When Jack Klugman passed away at the age of 90, he left a great legacy of a stage actor from the 1940’s who went to star on both TV as well as the movies. Klugman won his very first award, an Emmy, for his guest star role in “The Defenders”, a courtroom drama, where two lawyers defended some socially difficult cases such as a school teacher fired for being an atheist, an author accused of obscenity, and civil rights workers. Jack Klugman played in a controversial episode called “The Blacklist”. Klugman was also a favorite on THE TWILIGHT ZONE, appearing in four episodes.
In the excellent film, 12 ANGRY MEN, Jack Klugman played juror #5. And while the actor was most often associated with drama, he also was a great comedy foil for Tony Randall’s offbeat and overly neat character, Felix Unger, in ABC TV’s THE ODD COUPLE which ran for five seasons, as the grouchy Oscar Madison, who was also a bit of a slob as well. It was a quirky comedy that had done well both on the stage and in film before, and audiences just loved this TV version of this Neil Simon story as well.
After THE ODD COUPLE, Jack Klugman struck gold again on TV starring as the medical examiner, QUINCY, M.E., for NBC, which ran for 7 seasons, bringing Jack Klugman back to dramatic acting once again after his years doing comedy.
Known for being a heavy smoker, Jack Klugman was first diagnosed with cancer back in 1974. But, a more radical surgery left him with only a raspy voice when the cancer only returned in 1989. Klugman continued to act despite his voice limitations after that more radical surgery, and stood as something of an inspiration as a beloved veteran actor fought back against his health issues.
Klugman finally died at the age of 90 this past week. And he’ll be remembered by his many fans as one of the great actors of their lifetime, who had durable use in so many great worthwhile productions, and was nominated and won some awards for his versatile acting skills, whether it was drama or comedy.