Jack Klugman died on Serling Day Eve

In 1989, Jack Klugman underwent surgery again to remove the cancer, but this time his right vocal cord had to be removed as well. The surgery left him without the ability to speak…

My fondness for actor Jack Klugman, who died on Serling Day Eve, was quite great. He appeared in four different episodes of the classic television show The Twilight Zone, which I own on DVD. Watch a couple of minutes of In Praise of Pip.

I also possess, on DVD, the classic 1957 murder trial film 12 Angry Men, with a cast that was, or would become, name actors. Klugman was juror #5, the soft-spoken young man, who provides pivotal insight. Watch a brief clip.

Much later, using his fame as Quincy, the fictional medical examiner, the actor had a positive impact on the US legislative process dealing with so-called orphan diseases.

Of course, he was best known as Oscar Madison, the slob sportswriter half of TV’s underrated comedy, The Odd Couple, with Tony Randall as the fastidious photographer Felix Unger. The senior writer of the (Albany, NY) Times Union, Mark McGuire, has been both an entertainment writer and a sportswriter for the newspaper. One of his favorite segments involves them on the game show Password [watch].

McGuire wrote on his Facebook page: “… one of my favorite memories of being a TV columnist was having breakfast with Jack Klugman and Tony Randall at The Plaza maybe a dozen years ago. I later talked to Jack several times over the years, including the day Tony died. A few years ago I introduced Jack to the concept of ‘Odd Couple Day’… which he loved.” From the intro of the show: “On Nov. 13, Felix Unger was asked to remove himself from his place of residence. That request came from his wife. …” That intro came from ABC censors, as McGuire explained, “lest anyone thought they were gay.”

From the Oral Cancer Foundation website: “He was diagnosed with cancer of the larynx in 1974. With surgery and some treatment, he was able to continue acting without much interruption. But Klugman did not stop smoking, and as in many cases of continued tobacco use after treatment, the cancer came back. In 1989, he underwent surgery again to remove the cancer, but this time his right vocal cord had to be removed as well. The surgery left him without the ability to speak… His friends and loved ones helped him through the agonizing pain of the chemotherapy and surgery as well as the rehabilitation to recover his voice. After being silent for years, Klugman is now able to speak in a small raspy voice. He recently received the American Speech and Hearing Association’s International Media Award for his battle to regain his speech.”

It’s little wonder that there was, for about three years, a Church of Klugman.
Charles Durning, nominated twice for an Oscar nominee, dubbed the king of the character actors, was a war hero (Normandy, Battle of the Bulge) who didn’t even become an actor until he was 40. I saw him most regularly on the television program Evening Shade with Burt Reynolds, but he appeared in dozens of TV shows, often, but not always, as the heavy. I saw him in, among other movies, The Sting, Starting Over, and Tootsie. Never saw this scene from the Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, though. Charles Durning died at 89 on Christmas Eve.

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