Jack Klugman was an American actor who is best known for the role of Oscar Madison on The Odd Couple, a TV series that was based on Neil Simon’s play of the same name.
He was born on April 27, 1922, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.
His mother made hats in her kitchen at nights to try to supplement their financial income to buy clothing and food for her 6 children. Klugman’s father worked as a house painter and died at a very young age.
In 1948, Jack graduated from the Carnegie Institute of Technology (currently known as Carnegie Mellon University).
In 1950, Klugman had a role in Mr. Roberts’ road company at the Colonial Theatre in Boston.
In 1952, Jack made his Broadway debut in Clifford Odets’s Golden Boy with John Garfield and Lee J Cobb.
In 1954, Jack appeared on the soap opera “The Greatest Gift.”
In 1957, he starred in ”12 Angry Men,” as juror number five. ”12 Angry Men” is notable for its almost exclusive use of one set.
In 1960, Klugman was nominated for Broadway’s Tony Award as Best Supporting or Featured Actor for “Gypsy.”
From 1961 to 1963, he appeared in 2 episodes of The Untouchables series:
- “An Eye for an Eye” (1963);
- “Loophole” (1961).
From 1960 to 1963, Jack appeared in 4 episodes of The Twilight Zone series:
- “In Praise of Pip” (1963);
- “Death Ship” (1963);
- “A Game of Pool” (1961);
- “A Passage for Trumpet” (1960).
From 1970, Klugman starred in the “The Odd Couple.”
In this show, Jack played Oscar Madison, a divorced sportswriter who shares his apartment with a photographer who is also recently divorced – Felix Unger. The series aired from 1970 to 1975.
During an interview, Jack said about his role in The Odd Couple:
”When I was offered The Odd Couple TV series alongside Tony, I couldn’t refuse, even though I knew he’d done the play opposite Mickey Rooney and had originally wanted him for the role.”
Jack won his 2nd and 3rd Primetime Emmy Awards and a Golden Globe Award for his work on The Odd Couple.
After the TV series ended its run in 1975, Jack said the last thing on his mind was doing another TV series.
However, in 1976, he returned to television in Quincy, M.E., an American medical mystery-drama TV series from Universal Studios. It was inspired by the book titled – ”Where Death Delights” by Marshall Houts, a former FBI agent. Jack was nominated for four Primetime Emmy Awards for his work on the Quincy, M.E.
In 1974, he was diagnosed with throat cancer. Throat cancer refers to cancerous tumors that develop in the tonsils, voice box (larynx), or throat (pharynx). This cancer left Jack’s voice harsh and gravelly.
Factors that can increase the risk of throat cancer include the following:
- a diet lacking in vegetables and fruits;
- excessive alcohol use;
- tobacco use.
Jack said that he was an avid smoker.
In his words:
“I saw John Garfield smoke. He was my idol, so I smoked. I even smoked like him.”
After Jack underwent surgery in 1989 to remove a tumor from his larynx, the actor lost his ability to speak. He said:
“I couldn’t even swallow: I had to lay on my side. I lived alone, could barely whisper. I cut off everybody.”
Following surgery for throat cancer, he slowly regained his voice with the help of a vocal coach.
In 2005, Jack co-starred in the comedy film When Do We Eat?, an American comedy film that was directed by Salvador Litvak.
In 2010, he appeared in his last on-screen role – ”Camera Obscura,” a horror film.
Death & Cause of Death
Klugman died on December 24, 2012, at his home in Northridge, California, with his wife, Peggy, by his side.
His son Adam declared:
“He had a great life and he enjoyed every moment of it and he would encourage others to do the same.”
Jack was the last surviving member of the cast that played the jury in the movie “12 Angry Men.”
Klugman passed away on the same day as Charles Durning, an American actor, with appearances in more than 200 television shows, movies, and plays.
Charles’s best-known films include the following:
- To Be or Not to Be (1983);
- The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (1982);
- O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000);
- Dick Tracy (1990);
- Tootsie (1982);
- True Confessions (1981);
- Dog Day Afternoon (1975);
- The Sting (1973).
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Jack Klugman married Brett Somers in 1953.
They were married for more than 5 decades, however, they lived together for 21 of them. In 1974, they separated but remained married until 2007, when Brett died.
On February 2, 2008, Jack got married to Peggy Crosby, Phillip Crosby’s ex-wife.
Jack and Brett Somers have two children – Adam and David.
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On August 31, 2005, he published the memoir ”Tony and Me: A Story of Friendship.” In the book, Jack provides the ultimate insider’s view of his relationship with Tony Randall which went well beyond what the public saw in the TV series – ”The Odd Couple.”
Klugman was 5′ 9″ (1.75 m) tall.
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In 2008, Klugman sued NBC Television due to missing profits from his show Quincy M.E.
Following his first audition, he was told he was better suited to be a truck driver.
Jack considered Henry Fonda to be the greatest actor he ever worked with.
Fonda was the patriarch of a family of famous actresses and actors, including:
- grandson Troy Garity;
- granddaughter Bridget Fonda;
- son Peter Fonda;
- daughter Jane Fonda.
In the 1980s, Jack lent his name to a popcorn franchise that was titled – “Jack’s Corn Crib.”
Jack Klugman – Net Worth
Klugman earned most of his wealth from appearing in 101 movies and TV series, including The Odd Couple, Quincy M.E., One of My Wives Is Missing, The Underground Man, The Carol Burnett Show, and The Bold Ones: The New Doctors.
In the final season of The Odd Couple, Jack received $7000 per episode (about $34,000 in the present day). However, Jack owned 10 percent of The Odd Couple. Therefore, at the time of his death, actor Jack Klugman had an estimated net worth of $1.9 million.
Featured image source – © Guliver / Getty Images.
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