A comic’s comic as familiar to television audiences across the decades as he was to Vegas rollers and Broadway denizens, Jack Carter died at home in Beverly Hills on June 28 of respiratory failure, according to his publicist, Jeff Sanderson. He had turned 93 on June 24.
Carter’s seven-decade career took him from the legitimate stage through television’s golden age, which included hosting Cavalcade Of Stars and his own series on NBC, The Jack Carter Show, which originated in Chicago in 1950 and was part of the Saturday Night Revue that included Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca’s Your Show Of Shows. He also co-starred in several of the Colgate Comedy Hours with Ed Wynn, Jimmy Durante, Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis and Donald O’Connor.
Born Jack Chakrin in Brooklyn, Carter was a son of Russian-Jewish immigrants. Early on, he performed as a mimic on the Major Bowes’ Amateur Hour radio show and attended the Academy of Dramatic Arts. After serving in the army in World War II, he appeared as a replacement on Broadway in Call Me Mister. In 1956 he co-starred in the Sammy Davis Jr. vehicle Mr. Wonderful, with Chita Rivera, Marilyn Cooper and Davis’ father, Sammy Sr. The musical comedy ran 383 performances at the Broadway Theatre. That same year, Carter hosted the first televised Tony Awards, a local affair that would not become a national event for another two decades. Carter’s other stage credits include Guys And Dolls, The Last Of The Red Hot Lovers, Born Yesterday, The Odd Couple, A Hatful Of Rain, A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum and Oliver.
It was on television, however, that Carter was ubiquitous, whether in dramatic or comic roles, or hosting variety shows. In comedy, his face signaled skepticism and his body language had a kind of comic swagger; in drama, he conveyed an Everyman touch. He drew laughs in more than 50 appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show, was a regular with Jackie Gleason and a familiar face on popular shows including The Match Game and The $10,000 Pyramid. Carter starred with Carol O’Connor in The Last Hurrah, in The Sex Symbol with Connie Stevens and Shelley Winters, and earned two Emmy nominations for NBC’s Dr. Kildare along with another nomination for the ABC movie of the week The Girl Who Couldn’t Lose. He guested on The Rockford Files, Touched By An Angel, Fame and Fantasy Island, as well as 3rd Rock From The Sun, Monk, Desperate Housewives and such contemporary series as Parks And Recreation, Family Guy, New Girl and, last year, in Shameless.
His work as a director included Lucille Ball’s CBS series Here’s Lucy and plays including Herb Gardner’s A Thousand Clowns, Silver Anniversary and Mouth-Trap. His movie credits included Play It To The Bone, The Horizontal Lieutenant, Viva Las Vegas, Comics, Hustle and Mel Brooks’ History of the World, Part I.
His wife Roxanne, whom he married in 1971, survives him, along with sons Michael and Chase Carter; daughter Wendy Carter and two grandchildren.