Born Carleton Upham Carpenter Jr on July 10, 1926, he was a magician before moving on to acting. His first roles were on Broadway, beginning with David Merrick's first production Bright Boy in 1944, followed by co-starring appearances in Three to Make Ready with Ray Bolger, John Murray Anderson's Almanac and Hotel Paradiso with Bert Lahr and Angela Lansbury.
He was featured in the racial film Lost Boundaries and then signed with MGM, where he had roles in Summer Stock with Judy Garland, Father of the Bride with Spencer Tracy, Vengeance Valley with Burt Lancaster, The Whistle at Eaton Falls with Lloyd Bridges, and the war dramas Take The High Ground and Up Periscope. Even though Carleton's role in Summer Stock was a small one, he got to play opposite such giants as Garland, Gene Kelly, and Phil Silvers. He had the role of Kelly's handyman, and he had the job of trying to put Judy Garland's tractor back together after Silvers destroyed it. It was a small role, but it made me wish Carpenter had had bigger roles in movies.
He was teamed with Debbie Reynolds in the musicals Three Little Words and Two Weeks With Love, which featured their million-selling recordings of "Aba Daba Honeymoon" and "Row, Row, Row." His duet of "Aba Daba Honeymoon" with Debbie Reynolds was the very first soundtrack recording to become a No. 1 gold record. Although he never was a major leading man, Carleton did a few starring roles like in Fearless Fagan with Janet Leigh and Sky Full of Moon with Jan Sterling.
He composed such songs as "Christmas Eve," which was recorded by Billy Eckstine, "Cabin in the Woods" and "Ev'ry Other Day," which he recorded for MGM Records.
In addition to his many successful movies during this time, Carpenter is remembered in the 1970s and 1980s as a best-selling mystery novelist. One of his books, Deadhead, was turned into a Broadway musical production. Other books included Games Murderers Play, Cat Got Your Tongue? Only Her Hairdresser Knew, Sleight of Deadly Hand, The Peabody Experience and Stumped. He also had short stories published in the Alfred Hitchcock and Ellery Queen mystery magazines.
When the movie musicals went out of fashion, Carpenter went back to his first love of the stage. His notable stage appearances at the time included: Hello, Dolly! (musical) opposite Mary Martin (which toured Vietnam during the war and was filmed as a one-hour NBC-TV special), The Boys in the Band (play), Crazy For You and a revival of Kander and Ebb's 70, Girls, 70.
Most the most part Carleton Carpenter left acting in the early 1980s, and he made his last movie appearance in the television film The American Snitch in 1983. He continues to make nostalgic appearances at classic Hollywood conventions and get together to this day, although his appearances have been less frequent than those of his popular co-star Debbie Reynolds. On September 2, 2012 he received a Cinecon Award for career achievement. Appearing with Reynolds once again, the duo sang a few strains of Aba Daba Honeymoon - it was as if it was 1950 all over again...