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December 26, 2012

Jack Klugman, 'Odd Couple' star, dead at 90

Jack Klugman, an Emmy Award-winning actor who excelled in disarming everyman roles, notably in the sitcom "The Odd Couple" as a slovenly sportswriter and in the police drama "Quincy, M.E." as a principled medical examiner, died Monday in Los Angeles. He was 90.

His son, Adam Klugman, confirmed the death to the Associated Press. The cause was not immediately determined.

Mr. Klugman became a household name with his comic role in "The Odd Couple," for which he received two Emmys during the show's run on ABC from 1970 to 1975.

The series was adapted from a 1965 Neil Simon comedy about mismatched New York oddballs: a compulsively tidy photographer named Felix Unger who rooms with his best friend and fellow divorced man, an unkempt sportswriter named Oscar Madison. The play was a Broadway hit with Art Carney as Felix and Walter Matthau as Oscar. Matthau and Jack Lemmon co-starred in a 1968 film version.

Mr. Klugman stepped in as a replacement for Matthau on Broadway soon after the play opened. He was signed to play the role of Oscar in the television series, with Tony Randall cast as Felix.

The show was taped before a live audience, and the use of a laugh track was forbidden. If the crowd didn't react to the jokes, the actors would ad-lib scenes until they found something the audience liked. When the show was edited, only the funniest takes were used.

Mr. Klugman won the first of his three Emmy Awards in 1964 for "The Defenders," a courtroom drama. He played an actor whose old membership in a Communist-front organization had ugly repercussions during the Hollywood blacklist of the 1950s.

Before turning to television, Mr. Klugman was an established character actor in films, with roles in Sidney Lumet's courtroom drama "12 Angry Men" (1957) and Blake Edwards's "Days of Wine and Roses" (1962), in which he played an alcoholic. He also appeared in "Goodbye, Columbus" (1969) as the father of a spoiled young woman played by Ali MacGraw.

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