Jay Carr '58
Class of 1958
Jay Carr was a prolific film critic for The Boston Globe, Turner Classic Movies, and New England Cable News. As The Globe’s chief film critic from 1983 until 2002, he wrote thousands of reviews, end-of-year top film lists, and features on actors. For nearly 20 years, he averaged roughly a byline a day, seven days a week. Four-review days were not unusual and editions that carried his byline two or three times were commonplace.
Among the honors that came his way was a seat on the National Film Preservation Board of the Library of Congress, the body that recommends films to be named to the National Film Registry. As a film critic he was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and for many years served on selection committees for the Pulitzer, Tony and Golden Globe Awards. He was a member of the Boston Society of Film Critics and the National Society of Film Critics and edited and wrote six essays for that organization's best-selling anthology, "The A-List: the 100 Essential Films," (DeCapo Press, 2002). In 1989, he was named Chevalier, Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French government for his writings on French film.
Jay Philip Carr was born in the Bronx on April 19, 1937, the oldest of four children. His mother had been a waitress and grew up in Eastern Europe. His father, a bartender, was an orphan who supplemented his income in earlier years as a pool hustler. Neither parent finished elementary school, yet the family read several newspapers a day in the household. His brother, Daniel, told The Globe in 2014 that as a 3-year-old, Jay began earning money with his precocious reading skills. His father “could win bets in bars, walking in with a toddler and saying, ‘He can read newspapers."
Carr graduated from the Bronx High School of Science and received a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from City College of New York. While an undergraduate, he led a double life as a reporter and editor for Observation Post, CCNY's undergraduate newspaper and began working for the Jersey City Journal, where he was hired as a police reporter after graduating. He soon moved to the New York Post, where he made his way from news to the drama department, interrupted by two years of military service. He left the Post in 1964 to begin his career in earnest with The Detroit News, where he reviewed theater, classical music, and movies. There Carr soon established a national reputation, winning the 1970-71 George Jean Nathan Award for Dramatic Criticism. That award, bestowed by English department chairs at Princeton, Yale and Cornell, cited his “body of dramatic criticism remarkable for its range and solidity… lucid and self-effacing criticism, sensitive to details of theatrical technique no less than thematic substance.”
His tenure at The Boston Globe, which ended with his retirement in 2002, was clearly the highlight of his career. At the same time, he became a popular TV film critic with a weekly segment on New England Cable News.
One of his former editors at The Globe, Lincoln Millstein, said, "Jay Carr was the ultimate renaissance man. His range was incredible — from drama, to film, to comedy ... his command of the living arts across multiple media and multiple disciplines was unparalleled.
His presence in the newsroom and on our news pages was large and distinctive."
Jay Carr died in May 15, 2014 from complications related to radiation therapy for cancer. He was 77 years old.