Childhood & Early Life
Arthur William Matthew Carney was born on 4 November 1918, at Mount Vernon, in New York, USA. He was the youngest of the six sons of publicist Edward Michael Carney and his wife Helen Farrell Carney. His elder brothers were named Jack, Ned, Robert, Fred and Phil.
During his childhood, he was fond of impersonations and won several school talent contests. He graduated from A. B. Davis High School in Mount Vernon in 1936. He discontinued his education after high school and did not seek further formal education.
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Soon after he completed his school education, he took up a job with the Horace Heidt orchestra and spent three years working with them doing songs and impersonations.
He was also involved in announcing the Heidt's ‘Pot O' Gold’ radio show. He was later given a minor role in the movie ‘Pot O' Gold’ made by the orchestra in 1941. In the same year he was part of the big band remote team, as a comic for their series ‘Matinee at Meadowbrook’.
Later, after unsuccessful attempts at vaudeville and nightclubs, he began working on the radio in shows like ‘Man behind the Gun’. He was capable of essaying roles that required dialects. This ability of his earned him a role of impersonating the voice of Franklin D. Roosevelt for television network channel CBS. Other radio projects that he worked in during the early 1940s include ‘Land of the Lost’ and ‘Joe and Ethel Turp’ (1943).
His career was interrupted by World War II, as he enrolled in the United States Army as an infantryman and machine gun crewman. While serving the 28th Infantry Division during the Battle of Normandy he was wounded by shrapnel that left him with a lifelong limp.
During 1946 - 1947 he made an appearance on ‘The Henry Morgan Show’. Other radio impersonations included the imitation of Franklin D. Roosevelt on ‘The March of Time’ and ‘Dwight D. Eisenhower’ in ‘Living 1948’.
Between 1950 and 1951, he was part of the show ‘The Magnificent Montague’ as Montague’s father. Other radio programs that he was support cast of include ‘Casey’, ‘Crime Photographer’ and ‘Gang Busters’.
In 1950, he starred in the television comedy series ‘Cavalcade of Stars’, where he got to play several characters. By 1951 he made regular appearances on ‘Henry Morgan's Great Talent Hunt’.
He was part of the comedy skit, ‘The Honeymooners’, where his portrayal of sewer worker Ed Norton earned him much fame and appreciation. The skit went on to be a huge success and was revived as a situational comedy series in 1955.
During the 1950s he worked as a character actor in several television drama series like ‘Studio One’, ‘Omnibus’ and ‘The Kraft Television Theater’.
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In 1957, he played a Jew in ‘The Fabulous Irishman’ and in 1960 he was part of the projects ‘Our Town’ and one man drama “Call Me Back’.
Shows that he appeared as guest during the time include ‘The Martha Raye Show’ (1955-1956), ‘The Dinah Shore Chevy Show’, ‘What's My Line?’ among many others. Between 1959 and 1960 he had his own variety show on NBC television.
In 1958, he was part of a children’s special project in collaboration with ABC, titled ‘Art Carney Meets Peter and the Wolf’. He also starred in an episode of Christmas episode of The Twilight Zone named ‘The Night of the Meek’ in 1960. A few years later he appeared in a guest role in an episode of the adventure and drama series ‘Mr. Broadway’.
Among his Broadway performances were ‘The Rope Dancers’ (1957), in which he starred alongside Siobhan McKenna, ‘Take Her, She's Mine’ (1961) and ‘Lovers’ (1968). In 1965, he played the obsessively neat freak Felix Unger in the Neil Simon play ‘The Odd Couple’. .
In the early years of 1970s, he performed song and dance on a few episodes of ‘The Dean Martin Show’. In 1974, his performance as a widower in the movie ‘Harry and Toronto’, earned him rave reviews.
He portrayed a variety of roles in the movies. Some of the famous movie he worked in include: ‘W.W. and the Dixie Dancekings’ (1975), ‘The Late Show’ (1977), ‘House Calls’ (1978), ‘Going in Style’ (1979), ‘The Naked Face’ (1984) and ‘Firestarter’ (1984).
He acted in various television movies throughout his career like ‘Death Scream’ (1975), ‘Fighting Back: The Rocky Bleier Story’ (1980), ‘St. Helens’ (1981), ‘Terrible Joe Moran’ (1984), ‘The Night They Saved Christmas’ (1984) and ‘Where Pigeons Go to Die’ (1990).
Towards the last years of the 1980s he retired from his acting career. However, he appeared in 1993 for a guest appearance in Arnold Schwarzenegger starrer comic fantasy action film ‘Last Action Hero’.
Awards and Achievements
Art Carney was awarded the ‘.Academy Award for Best Actor in 1974 for his performance in ‘Harry and Tonto’. The performance also earned him the 1974 Golden Globe Award for Best Actor.
In 1977, he received the National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Actor for ‘The Late Show’.
He was the recipient of the Pasinetti Award for Best Actor for the film ‘Going in Style’ in 1979.
He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6627 Hollywood Boulevard.
He was posthumously inducted into the Television Hall of Fame in 2004.
Personal Life & Legacy
He married Jean Myers in 1940 and the couple had three children; Eileen (born in 1942), Brian (born in 1946) and Paul (born in 1952). The couple separated in 1965, however, reconciled and married once again in 1980.
He married Barbara Isaac in 1966 and the marriage lasted until 1977.
Art Carney died on 9 November 2003, at his home in Westbrook, Connecticut. He was 85 years old at the time of his death.