Thursday, December 27, 2012

In Memoriam: Jack Klugman 1922-2012

Actor. 12 Angry Men. Days of Wine and Roses. I Could Go On Singing. The Detective. Goodbye Columbus. The Odd Couple (TV series.) Quincy M.E.

"For 50 years, acting was the reason I got up in the morning."

12 Angry Men (1957) With Henry Fonda, Robert Webber, and  Lee J. Cobb.

The Twilight Zone, "A Passage for Trumpet" (1960).

The Days of Wine and Roses (1962) Couldn't find the clip I was looking for, so I had to settle for a still photo. Other than Klugman's fine performance in a good, though not great, film, there's something else I want to point out. Klugman famously played Oscar Madison in the TV version of The Odd Couple. Jack Lemmon, seen here on the right, played Felix Unger in the movie of the same name. So, there you have it, folks, Oscar and Felix. Except they're not Oscar and Felix in Wine and Roses, and never played Oscar and Felix opposite each other. Odd, huh?

I Could Go On Singing (1963) Klugman's hands rest on the shoulders of one of the greats, Judy Garland.

Goodbye, Columbus (1969). With Richard Benjamin, Ali MacGraw, and Nan Martin. The last name of Benjamin's character is Klugman!

The Odd Couple (1970-1975) With Tony Randall, whom, to my knowledge, never appeared in a movie with Walter Matthau.

I was never a fan of Quincy M.E. (1976-1983), all about a coroner who solves crimes, but Klugman himself was apparently passionate about the show, and that made it worth watching from time to time. Klugman also fought to make it more than a typical crime drama. The only crime in the episode "Seldom Silent, Never Heard" has to do with an orphan (rare diseases) drug bill that's being held up in Congress. Here's an excerpt, featuring Paul Clemens as a young man with Tourette syndrome:

Jack Klugman is obviously not the focus of the above clip. However, shortly after this episode aired, Klugman testified in front of Congress himself, the real Congress, not a fictitious TV version, about a real orphan drug bill that was being held up for some reason. Despite Klugman's testimony, a senator, Orrin Hatch, remained skeptical. So Klugman did a sequel, this one with a fictional, skeptical senator (sorry, I couldn't find a clip) which put pressure on the real skeptical senator. Eventually, The Orphan Drug Act of 1983 was passed, providing incentives to pharmaceutical companies to develop treatments for diseases that, as the young man in the clip says, never make it to the Top 40. Good going, Jack!

Another Quincy show from around the same time deals with a bunch of teenagers who become crazed murderers after listening to punk rock. I'm not going to show you a clip from that particular episode. I've seen it, and trust me, it deserves to be orphaned.


  1. I have a friend who looks and talks exactly like Jack Klugman. This makes him dear.

    Sorry about the senator from Utah who is so skeptical and (may I add) self-absorbed?

    1. Does your friend have a wife named Brett? (All you MATCH GAME fans out there should get that.)

      As for the senator from Utah, Kass, this was back in 1983, almost 30 years ago. Hopefully, he's gotten over his skepticism, if not his self-absorption, by now

  2. You will have to explain the match game reference or I could just ask my wife. Another nice post mortem tribute.
    December 28th was Stan Lee's 90th Birthday, I was hoping you might put together your thoughts on this man who has so influenced modern culture before he goes.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. Brett Somers, an actress, was Jack Klugman's first wife, Mike. They were married from 1953, and, despite a legal separation in 1974, remained married until her death in 2007. She played Blanche, Oscar Madison's ex-wife, in a few episodes of THE ODD COUPLE, but is best known for her stint as a celebrity panalist on the 1970s game show MATCH GAME. Being a celebrity panalist actually MADE her a celebrity, since she wasn't all that well-known before that. It was Jack Klugman, a panelist himself on the first week of the show, who suggested to producers that they put her on. It turned out to be an excellent suggestion, as she was very funny, especially while doing battle with fellow panalist Charles Nelson Reilly.

      As for Stan Lee, unless you have some evidence that Lee actively reads this blog, I don't see why I CAN'T wait until he goes to that great Marvel Bullpen in the sky. It may seem ghoulish to you that I wait until someone dies to write about them, but there's a reason for that. There's just too many famous living people out there. If I write about every famous living person who interests me--and they all pretty much interest me, even the ones who don't interest me interest me because, as some wag once put it, they're the exception--I'd be writing about them all the time, and it would crowd out all the other things that interest me. And so I usually, though not always, wait until they drop off. Death has a great way of pacing things, something I'm sure God figured out a long time ago.

      However, I don't mind talking about Stan Lee here in the comment section. I think he was, and is, a good writer and editor who CO-created a lot of great characters such as Spider-Man, The Fantastic Four, the Hulk, etc. He also came up with the so-called Marvel Method (the artist draws the story first, the writer adding the dialogue later) which revolutionized comic books. It's also caused some headaches for Lee as Jack Kirby and other artists have accused him of stealing their ideas over the years.

      Lee certainly influenced comic books, but did he influence modern culture as a whole? Do you say that, Mike, because there's a lot a superhero movies being made these days? In that case, give some credit to Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, who basically came up with the concept. And then DC editor Julius Schwartz, who brought about the "Silver Age" of comics in the 1950s, when he brought back such characters as the Flash and the Green Lantern. And finally, give some credit to George Lucas. No, STAR WARS wasn't a superhero movie per se, but Lucas certainly proved a film operating on the level of a comic book could make a ton of money.

      Your thoughts about any of this, Mike?

  3. Not much of a TV watcher during the 70's and 80's but after I looked up Brett Somers online, I did recognize her but did not realize she was married to Jack Klugman. I also remember Charles Nelson Reilly on that and other game shows of the time.
    This is my second reply today as I accidentally closed the tab before publishing but I will try to recreate my thoughts though without the spontaneity of the original.
    You seem a bit offended, As if perhaps I'm giving Stan Lee too much credit. I have been a fan of Stan for over fifty years and was just curious what you thought of him. Ghoulish? No. I see your essays on the dearly departed as a tribute to those people and I cannot fault your reasoning in choosing to write about them. They interest you. You have something to say. I usually learn something, and your interests, interest me.
    Perhaps I was thinking of the recent movies when I made that comment and you are certainly correct about the contributions you mention. However, rightly or wrongly, today Stan Lee is the face of the superhero genre of comics and movies. In my life DC comics took a back seat to Marvel about the time I hit puberty. Marvel was writing characters that expressed some the angst I was experiencing. I identified more with Peter Parker, Matt Murdoch, Reed Richards and Susan Storm than I did with Clark Kent or Bruce Wayne, Jimmy Olsen or Lois Lane.
    Stan was omnipresent as "co-creator", and editor in the very early early days and as the voice of Marvel in the fan letter pages and the Bullpen Bulletin. Maybe just due to longevity he still has that role in the recent Marvel films and the fan conventions. Though of course it is a diminished role.

    Interesting tidbit From Wookiepedia:
    "The Marvel Star Wars series of comic books was the first ever comic series created for the saga. It spanned 107 issues, with three special Annual issues. The series was relatively long-running, lasting from 1977 to 1986. It was published by Marvel Comics. The series was such a smash hit for Marvel in an otherwise dismal sales year that many who worked at Marvel in 1977 consider it to have singlehandedly saved them from financial ruin"
    So I have George Lucas to thank for saving Stan Lee and Marvel.

  4. Well, Mike, if you'll recall, you left a second comment, one that you soon rescinded, in which you wrote something like, "That's all right, wait until Stan Lee dies to write about him." You didn't rescind it in time, however, as I happened to read it. That I might not write about Stan Lee while he was still alive did seem to weigh heavily on your mind.

    Had you just asked me, "What are your thoughts on Stan Lee?" I might have answered differently, but you added, "who so influenced modern culture?" That, my friend, is known as a "leading question." Really, you seemed to want my praise of, rather than my thoughts about, Stan Lee. I actually DID end up praising Stan Lee. I mean, I said he was a good writer. That's hardly what I would call an insult. But I can't tell you everything you want to hear about him (especially as the post was originally about Jack Klugman, anyway) I answered as honestly as I could. Lee influenced comic books, but comic books is not the culture as a whole.

    I read both DC and Marvel growing up. From maybe the 8th grade on, I preferred Marvel, which seemed more grownup. Before that, I preferred DC comics, which, in the early '70s, were much more kid friendly. "Kid friendly" may seem like an insult, but I was, in fact, a kid. DC comics also had the virture of a having stories that began and ended in a single issue, rather than the months-long sagas that were played out in Marvel comics. Since I didn't have all that much spending money as a kid, and didn't want to track down whatever issue "To Be Continued" lead to (this was before the advent of comic stores) that was appealing, too. Marvel was more interesting as I got older, for some of the reasons you stated. Then the day came at long last that I no longer felt like reading either DC or Marvel (except perhaps to check out the artwork, which these days seem a little too manga for my tastes) As popular as Superheroes may be these days, for me personally, the concept has pretty much played itself out. I really don't think there's much more you can do with them.

    Whether I was offended or not, Mike, feel free to comment anytime.

  5. OK, I will. I find as I get older now and am feeling a bit powerless in my own life I have a renewed interest in the superheroes. The psychology of this interests me but I see no reason to burden you with it. I'm looking forward to your next post.

    1. You may find my next post more to your liking.

      Or disliking. We'll see.