Jack Carter, the rapid-fire, wisecracking comic who was a familiar presence on ’50s and ’60s variety shows from The Ed Sullivan Show to Laugh-In, died June 28 of respiratory failure at his home in Beverly Hills. He was 93.
During a long career that began shortly after World War II and ranged from Broadway through the early days of television to, most recently, appearances on Showtime’s Shameless, Carter served as a TV host, took on both comedic and dramatic roles, frequently showed up as a game show panelist and also directed.
Born Jack Charkin on June 24, 1922, to Jewish parents who had immigrated from Russia, Carter began flexing his comic muscles while still in his teens, appearing as a mimic on The Major Bowes Amateur Hour radio show. With hopes of one day becoming a dramatic actor, he also attended the Academy of Dramatic Art.
He served in the army in World War II, then found himself on Broadway in Call Me Mister. After first appearing on Milton Berle’s Texaco Star Theater on TV, he spent two years hosting the television variety program Cavalcade of Stars, which led to his own show on NBC, The Jack Carter Show, which lasted three years and was part of the Saturday Night Review.
Carter made more than 50 appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show and also guested on shows such as The Dean Martin Show, The Andy Williams Show, The Jackie Gleason Show, Laugh-In and numerous Bob Hope Comedy Specials. He was a frequent panelist on Match Game through the ’70s and ’80s as well as a guest star on The $10,000 Pyramid.
Carter took on dramatic roles as well, appearing in The Last Hurrah with Carroll O’Connor, The Sex Symbol with Connie Stevens and the Dr. Kildare series. He received a Daytime Emmy nomination for The Girl Who Couldn’t Lose, which aired in 1972 on ABC Afternoon Playbreak. His TV credits encompass everything from The Rockford Files and Murder, She Wrote to 3rd Rock From the Sunand Desperate Housewives. On film, he appeared in such movies as Viva Las Vegas, Hustle andMel Brooks’ History of the World, Part I.
Additionally, he worked as a director on TV shows such as Lucille Ball’s Here’s Lucy, as well as in theater, directing productions of A Thousand Clowns and Mouth-Trap. In addition to Call Me Mister, his own Broadway acting credits include Mr. Wonderful and Top Banana. And he hosted the first televised Tony Awards in 1956.
Carter is survived by his wife of 44 years, Roxanne, sons Michael Carter and Chase Carter, daughter Wendy Carter and grandchildren Jake and Ava.