Jack Klugman, TV icon and acting legend dies at 90
Jack Klugman, an actor who found fame as the star of two different and long-running TV series – “The Odd Couple” and “Quincy, M.E.” – died December 24, according to his son Adam. He was 90. Klugman, was visiting his family during the holiday period when he suddenly took ill. His wife and other son David and other family members were reportedly by his side when he passed away.
When Klugman lost his voice in the 1980s to throat cancer, he famously fought back, teaching himself to speak again and continuing his career. But that was Klugman, an actor not known for his handsome looks, but instead for his intensity both on stage and in front of the camera and his uncanny ability to portray character roles with precision.
Klugman was born in Philadelphia in 1922, the son a Russian Jewish immigrants. He began his acting career while attending college at Carnegie Institute of Technology. His made his debut on Broadway when he was 30 in a revival of “Golden Boy” and followed that with numerous roles in early TV including one opposite film legend Humphrey Bogart. He was tied with Burgess Meredith for the most starring guest roles on “The Twilight Zone” original series, featured in four of the show’s episodes.
But it was as Neil Simon’s character of sportswriter Oscar Madison, the role played on film by Walter Matthau in “The Odd Couple” that Klugman first achieved lasting fame. He and co-star Tony Randall, who played Felix Ungar, played two divorced New Yorkers forced to live with one another and who frequently got on each other’s nerves. Klugman and Randall were best friends in real life and the gravely voiced and craggy-faced actor mourned Randall’s passing in 2004. That ABC series ran from 1970 to 1975.
Just a year later, Klugman showed his range of talent by portraying Dr. Quincy, a Los Angeles medical examiner, patterned after real life coroner Dr. Thomas Noguchi. Klugman played the character as a tireless champion, who lived on a boat in the Los Angeles harbor. Each week his examination of corpses would turn up unsuspected murder plots and keep his audience’s attention for a full hour. While some naysayers predicted the series would not last long, Klugman had his full faith behind it and it ran for seven season from 1976-1983 on NBC. Both series have had successful runs in syndication.
Klugman also had a featured role in Sydney Lumet’s “Twelve Angry Men” and starred in the title role of “I’m Not Rappaport” on Broadway as an octogenarian 25 years ago.