Jack Klugman Biography

Jack Klugman, born Jacob Joachim Klugman, was a renowned American actor known for his work in film, television, and stage. He gained fame for his role in the Broadway play ‘The Odd Couple’ and its television adaptation. Klugman was a three-time Emmy Award winner for his performances in ‘The Defenders’ and ‘The Odd Couple’, and he also received a Tony Award nomination for the musical ‘Gypsy’. Beginning his career in the early 1950s, he quickly made a name for himself on both Broadway and television. He appeared in notable films such as ‘Grubstake’, ‘Time Table’, and ‘Cry Terror!’. Klugman’s most iconic role came in the form of the title character in the TV series ‘Quincy, M.E.’, which earned him four Primetime Emmy Award nominations. Despite battling throat and prostate cancer, Klugman continued to act, showcasing his determination and passion for his craft. He left behind a lasting legacy in the entertainment industry when he passed away in 2012.

Quick Facts

  • Died At Age: 90
  • Family: Spouse/Ex-: Brett Somers (m. 1953–2007), Peggy Crosby (m. 2008–2012)
  • Jewish Actors
  • Height: 5’9″ (175 cm), 5’9″ Males
  • Died on: December 24, 2012
  • Place of death: Los Angeles, California, United States
  • U.S. State: Pennsylvania
  • Ancestry: Russian American
  • Cause of Death: Prostate Cancer
  • City: Philadelphia
  • Education: Carnegie Mellon University

Childhood & Early Life

Jack Klugman was born on April 27, 1922 in a poor neighborhood of Philadelphia to Russian Jewish parents—hat maker Rose and house painter Max. He had five siblings. He had a tough childhood as his father died young and his mother had to take care of her six children alone. Jack also had to work as a street peddler to support his family. He served in the United States Army during World War II. He graduated in 1948 from the Carnegie Institute of Technology (now known as the Carnegie Mellon University) where he studied drama.


Starting his acting career in 1949, Jack Klugman made his stage debut in the play ‘Stevedore’ at the Equity Liberty theatre in New York. He soon moved into television and films as well. In 1950, he was offered a minor role in the play ‘Mr. Roberts’ at Boston’s Colonial Theatre. In the same year, he made his television debut in ‘Actors Studio’. In 1952, he made his Broadway debut in Clifford Odets’ ‘Golden Boy’ with Lee J Cobb and John Garfield. Two years later, he was featured in the soap opera, ‘The Greatest Gift’, followed by a role in ‘Producers’ Showcase’, an anthology television series in 1955. In 1957, he found a role in Sidney Lumet’s classic film, ‘12 Angry Men’, a courtroom drama film based on a teleplay of the same name by Reginald Rose.

In 1959, he was finally noticed for his acting talents when he performed in the Broadway production, ‘Gypsy: A Musical Fable’, followed by his appearance in four episodes of ‘The Twilight Zone’ series. In 1962, he appeared in the Broadway production, ‘Tchin-Tchin’, for a year. From 1960 to 1963, he was featured in two episodes of ‘The Untouchables’ series—‘Loophole’ and ‘An Eye for an Eye’. In 1964, he starred in the sitcom ‘Harris Against the World’. However, it was canceled due to low ratings after a year.

Jack Klugman received a big breakthrough in 1965 when he was offered the lead role of Oscar Madison in the Broadway production of ‘The Odd Couple’. He also bagged the recurring role in the television series of the same name, which premiered on ABC in 1970. He continued in the series for five years. In 1973, Klugman and his co-star Randall recorded an album, ‘The Odd Couple Sings’ for London Records. His success continued even after ‘The Odd Couple’ ended and he starred in the popular television series ‘Quincy, M.E.’ in 1976. He played Dr. Quincy, a forensic pathologist who solved crimes. The series was aired for eight seasons till 1983.

He returned to Broadway in Herb Gardner’s ‘I’m Not Rappaport’, which originally ran from 1985 till 1988. In 1986, he was cast in the sitcom ‘You Again’, which was aired on NBC for two seasons. In 1989, he bagged a role in the television miniseries ‘Around the World in 80 Days’. In the late 1980s, when he was diagnosed with throat cancer for the second time (he was diagnosed for the first time in 1974), his career suffered for a few years. He returned to acting in 1993 and started with a Broadway production, ‘Three Men on a Horse’. That year, he also did the television film ‘The Odd Couple: Together Again’. In 1994, he appeared in the television film ‘Parallel Lives’. Two years later, he appeared in the movie ‘The Twilight of the Golds’ and in Garry Marshall’s comedy film ‘Dear God’. In 1997, he was featured in Neil Simon’s play ‘Sunshine Boys’, and was also seen in some minor roles in television series like ‘Diagnosis: Murder’ and ‘The Outer Limits’.

In his later years, he started writing a book about his friendship with his co-star Tony Randall, titled ‘Tony and Me: A Story of Friendship’, which was published in 2005. He wrote about different aspects of their friendship, which spanned five decades. In the same year, he starred in the comedy film ‘When Do We Eat?’. In 2010, he did his last on-screen role in the horror film ‘Camera Obscura.’ His last stage role was in ‘Twelve Angry Men’ which opened on March 13, 2012 at the George Street Playhouse.

Major Works

In 1959, Jack Klugman’s role in the Broadway play ‘Gypsy: A Musical Fable’, was critically acclaimed. It earned him a nomination for a Tony Award for Best Featured Actor (Musical) in 1960. In 1964, his performance in ‘The Defenders’ was highly praised. He was much appreciated for his performance in ‘The Odd Couple’, both in the Broadway production as well as the TV series. This role earned him several awards and nominations.

Awards & Achievements

In 1964, Jack Klugman won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Single Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role for ‘The Defenders.’ In 1971, he won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Continued Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Comedy Series for ‘The Odd Couple.’ In 1973, he won the Primetime Emmy Award once again for ‘The Odd Couple.’ He won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor for Television Series Musical or Comedy for ‘The Odd Couple’ in 1974. In 2004, the same series earned him the TV Land Award for Quintessential Non-Traditional Family. This award was shared with Tony Randall.

Personal Life

In 1953, Jack Klugman married actress Brett Somers. The couple had two children—Adam and David. They separated later on. Although it is said that they remained married till Somers’ death in 2007, records point out that the couple divorced in August 1977. In 1988, Klugman started living with Peggy Crosby and married her in February 2008. He was then 85. Klugman was fascinated with horseracing and owned a thoroughbred racehorse, who he named Jaklin Klugman. In 1980, the horse finished third in the Kentucky Derby. He was diagnosed with throat cancer in 1974. In 1988, he underwent a surgery in which a part of his vocal cord was removed. As a result, he could not speak for a while. Later on, he regained limited strength in his voice. He died from prostate cancer on December 24, 2012, at the age of 90.

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