Jack Klugman Turns 90, Reflects on Life and Legendary Stage, Film and TV Career (Video)

The legendary actor Jack Klugman turned 90 on April 27, and I had the opportunity to meet with him at his home in Woodland Hills, California, a week later. As you can see and hear in the video at the top of this post, Klugman is now somewhat frail and has a hard time speaking as a result of throat cancer that forced the removal of one of his vocal cords in 1989, but he is generally in good spirits and seemed to enjoy reminiscing about his unlikely journey from the streets of Philadelphia to the heights of Hollywood.

Klugman, who was born Jacob Joachim Klugman in 1922, started on the stage professionally in a Clifford Odets-directed Broadway revival of Odets' play Golden Boy in 1952, then broke into film as Juror #5 in Sidney Lumet's classic 12 Angry Men in 1957, and then transitioned to the new medium of television -- first in hundreds of appearances on live television anthology series like Playhouse 90, The U.S. Steel Hour, Studio One, and Kraft Television Theatre throughout the 1950s; then in social-commentary series like The Twilight Zone (he and Burgess Meredith share the record for most episodes with four) and The Defenders (he won an Emmy for his work on the celebrated "Blacklist" episode) during the 1960s; and finally on the sitcom The Odd Couple (as sloppy Oscar Madison opposite Tony Randall's neat-freak Felix Unger) from 1970 to 1975 and the forensic-drama Quincy, M.E. (as a medical examiner on a show that paved the way for CSI and its many iterations) from 1976 to 1983.

Now, Klugman is the last surviving member of the jury from 12 Angry Men, the last surviving half of The Odd Couple, and one of the last survivors -- period -- of a generation of actors who paved the way for everyone who has followed. Today, he says, he is content to rest on his laurels, enjoys watching old movies and TV, and, most of all, relishes time spent in the company of his loving and attentive wife, Peggy Crosby, with whom he has lived since 1988, and who he married in 2008.

It has been 37 years since Klugman last appeared on The Odd Couple, the production with which he is probably most closely associated, but, to this day, his name remains almost as synonymous with the name "Oscar" as the Academy Awards... which is why you can probably understand why I was somewhat startled to read, as I walked out of his home following our time together, the name on the repair truck that happened to have pulled over right in front of it.

God bless you, Jack Klugman, and thanks for the memories of the last seven decades -- and one very special afternoon.