Monday, December 24, 2012

The Last Angry Man

The final surviving jury member from Sidney Lumet's 1957 film Twelve Angry Men, Jack Klugman has died at the age of 90. That statistic testifies to extraordinary endurance. Klugman had struggled with cancer since the 1970s and had to lose a vocal cord in 1989, only to return to acting a few years later. While he shuttled between Hollywood and Broadway during the 1950s and early 1960s, he is best known, of course, for his two long-running TV series, The Odd Couple (recreating a role he had understudied for with Walter Matthau in the original stage production) and Quincy M.E. The latter alone might have earned Klugman my headline, since Quincy was one of those shows used as a soapbox by its star to rant about social issues. It grew monotonous if you watched regularly but Klugman was good enough hour to hour to keep our household watching loyally. He was typical of a golden-age generation of character actors who keep dramatic television from the Fifties through the Seventies watchable today.  He was a welcome sight in movies as well, in films like the thriller Cry Terror! and the alcoholism drama Days of Wine and Roses. But his first noteworthy movie role, in the Lumet film, will remain his his foothold on movie history, one small chapter of which closes with his passing.

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