TV News: ‘The Odd Couple,’ ‘Quincy’ Star Jack Klugman Dies at 90
LOS ANGELES – He was a consummate television character, with a unforgettable reputation as a lovable slob and a nosy medical examiner. Jack Klugman, who portrayed Oscar Madison on the sitcom version of “The Odd Couple” and the title character on the TV drama “Quincy M.E.,” died on December 24th at his home in Woodland Hills, California. He was 90 years old.
In his early career, he was most prominent for his appearance in the film “12 Angry Men” (1957) as Juror #5, opposite Henry Fonda, Lee J. Cobb and nine other actors, playing members of a jury who are bought together to decide a murder case. Klugman was the last surviving member of that famous movie ensemble. He also tied Burgess Meredith for the most starring roles – with four – in the legendary TV series, “The Twilight Zone.”
Photo credit: Paramount Home Video
Jacob Joachim Klugman was born in Philadephia in 1922. After serving in the Army in World War II, he graduated from the Carnegie Mellon University in 1948. He went to New York City soon thereafter to try his luck as an actor, scoring early roles on stage in “Mr. Roberts” in Boston and on TV in various guest spots on dramas and stage play anthologies. He even teamed up with his future TV partner Tony Randall in a 1955 CBS series, “Appointment with Adventure.”
After breaking through in “12 Angry Men,” Klugman worked steadily in the 1960s in TV – including “The Twilight Zone,” “The Defenders,” “The Fugitive” and his first series, “Harris Against the World” (1964). On film, he was seen in “I Could go On Singing” (1963), “The Detective” (1968) and memorably as Ali McGraw’s father in “Goodbye Columbus” (1969).
Photo credit: Universal Home Entertainment
Klugman first portrayed Oscar Madison on Broadway, replacing Walter Matthau in the original run of playwright Neil Simon’s “The Odd Couple,” but it wasn’t until the 1970 TV sitcom version of the play (which was produced as a result of the popular film adaptation) that he permanently made his mark as the character, opposite Tony Randall as his fussy roommate Felix Unger. For five seasons, the two actors famously answered the question in the title sequence, “can two divorced men share an apartment without driving each other crazy?”
Klugman had one more notable role in television, that of the titular persona of “Quincy M.E.” From 1976-1983, Klugman’s medical examiner character preceded the CSIs of the world by using forensic pathology in the Los Angeles coroner’s office – changing many natural causes of death to the suspect “foul play.” After Quincy left the airwaves, Klugman worked steadily until 2010, even doing a regular turn in one more sitcom in the 1980s, entitled “You Again?” And despite throat cancer complications in 1989, Klugman continued to work with a softer and raspier voice, even reuniting with Tony Randall for the 1993 TV movie, “The Odd Couple: Together Again.”
Jack Klugman was married to actress Brett Somers from 1953 until her death in 2007. They had separated in 1974, but never divorced. He is survived by his second wife, Peggy Compton, two sons and two grandchildren.
In a testament to his embrace of a role, Klugman once said of Oscar Madison, “People think I’m like Oscar. When they find out I’m not, they seem disappointed.” And of his TV partner Tony Randall – who passed away in 2004 – “The best friend a man could ever have. I love him dearly.” Oscar and Felix, together again.