R.I.P. Jack Klugman (Oscar as Scrooge)

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Jack Klugman (born 1922) died yesterday. He was unique in being one of two Method actors I associate primarily with comedy (Gene Wilder is the other. I might have included Mike Nichols as well, but he stopped acting in about 1961!).

My association of Klugman with comedy though is mostly a product of timing. People a little older than me watched him for over a decade in live dramas during TV’s golden age, and people a little bit younger than me think of him primarily as the hypertense, inappropriately sleuthing/ crusading coroner Quincy, M.E. (1976-1983).

Coincidentally, Klugman worked a lot with Rod Serling (whose birthday it is and whom we just wrote about here) a lot during the 1950s and early 60s. He recounts the experience here (cut his voice some slack; he was operated in for throat cancer in 1989:

And of course, I connect Klugman with comedy because of his stint as Oscar Madison on The Odd Couple (1970-1975), on which he was hilarious. It’s hard to make anger funny, but Klugman always managed to do it, usually by letting us see the character’s heart emerge a few seconds after every outburst. In honor of the season, here he is (as Oscar/Scrooge) with co-star Tony Randall in the inevitable “Christmas Carol” episode of The Odd Couple. Merry Christmas!

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