Jack Carson: King of the Double Entendre

Jack Carson listens as Ginger Rogers blah blah. Image: YouTube

Jack Carson has an eye for the ladies, while Ginger Rogers moons over his cowboy outfit. Image: YouTube

Do you get the feeling that when Jack Carson says something, he actually means something else?

Look at the 1951 comedy The Groom Wore Spurs, wherein Carson plays an actor who specializes in Westerns. In one scene, Carson says he’d like to remove his cowboy boots because “they’re a real pain in the arches.” (See what we mean?)

In our opinion, no one can deliver a line like Carson. Carson, in case you’re not familiar, was a popular comedic actor in the 1940s and 50s, but he also did some excellent dramatic work in films like Mildred Pierce.

The Groom Wore Spurs is the male “counterpart” to the 1946 comedy, The Bride Wore Boots. In our movie, Carson owes a large sum of money to a Las Vegas gambler, so he hires an attorney to make the problem go away. This attorney is played by Ginger Rogers.

These two characters couldn’t be better cast or better written. Carson’s character is shallow and obsessed with his movie image. Get this: He wears cowboy outfits with his name embroidered on the back in lasso-type font. On screen he’s a Western Hero, bringing Justice To All. Off screen he doesn’t even remember the plots of his own films.

Rogers, on the other hand, is smitten with the idea of having a Big-Name Movie Star as her client. She remembers the plots of his movies; we suspect she analyzes them in her diary.

Carson explains to Rogers that he lost in a game of dice and signed a $60,000 IOU which he can’t pay. He asks her to fly to Vegas with him where they can approach the gambler (Stanley Ridges) and hopefully settle the debt without violence.

The pair fly to Vegas and meet with the charming and dapper Ridges. He is articulate and pleasant, but when he leaves the table he warns, “Enjoy yourselves. It’s a short life.”

Still, it is Vegas after all, and after a moonlit drive to Hoover Dam, Carson and Rogers suddenly get married. (We didn’t realize Hoover Dam had that effect on people!) But the marriage is off to a rocky start; she suspects he married her just to erase his gambling debt. She storms back to L.A., while he stays in Vegas and gets drunk.

Even though Carson’s character plays a hero onscreen, he is, in reality, a coward. Rogers is braver and smarter than he is, and we feel a bit sorry that she rushed into marriage with such a man.

Sadly, this movie doesn’t end as well as it begins. We are treated to a contrived plot twist, then the whole movie falls apart. It’s like the filmmakers threw up their hands and said, “Whatever.”

However. The Groom Wore Spurs is still worth it because Jack Carson is too much fun. He struts around in his cheesy, over-the-top wardrobe, tossing out folksy sayings in a phoney southern accent. But it’s his double entendres that make us laugh the most.

For example, when Carson checks into a Vegas hotel, he tells the clerk that Rogers “is my [pause] attorney.” He says it as though he can’t believe he hasn’t used this line before.

The Groom Wore Spurs may not be the best comedy from the early 1950s but, in our opinion, it’s a classic example of Jack Carson doing what he does best.

The Groom Wore Spurs: starring Ginger Rogers, Jack Carson, Joan Davis. Directed by Richard Whorf. Written by Robert Libott and Frank Burt. Universal Pictures, B&W, 1951, 80 mins.

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24 comments

  1. I have enjoyed his sense of humor for years, and really feel that he has the ability to improv almost any movie. I think it’s something about the way he can make any line of dialogue funny that really sucks me in.

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  2. It has taken me a while to appreciate this actor. I probably was confusing the usually smarmy, smart alecky parts with the actor. However, I am so on board now and agree that he improves everything by his presence.

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  3. Jack Carson just added to any film he was in. One of my favorite Carson movies is Roughly Speaking with Roz Russell. Carson doesn’t enter until about 45 minutes into the film. But when he does the film takes off. Jack Carson is sorely missed by every true classic movie fan.

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  4. I miss the humor Jack Carson brought to a film. Today, it’s all “in your face” comedy. I miss the double entendre — or was it — that Carson was so good at. Keep the fart jokes and high school lunch table humor. I’ll take a “pain in the arches” every time.

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  5. Ginger really went to bat for Jack early in his career and would suggest him often for films even for bit parts. You want to see Carson in his first starring role try Make Your Own Bed with Jack and Jane Wyman. They made quite a team. Larceny Inc. is also another great movie they did together. Jack Carson was special!

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  6. Ruth, I applaud you for giving much overdue love to Jack Carson, who was a hoot with Carson and Dennis Morgan, since I first saw him in a couple the Warner Bros. comedies he and Dennis Morgan co-starred in, before I saw his range in MILDRED PIERCE! ) Saw Carson in MY DREAM IS YOURS (unless I’m mistaken, my fave Danny Kaye had a delightful cameo in that one — but I digress) . Thanks for this swell blast from the past! P.S.: I think that film had an animated scene with the boys. Thanks for getting me smiling, and have a Merry Christmas and any other happy holiday you and yours enjoy, dear pal! :-D

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  7. Thank you for bringing Jack Carson to my attention, Ruth. I love comedies where the lines actually make you laugh out loud and this sounds like it would be one of them. Your line about Ginger Rogers analyzing his plots in her diary was funny! I look forward to seeing this one.

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    1. Ginger Rogers is terrific as a star-struck woman, even though she may be a little older than one might expect of the role. Still, she’s a perfect foil that that cheeky Jack Carson.

      This film doesn’t end well, in terms of delivery, but there are some VERY funny lines.

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  8. I have to admit, I am not much of a Jack Carson fan, but when I saw him in the Ida Lupino/Dennis Morgan/Joan Leslie drama, “The Hard Way,” I found myself seeing him in a different light. If you haven’t seen that one, be on the lookout for it. It’s well worth a watch.

    My husband is a mega-huge Ginger Rogers fan, so we have long been on a quest to see all of her films. We caught “The Groom Wore Spurs” about 5 years ago, but I don’t remember much about it. I think we are due for a re-watch.

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    1. “The Hard Way” is not one I’ve been able to see, much to my chagrin. Did you see it on TCM? If so, I should keep a closer eye on the schedule.

      I like Ginger Rogers in anything, and this movie is no exception. You should give it another go – just don’t watch the last 30 minutes. :)

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      1. Yes, I caught “The Hard Way” on TCM. I’m a huge Ida Lupino fan and DVR almost anything of hers they air. I was going to offer to burn you a copy of the film. Alas, though, for whatever reason, I didn’t record it to disc. I keep a log of films I watch, and I have a section which tells me if I kept the film or not. For some reason, I didn’t record it…just watched it, then deleted it from the DVR. Given how much I adore Ida, I can’t tell you why I would have done that. Sorry…if I had it, I would have been happy to burn you a copy and toss it in the mail.

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