Veteran US actor Jack Klugman, who had starring roles on television, Broadway and in Hollywood movies, died Monday at age 90 at his home in Los Angeles, according to news reports quoting family members.
Klugman played a police medical examiner solving one case after another in the drama Quincy ME, a popular show in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. Prior to that, he leapt to television stardom as the cigar-smoking slovenly sportswriter Oscar Madison on The Odd Couple.
Playing opposite Tony Randall as the neatness-obsessed Felix Unger, Klugman achieved widespread fame and won two Emmy awards. The show was based on the 1965 Neil Simon play by the same name about two divorced men living together as roommates in New York City. Randall died in 2004 at age 84.
After surviving throat cancer, Klugman had a vocal cord removed in 1989 and didn’t speak for years. He then managed to retrain the remaining vocal cord so that he could talk again in a weak and gravelly voice.
Klugman was born in Philadelphia, the youngest of six children of immigrants from Russia. He studied theatre in New York, discovering a love of Broadway early in his career. In addition to acting on stage he experimented with live television in the ‘50s and made his first movie at age 34, Timetable in 1956.
He followed that with the movie 12 Angry Men in 1957, which became a classic. Among his other movies were The Days of Wine and Roses in 1962 and Goodbye, Columbus in 1969.
When he started working on the show Quincy ME, he became physically acting out the part of a medical examiner. To improve his ability to play the part he observed real coroners doing their work.
Later many fans wrote to him saying they discovered their own interest in medicine through the show.