Published on 25 Dec 2012 Sections ,

Odd Couple actor Jack Klugman dead at 90

Jack Klugman, the craggy-faced character actor best known for playing the coroner on the television show Quincy ME, and the messy sports writer in The Odd Couple, dies aged 90.

Jack Klugman, the craggy-faced character actor who played a corner on television's Quincy ME and the messy sports writer in The Odd Couple, died on Monday at age 90, his son said.

Mr Klugman lost his voice to throat cancer in the 1980s and trained himself to speak again. His wife of four and a half years, Peggy Crosby, was with him when he died.

“He had a great life and he enjoyed every moment of it and he would encourage others to do the same,” his son, Adam Klugman, said. The exact cause of his death has not yet been confirmed.

Mr Klugman played gruff, down-to-earth characters, usually with a cigar in hand back in the days when smoking was permitted.

The Odd Couple, which ran from 1970 to 1975, based on Neil Simon’s play, paired Mr Klugman with Tony Randall, who played the fussy photographer Felix Unger.


“There’s nobody better to improvise with than Tony,” Mr Klugman said at the time. “A script might say, ‘Oscar teaches Felix football’. There would be four blank pages. He would provoke me into reacting to what he did. Mine was the easy part.”

They were the best of friends in real life. Mr Randall died in 2004 at age 84.

In Quincy, ME, which ran from 1976 to 1983, Mr Klugman played a tough-minded medical examiner who uncovered evidence of murder in cases where others saw natural causes.

“Everybody said, ‘Quincy’ll never be a hit.’ I said; ‘You guys are wrong. He’s two heroes in one, a cop and a doctor,” the actor said.

A star is born

The son of Russian Jewish immigrants, Mr Klugman was born Jacob Joachim Klugman on April 27, 1922, he grew up in a tough Philadelphia neighbourhood. In 1945 a loan shark was after him due to gambling losses so he fled to Pittsburgh, where he studied drama at Carnegie Tech and worked several jobs to settle his debts.

He made his Broadway debut in 1952 in a revival of Golden Boy. His film credits included Sidney Lumet’s 12 Angry Men and Blake Edwards’ Days of Wine and Roses.

Horses were perhaps the actor’s first love – both as a keen gambler starting in his teens and later as a breeder. One of his horses, Jaklin Klugman, finished third in the 1980 Kentucky Derby and earned millions as a stud.

His performance in the classic 1959 musical Gypsy brought him a Tony nomination for best featured (supporting) actor in a musical.

He won the first of three Emmys in 1964 for an appearance on the legal drama The Defenders. Mr Klugman and Mr Randall each received Emmy nominations for each of the Odd Couple seasons, with Mr Klugman winning in 1971 and 1973 and Mr Randall in 1975.