's "A Star Is Born" (1954), Edward Buzzell's "Ain't Misbehavin'" (1955), Jack Arnold's "The Tattered Dress" (1957), Douglas Sirk's "The Tarnished Angels" (1958), Leo McCarey's "Rally 'Round the Flag, Boys" (1958) and Richard Brooks' "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" (1958), the latter two with Paul Newman.
My own favorite Carson performance was opposite Rosalind Russell in Michael Curtiz's "Roughly Speaking" (1945), whose story (based on a novel by Louise Randall Pierson) was ahead of its time in its observations of an independent-minded woman trying to cope and excel in a man's world and the husband who elects to back her up and support her even though he doesn't fully endorse - or even understand - her views.
Carson was a playful co-star in two 1948 musicals - opposite Doris Day in her first film, Michael Curtiz's "Romance on the High Seas," and Ann Sothern in James V. Kern's "April Showers." And there were good roles in such diverse films as Alfred Hitchcock's "Mr. and Mrs. Smith" (1941), Raoul Walsh's "The Strawberry Blonde" (1951), Elliott Nugent's "The Male Animal" (1942), Frank Capra's "Arsenic and Old Lace" (1945) and, of course, Curtiz's "Mildred Pierce" (1945).
I always found Jack Carson to be pleasingly human, ever-reliable and affable, someone to anticipate in a film. His final movie was Daniel Petrie's "The Bramble Bush," a Warner soap opera starring Richard Burton, Barbara Rush and Angie Dickinson made in 1960. He died three years later, at age 53, of stomach cancer.
(Artwork: Affable Jack Carson, much missed)