independent

Monday 21 April 2014

Jack Klugman

Actor who rose to stardom as Quincy and in The Odd Couple after serving in the Second World War

JACK Klugman, who died on Christmas Eve aged 90, was an actor best known for his starring roles in the television series Quincy and The Odd Couple.

As Quincy, Klugman played a hyperactive, fractious coroner in Los Angeles County who typically questions an apparently natural death, bringing him into conflict with his boss. The character of Quincy is often said to have been based on Thomas Noguchi, the real-life chief medical examiner for Los Angeles County who was known as "Coroner to the Stars". He performed, or oversaw, post-mortems on celebrities including Marilyn Monroe, Natalie Wood and Robert F Kennedy.

The show was made in the Seventies and Eighties, and was an ancestor of programmes such as Silent Witness and CSI, which suggests that no crime is beyond the skills of forensic science.

Jacob (Jack) Joachim Klugman was born on April 27, 1922, in Philadelphia. His father was a house painter who died young, and to make ends meet his mother made hats in her kitchen.

Meanwhile, Jack sold goods on behalf of vendors who were wary of venturing into the less salubrious areas of the city. He later observed: "Poverty can teach lessons that privilege cannot."

Klugman served in the US Army in the Second World War, after which he took to gambling, later claiming that this led to his embarking on a career as an actor: "I owed a loan shark, who was also a friend, some money. I couldn't pay him, so he turned the debt over to a couple of guys who were going to hurt me a little bit. I had to get out of town. Since I had the GI bill, I remembered my brother knew a guy in the army who had been to Carnegie Mellon University, so I went there."

He enrolled in the drama department, only to be told by his tutor: "You're not suited to be an actor. You're more suited, Mr Klugman, to be a truck driver. Not that there's anything wrong with truck drivers, but you're really not ready for this."

But Klugman persisted, and in 1949 made his (unpaid) stage debut at the Equity Liberty Theatre in New York.

At this time he was sharing a room with the young Charles Bronson; continually short of funds, Klugman sometimes sold his blood for $5 a pint. In 1957 he landed the part of juror number five in the film 12 Angry Men, starring Lee J Cobb and Henry Fonda (Klugman was the last survivor among the "jurors" in that picture), and finally broke into television, appearing in shows such as Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Twilight Zone.

He won an Emmy for his performance in The Defenders, and then, in 1970, came one of the roles for which he is most remembered – that of the newly divorced sportswriter Oscar Madison in The Odd Couple.

Madison shares an apartment with Felix Unger ( Tony Randall), a photographer who is also recently divorced. Unger is neurotically tidy, Madison a slob.

The show was a huge hit, and Klugman won two Emmies. He also starred in the original Broadway production of The Odd Couple, before being replaced by Walter Matthau; and in 2005 he published Tony And Me: A Story of Friendship, a book about his long friendship with his series co-star Randall.

Among the films in which Klugman appeared were Days of Wine and Roses (1962) and Goodbye, Columbus (1969). In 1993 he appeared on a special "celebrity versus regulars" version of the British quiz show Going for Gold, emerging as the series winner.

Klugman was a heavy smoker, a habit which probably contributed to his contracting cancer of the larynx in 1974. After treatment he was able to continue acting – but he did not stop smoking, and the cancer returned. In 1989 he underwent further surgery, which involved the removal of his right vocal cord. It was some years before he regained his voice, although it returned as a hoarse rasp.

Jack Klugman had two sons from his marriage to Brett Somers, who he married in 1953.

They separated in 1974, but never divorced; she died in 2007. Klugman had lived with Peggy Crosby (the ex-wife of Bing Crosby's son, Philip) since 1988, and they finally married in February 2008.

Sunday Independent

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