Sunday, February 18, 2018

TV 'Odd Couple's scruffier half

LOS ANGELES — Jack Klugman, the prolific, craggy-faced character actor and regular guy who was loved by millions as the messy one in TV's The Odd Couple and the crime-fighting coroner in Quincy, M.E., died Monday, a son said. He was 90.

Mr. Klugman, who lost his voice to throat cancer in the 1980s and trained himself to speak again, died with his wife at his side.

"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.

Mr. Klugman's sons said he had been convalescing for some time but had died suddenly and they were not sure of the exact cause.

"His sons loved him very much," David Klugman said. "We'll carry on in his spirit."

Never anyone's idea of a matinee idol, Mr. Klugman remained a popular star 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.

His was a city actor ideal for The Odd Couple, which ran from 1970 to 1975 and was based on Neil Simon's play about mismatched roommates, divorced New Yorkers who end up living together.

The show teamed Mr. Klugman — the sloppy sports writer Oscar Madison — and Tony Randall — the fussy photographer Felix Unger — in the roles played by Walter Matthau and Art Carney on Broadway and Matthau and Jack Lemmon in the 1968 film.

"There's nobody better to improvise with than Tony," Mr. Klugman once said. "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."

In Quincy, M.E., which ran from 1976 to 1983, Mr. 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.

Mr. Klugman's wife, actor-comedian Brett Somers, played his ex-wife, Blanche, in The Odd Couple series.

The couple, who married in 1953 and had two sons, Adam and David, had been estranged for years at the time of her death in 2007.

In February 2008, at age 85, Mr. Klugman married longtime girlfriend Peggy Crosby.

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