Obituaries

Broadway Dims Its Lights in Memory of Charles Durning, Jack Klugman

In addition to their celebrated film and television careers, both actors, who died on Christmas Eve, were beloved veterans of the New York stage, with credits that included the original productions of "That Championship Season" and "Gypsy."
Charles Durning and Jack Klugman
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NEW YORK -- Broadway will dim its lights at 8 p.m. EST on Thursday and Friday evenings, respectively, for beloved industry figures Charles Durning and Jack Klugman, both of whom died Monday.

Durning won a Tony Award for best featured actor in a play for his role as the irascible Mississippi Delta plantation owner Big Daddy Pollitt in a 1990 revival of Tennessee Williams' Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, which starred Kathleen Turner

The actor's extensive Broadway credits stretch back to 1964, and also include the long-running 1972 premiere of Jason Miller's Pulitzer- and Tony-winning ensemble drama, That Championship Season, about the sour 20th-anniversary victory reunion of a high school basketball team. He appeared in David Rabe's In the Boom Boom Room in 1973, and opposite Julie Harris in Hugh Leonard's two-hander The Au Pair Man that same year.

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Durning starred with George C. Scott in a 1996 revival of Inherit the Wind, and reteamed with Harris in 1997 in a production of The Gin Game, directed by Charles Nelson Reilly. His final Broadway appearance was in the 2000 revival of Gore Vidal's political satire The Best Man, with Spalding Gray and Chris Noth.

"It made no difference if he was an ensemble player or leading man, his talent enabled him to show the truth and reveal the story of any role," commented Charlotte St. Martin, executive director of the Broadway League. "He will be greatly missed.”

Starting in the early '60s, Off Broadway was also a frequent home to Durning, most recently in the late Wendy Wasserstein's final play, Third, in 2005. He gave an affecting performance as the elderly father of a New England liberal arts academic, slipping sorrowfully into dementia.

Klugman will forever be associated with the role of slobby Oscar Madison in The Odd Couple, which he played for five years in the popular ABC comedy series based on the hit Neil Simon play. He originally stepped into that part as a replacement for Walter Matthau during the comedy's two-year Broadway run.

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The actor's history on the Great White Way dates back even further than Durning's, beginning with a 1952 revival of Clifford Odets' Golden Boy, alongside John Garfield and Lee J. Cobb.

Klugman received a Tony nomination in 1960 for best featured actor in a musical for his role in the original production of Gypsy as Herbie, the long-suffering companion to Ethel Merman's iron-willed stage mother, Rose. His other Broadway appearances included I'm Not Rappaport in 1985 and Three Men on a Horse in 1993.

"In his many stage performances, as well as on film and TV, we all felt like we knew him personally," said St. Martin of Klugman. "He had that kind of approachability. As with all fine actors, he made the work look effortless."

For his final Broadway appearance, Klugman was reunited with playwright Simon in a 1997 revival of The Sunshine Boys, co-starring with his longtime Odd Couple sparring partner Tony Randall as a pair of ill-tempered old vaudevillians.