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, ME, has died aged 90.
Klugman, who lost his voice after suffering 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,” his son, Adam Klugman, said. Klugman died suddenly, and family members were not sure of the exact cause.
Never anyone’s idea of a matinee idol, Klugman remained a popular star for decades simply by playing a gruff but down-to-earth guy, his tie stained and a little loose, a cigar in hand.
He 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 Klugman – the sloppy sports writer Oscar Madison – and Tony Randall – the fussy photographer Felix Unger – in the roles played by Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon in the 1968 film.
Klugman and Randall were the best of friends in real life. When Randall died in 2004 aged 84, Klugman said: “A world without Tony Randall is a world that I cannot recognise.”
In Quincy, ME, which ran from 1976 to 1983, 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.
“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,”’ he said.