Lovable Lunkhead.Posted: April 23, 2007
Jack Carson made every movie he was in better. Physically imposing, with broad shoulders accentuated by ’40s fashions (in suits, his inverted-pyramid body shape resembles that of the bulldog in Warner Bros. cartoons), he could have made a career playing cops, gangsters and other tough guys. But luckily for us, his flair for comedy, malleable face, and mastery of the double-take got him cast in one funny part after another. He made a specialty of lovable lunkheads. But he was a great actor, not just a great comic actor. To dramatic supporting parts he brought a convincing sinister undertone that was the more powerful for coming from this guy we’d been conditioned by all those other films to think of as a goofball. You can see his complete filmography here.
It may be serendipity that Warner Bros. was his studio for the bulk (and I use the word advisedly) of his career. Warners product in the forties, fifties, and into the sixties had a “house sound,” a sharp, snappy, bright-EQ’ed reverb that made voices and music pop with three-dimensional life as at no other studio. Jack Carson’s voice was made for that sound. His register and timbre—somehow deep and bright at the same time—seemed tailor-made to bring out the resonances of the Warners sound, and vice versa. Was he a good enough technician that he shaped his voice to the soundstage acoustics of the studio he was under contract to all those years? Or was that just happy coincidence? I don’t know. There hasn’t been much written about him.
For a sample of the Warners sound, listen to this main title music from My Dream Is Yours, a Doris Day musical in which Carson was the male lead. The magnificent title tune by Harry Warren (it comes right after the opening WB fanfare), rendered by the Warner Bros. orchestra under Ray Heindorf, brims with life.