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Jack Klugman, Star of Broadway's Original Gypsy and TV's The Odd Couple, Dead at 90

The legendary character actor's stage and screen appearances included Quincy, M.E., Twelve Angry Men and The Sunshine Boys.

By New York City

Jack Klugman, 1922-2012.
Jack Klugman, 1922-2012.
Jack Klugman, the protean character actor best known for his performances as Oscar Madison on the television series The Odd Couple and Herbie in the original Broadway production of Gypsy, died Monday in Los Angeles at 90.

The youngest of six children, Klugman was born in Philadelphia on April 27, 1922. He made his Broadway debut in the 1952 revival of Clifford Odets' boxing drama Golden Boy, launching an esteemed stage career that most memorably included a scene-stealing turn as Herbie, the stalwart love interest for Ethel Merman's domineering Madame Rose in Gypsy, which earned him a 1960 Tony Award nomination for Best Featured Actor in a Musical. (He lost to Fiorello! star Tom Bosley.) Kulgman's many other stage appearances included I'm Not Rappaport, Three Men on a Horse, and Neil Simon's The Sunshine Boys.

While he was well-known for his stage work, it was 1970's The Odd Couple sitcom, inspired by Simon's classic stage comedy about mismatched roommates, which made Klugman a household name. His iconic turn as slovenly sportswriter Oscar Madison, foil to Tony Randall's obsessive and meticulous Felix Unger, earned the actor two Emmy Awards and a Golden Globe. He had previously played the role in the stage version on both Broadway and London's West End.

Klugman's many other television credits include the medical drama Quincy, M.E., multiple episodes of The Twilight Zone, and an episode of The Defenders, for which he received another Emmy Award for his work as a blacklisted actor. Film credits include Days of Wine and Roses, Goodbye, Columbus, and 12 Angry Men, among many others.

Despite being diagnosed with throat cancer in 1974 and losing a vocal cord in 1989, Klugman did not retreat from his career. Rather, he continued to act despite his voice being reduced to a rasp. He most recently attended opening nights for the Broadway play Lombardi, and performed at the George Street Playhouse Gala in 2008. A World War II veteran, he is predeceased by his first wife, the actress Brett Somers (the pair separated in 1974 but never divorced), and survived by their sons, Adam and David, as well as by his second wife, Peggy Crosby, two stepsons, and two grandchildren.

Tags: ObituaryGypsyThe Odd CoupleJack KlugmanBrett Somers


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