Born: April 27, 1922, Philadelphia, PA
Died: December 24, 2012, Woodland
Hills, Los Angeles, CA
Jack Klugman, the prolific, craggy-faced character
actor and regular guy who was loved by millions as the messy one in TV's The Odd
Couple and the crime-fighting coroner in Quincy, M.E., died on Christmas Eve,
2012. He was 90.
Klugman, who lost his voice to throat cancer in the
1980s and trained himself to speak again, died with his wife at his side.
had a great life and he enjoyed every moment of it and he would encourage others
to do the same," son Adam Klugman said.
As word of Klugman's death
spread, comedians tweeted their appreciation. "You made my whole family laugh
together," Jon Favreau wrote. Whoopi Goldberg hailed him as a "cool guy,
wonderful actor," and William Shatner remembered Klugman as "an extraordinary
and talented man."
"I lost my mentor, second father and my dear friend,"
John Stamos said. Ricky Gervais, tweeting for a generation of fans, cited
Klugman's numerous credits and marveled "... and he looked just like my
Never anyone's idea of a matinee idol, Klugman remained a popular
star for decades simply by playing a gruff but down-to-earth guy, his tie
stained and a little loose, a cigar in hand during the days when smoking was
permitted. His was an ideal persona for The Odd Couple, which ran from 1970 to
1975 and was based on Neil Simon's play about mismatched roommates, divorced New
Yorkers who end up living together. The show teamed Klugman, the sloppy sports
writer Oscar Madison, and Tony Randall, the fussy photographer Felix Unger, in
the roles played by Walter Matthau and Art Carney on Broadway and Mattthau and
Jack Lemmon in the 1968 film. Klugman would go on to win two Emmy Awards for his
Klugman had already had a taste of the show when he replaced
Matthau on Broadway, and he learned to roll with the quick-thinking Randall.
"There's nobody better to improvise with than Tony," Klugman said. "A script
might say, 'Oscar teaches Felix football.' There would be four blank pages. He
would provoke me into reacting to what he did. Mine was the easy part."
were the best of friends in real life. When Randall died in 2004 at age 84,
Klugman told CNN: "A world without Tony Randall is a world that I cannot
In Quincy, M.E., which ran from 1976 to 1983, Klugman played
an idealistic, tough-minded medical examiner who tussled with his boss by
uncovering evidence of murder in cases where others saw natural causes.
"Everybody said, 'Quincy will never be a hit.' I said, 'You guys are wrong. He's
two heroes in one, a cop and a doctor,' " he said in a 1987 Associated Press
But it was his partnership with Randall that would prove to be his
defining role. When Klugman lost a vocal cord to cancer in 1989, it was Randall
who insisted Klugman could bounce back. "My career was over," Klugman told USA
TODAY in 1997, when he reunited with Randall on Broadway for Simon's The
Sunshine Boys. "I couldn't even swallow: I had to lay on my side. I lived alone,
could barely whisper. I cut off everybody."
But when the two old friends
teamed up for an Odd Couple benefit performance, "everybody was crying," Klugman
recalled, performing a waterfall of tears with his fingers. "The cast, the
audience, these people who had paid $1,000 a seat." Jacob Joachim "Jack" Klugman
was born in 1922 in Philadelphia. His parents were Russian Jewish immigrants.
His mother, Rose, was a hatmaker and his father, Max, was a house painter.
Klugman graduated in 1948 from the Carnegie Institute of Technology (now
Carnegie Mellon University). He began his acting career after serving in the
U.S. Army during World War II.
His TV career included more than 400
appearances on midcentury live dramas, including Studio One, Philco
Playhouse, Kraft Television Theatre and U.S. Steel Hour.
He won an Emmy
for his work on the TV courtroom drama The Defenders, which aired on CBS from
1961 to 1965, and appeared on four episodes of The Twilight Zone. He also worked
with Ethel Merman on Broadway in the original stage production of Gypsy, which
opened in 1959. It was loosely based on the memoirs of the famous striptease
artist Gypsy Rose Lee. Merman starred as Rose, Lee's mother, and Klugman as her
suitor Herbie, a role that earned him a Tony nomination.
Highlights of his
film career include his role as Juror #5 in 1957's 12 Angry Men. He was the last
surviving actor of the 12 who portrayed the jurors, including Lee J. Cobb and
Henry Fonda. He also starred with Lemmon and Lee Remick in Blake Edwards' 1962
film Days of Wine and Roses and 1969's Goodbye, Columbus with Richard Benjamin
and Ali MacGraw.
In 2005, Klugman self-published Tony and Me: A Story of
Friendship, a book about his longtime pal Randall, who died in 2004. Klugman
gave the eulogy at Randall's memorial service. In March 2012, Klugman canceled
plans to appear in a stage production of 12 Angry Men at the George Street
Playhouse in New Jersey, citing poor health. Klugman's wife, actress/comedian
Brett Somers, played his ex-wife, Blanche, in theOdd Couple series. The couple,
who married in 1953 and had two sons, Adam and David, had been estranged for
years at the time of her death in 2007. In February 2008, at age 85, Klugman
married longtime girlfriend Peggy Crosby.
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