Monday, December 24, 2012

R.I.P. Jack Klugman

Sorry to hear of the passing of Jack Klugman.  He was 90.  You may remember him as either Oscar Madison or Quincy M.E.  For years before that he was a character actor.  My favorite role of his was as the father in the movie GOODBYE COLUMBUS.  He had the rare ability to be hilariously funny one minute and then heartbreaking the next.  And he was always real.  Lines never felt "written" when he delivered them.

In the '70s when there was a golden age of TV comedy (ALL IN THE FAMILY, MASH, MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW, BOB NEWHART SHOW, MAUDE) the one show that was always overlooked was THE ODD COUPLE and yet it was one of my favorites.  Consistently funny and if ever two actors "were" their characters it was Tony Randall as Felix and Jack Klugman as Oscar.   My partner and I began our career by buying an ODD COUPLE TV script and studying it.  So I guess, in an offhanded way, Jack Klugman was an early inspiration.

I can't speak of him personally.  I never met the man.  But I was always a huge fan of his work.  If there is a heaven I can just picture him standing there, looking around, and immediately spotting Tony Randall.  His first words in the afterlife will be "Oh no!"

R.I.P. Jack Klugman.  You will live on in my heart and on MEtv. 


23 comments:

Anonymous said...

Nice

Mike McCann said...

Has any actor tackled a wider range or material so capably? From Juror Number Five in TWELVE ANGRY MEN to the lovably sloppy sportswriter Oscar Madison on THE ODD COUPLE, Jack always radiated being a regular guy. I'm not sure I'd want to sit next to Nicholson courtside at the Lakers, but I'd love to have joined Klugman for a hot dog and a beer at a Mets game. Wouldn't you?

Paul said...

Loved him, saw more Odd Couple than Quincy. He reminded me of Jimmy Stewart on caffeine.

cd1515 said...

One of the greats, and Odd Couple was a classic example of 2 great actors SHARING the stage.
Never heard about ego problems, who was getting more/better lines, etc

Bill Rabkin said...

I had the pleasure of hiring him twice on Diagnosis Murder. A delight to work with, although he had a reputation for being something of a monster on his own shows. In fact, I remember walking onto our stage with him one day and he said "This is such a wonderful set -- everyone is so kind and so happy." Then he took a perfect beat and said "If it were my show, I'd change all that."

Birdie said...

I remember your comments that your favorite episodes of the Dick Van Dyke show were those written by Garry Marshall and Jerry Belson...both of whom of course went on to The Odd Couple. For those in the New York area the WPIX reruns were a staple growing up; as for why it didn't get as much attention while on the air? Probably airing on ABC, after The Brady Bunch, and not having a "pedigreed" creator had something to do with it. But it was always my favorite - and the perfect example ofa show that thrived on a live audience (but the key is you need actors with the talent to live up to that). And a reminder that Garry Marshall is capable of creating a lot more than the schlock that he is primarily known for.

I always thought it ironic that the "health nut" died first, but now they are both gone...sad, but Klugman did make it to 90 and dodged a major bullet with the throat cancer. Maybe I'll watch the Password episode tonight.

Janice C said...

Mr. Klugman was also phenomenal on several Twilight Zone episodes.

normadesmond said...

if there is a heaven and tony randall
is a resident, then it's misnamed.

Jim S said...

Ken,

I actually met Mr. Klugman. His son Adam was in my Cub Scout troup and during a softball game I beat a throw home and he tagged me too late. It was weird seeing "Oscar" being a normal dad out in the world. I know you are used to that in LA, but in Connecticut, it was odd.

But he was just one of the dads.

Doug McIntyre said...

Ken, he was the guy who gave me my first break in Hollywood. Hired me from NYC to write on a bad series at NBC in 1985, "You Again?" with John Stamos. It last just long enough for me to figure out how to get a second job. Over the years we stayed in touch and he even came in a did an hour on my radio show. He really changed my life for the better and he was so damn good at what he did.

gottacook said...

Not only do his great Twilight Zone episodes come to mind, but also another black-and-white dramatic role from the same period: Hungerford in Days of Wine and Roses. He'd be memorable even if he'd never done comedy.

Mr. First Nighter said...

Goodbye Columbus trivia. Richard Benjamin's character's last name was Klugman

VP81955 said...

It appears another acting great has also left us -- Charles Durning has passed away at age 89.

Terrence Moss said...

I discovered "The Odd Couple" as a teenager when it aired in late night on WLNY in New York. I loved it from day one and I continue to do so to this day.

As I have come to understand television more now than then, I love that the teleplays were simple. One plot, executed brilliantly by Klugman and Tony Randall -- who remain among the finest comedy duos in TV history.

After Randall's passing in 2004, Later I read "Tony and Me", Klugman's book about their longtime friendship. It made me love the show even more because what transpired on the screen was rooted in something beautifully genuine.

Birdie said...

I know - what a terrible Christmas this has been (in that regard). I adore Charles Durning - and he worked pretty much up until the end so in a way this kind of hurts more (even though they both lived to a ripe old age). Was in so many of my favorite movies - Tootsie and To Be or Not to Be just among many. I loved his gruff but jolly Irish man persona (he reminded me of my grandfather), and he was so talented, too. I saw him on Broadway in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and he was marvelous.

He was also on Raymond a few times, so I wonder if Ken has any stories.

What a devastating double whammy - and on Christmas! Well, merry merry to everyone anyway!

scottmc said...

Jack Klugman had a remarkable career. In addition to 'The Odd Couple', '12 Angry Men', 'Quincy' and memorable work in several episodes of 'The Twilight Zone' he was 'Herbie' in the original Broadway production of 'Gypsy'. He co-starred with Judy Garland in, what I believe was,her last movie. I had the chance to meet him when he signed my copy of 'Tony and Me'. A class act.
Charles Durning was one of my favorite actors. In reading about him I was surprised that 'The Sting' was his film debut. I saw him on Broadway in both 'Cat on a Hot Tin Roof' and Jules Feiffer's 'Knock, Knock'. After seeing 'Knock, Knock' I waited at the stage door to ask him to sign my Playbill. They let me go backstage and got to meet him. Another class act. He should have been nominated for 'Tootsie'.

Mike Barer said...

Very sad, I was a big fan of the Odd Couple.

Larry said...

In the first half of the 70s, Klugman and Randall were nominated for the Best Comedy Actor Emmy every season of The Odd Couple. They traded off victories with Carroll O'Connor and Alan Alda. It was quite a time. I still remember when Randall won the Emmy for the last season of The Odd Couple. He thanked everyone and then said now if only he had a job.

bruce said...

The weird coincidences continue. On Saturday, you were kind enough to accept my comment on an old blog item whose commentary mentioned the restaurant "The Stew Kettle" on Pico and I wrote that my father had been a tv writer. Well, his name was Sidney Reznick and he co-wrote the final episode of "The Odd Couple". Farewell to Jack Klugman and, increasingly, to his era.

Shell said...

To Jack Klugman,a man who made a grouchy slob lovable,and a coroner attractive and cool.Have fun with Tony.
You were amazing.

Michael Stoffel said...

Late night repeats of Quincy were a staple at my college dorm back in the day....Mr. Klugman had a wit and style that was just so natural.
Is Sam still with us?

Jon J said...

A local newsreader droid referred to Mr. Klugman four times as Jack Kulgman. Dummy.

Mike Barer said...

It's too bad Klugman and Randall did not do more work together as they had just as good a chemistry as Lemon and Matheau.