Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Jack Klugman: Everyman roles were his ticket

Two TV series made him famous

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LOS ANGELES -- For many, Jack Klugman will always be the messy one.

His portrayal of sloppy sportswriter Oscar Madison on TV's The Odd Couple left viewers laughing, but it also gave Klugman the leverage to create a more serious character, the gruff medical examiner in Quincy M.E. His everyman ethos and comic timing endeared him to audiences and led to a prolific, six-decade acting career that spanned stage, screen and television.

Klugman died Monday at age 90 in suburban Northridge with his wife at his side. His sons called on his fans to embrace their father's tenacious and positive spirit.

"He had a great life and he enjoyed every moment of it, and he would encourage others to do the same," son Adam Klugman said.

The cause of Klugman's death was not immediately known. Adam Klugman said his father had been slowing down in recent years, but wasn't battling cancer, which robbed him of his voice in the 1980s. Klugman taught himself to speak again and kept working.

He remained popular for decades simply by playing the type of man you could imagine running into at a bar or riding on a subway with -- gruff, but down-to-earth, his tie stained and a little loose, a racing form under his arm, a cigar in hand during the days when smoking was permitted.

Off-screen, Klugman owned racehorses and enjoyed gambling, although acting remained his passion.

Despite his on-screen wars with Tony Randall's neat-freak character Felix Unger on The Odd Couple, the show created a friendship between the men that endured after the series ended in 1975 after a six-year run. When Randall died in 2004 at age 84, Klugman told CNN: "A world without Tony Randall is a world that I cannot recognize."

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.

His film credits included Sidney Lumet's 12 Angry Men and Blake Edwards' Days of Wine and Roses and an early television highlight was appearing with Humphrey Bogart and Henry Fonda in a production of The Petrified Forest. His performance in the classic 1959 musical Gypsy brought him a Tony nomination for best featured (supporting) actor in a musical.

The son of Russian Jewish immigrants, Klugman was born in Philadelphia and began acting in college at Carnegie Institute of Technology. After serving in the army during the Second World War, he went on to summer stock and off-Broadway, rooming with fellow actor Charles Bronson as both looked for paying jobs. He made his Broadway debut in 1952 in a revival of Golden Boy.

 

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 26, 2012 A14

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