Tuesday, September 27, 2011

I Heart Jack Klugman ~ 12 Angry Men (1957)

12 Angry Men (1957) is a very ambiguous film and it's open to many interpretations. On one hot summer day in the 1950s, 12 jurors meet in a room to come to a verdict in a murder trial. Everything seems to be going against the teenage boy whose father was stabbed to death with a knife. The evidence is damning and it doesn't help that he's a poor kid from the slums. All of the jurors think the kid's guilty, except for one: Henry Fonda's character Juror #8. They sit in the hot room arguing about the evidence, witness testimony and circumstances. It gets very heated in more ways than one. The final verdict is reached after what seems like a very long time. Was it justice? Was it the result of the frustrations of being in a very hot room for way too long? Was it manipulation? Who knows? And that's the thing. No one ever really knows the truth in circumstances such as these. You just try your very best.

Jack Klugman plays juror #5. He is the third person to change his mind about the verdict. A very shy young man who at first is too nervous to participate but gets worked up when he sees that the other jurors are condemning the teenager because he was raised in a slum. This is when  Juror #5 stands up for himself. He was raised in a slum too. In his first act of bravado he proclaims, "I've lived in a slum all my life. Please! I've played in a backyard filled with garbage. Perhaps you can still smell it on me?" While he doesn't stand out in the pack of 12 like Lee J. Cobb and Henry Fonda do, it is very interesting to watch his transformation from quiet wallflower to active participant. All of these men are very different from each other. They have different temperaments, backgrounds, careers, educations, statues and are all different ages. What's great about this film is to watch how all these different men come together to argue and reason their way to a final verdict.

Next time you watch 12 Angry Men, take a close look at juror #5. Watch how he transforms throughout the film. By the way, Jack Klugman is the last surviving of all the actors in 12 Angry Men. Wouldn't it be grand to sit and listen to his stories about the filming of the movie? One can only dream!

You tell 'em Jack!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Tony and Me: A Story of Friendship by Jack Klugman

Tony and Me: A Story of Friendship
by Jack Klugman and Burton Rocks
Foreward by Garry Marshall

Good Hill Press
Out of Print but available to purchase online
Comes with DVD of outtakes of The Odd Couple TV Show

When I was watching the extras of The Odd Couple Season 1, I stumbled across a video of a much older Jack Klugman in 2005 talking to an audience at a bookstore about his book Tony and Me: A Story of Friendship. His voice, always having been very gravelly, was much worse after he had had a major operation on his vocal chords to get rid of invasive cancer. He beat the cancer but lost most of his right vocal chord to the disease. His love for acting, vocal training and the support from his good friend Tony Randall kept him going. When Randall died in 2004, Klugman was devastated. Writing about his friendship with Tony Randall and their parallel careers in show business, helped him deal with the grief.

It was a surprise to me that Klugman had written a book so the first thing I did after watching that video clip was to purchase the book online. Klugman self-published the book so he could get the most proceeds out of the sales (the money went to support Randall's life work: The National Actors Theatre). A lot of promotion was done for the book but as many self-published books and biographical books in general do, it went out of print fairly quickly. However, there are many new and used copies online and I was lucky to get a new copy that was flat signed (that is it was not inscribed; just a signature and not dedicated to any person in particular). If you love Jack Klugman or Tony Randall or you love to collect books about actors make sure you pick a copy up now before they are all gone!

The book started as a bet between Jack Klugman and his son Adam Klugman. Jack said he wanted to write a book about his friendship with Tony Randall. Adam told his Dad, in so many words, "if you write it, I'll publish it". Jack got Burton Rocks, a sports agent and writer, to help him write the book.

Tony and Me follows the parallel lives and acting careers of Jack Klugman and Tony Randall. Klugman was a poor Jewish kid from Philadelphia who idolized Jackie Cooper in The Champ and ran away from Philadelphia to become an actor so he could pay off a gambling debt. Tony Randall was a middle-class Jewish kid from Tulsa, Oklahoma who dreamed of being on stage. The two would have successful acting careers in film, TV and stage before they came together in The Odd Couple TV show, their most famous work together.

In the book, Jack Klugman opens up about how he and Randall weren't best of buds at the start but were two working actors who highly respected each others' talent, worked well together and had a knack for comedy and improvisation. Klugman had a difficult time opening up to people and letting them in. The real change came after Klugman lost his right vocal chord to cancer and Randall encouraged him to act again. After that, Klugman and Randall were as thick as thieves. They were close friends who supported each others hopes and dreams on stage and off. Tony and Me is not only a story of friendship, it's a love story too. Jack Klugman writes a heartfelt homage to the friendship he had with Tony and paints a portrait of him as a fine actor and a good human being. You'll be reaching for a box of tissues at the end.

I highly recommend reading this book. At 141 pages, you can read it in an afternoon. It comes with a DVD of outtakes from The Odd Couple. It has an introduction by Jack Klugman himself. It's a real treat for fans of The Odd Couple as well as of Klugman.

There was a website called TonyandMe.com that helped promote the book. It's no longer live but thanks to Internet Archive you can take a look at it through the lens of the past. Tony and Me Website
Jack Klugman also wrote a short-lived blog back in 2005 which is still up called Klugman's Korner.

(Jack Klugman signing books. Is he signing mine?! - photo from Klugman's Korner)

Sunday, September 25, 2011

I Heart Jack Klugman Week

I am in the throws of a heartfelt crush with Jack Klugman. My what a fine actor. What a great smile. What a lifespan! Jack Klugman is still with us at the ripe age of 89. And he has worked with everyone from Henry Fonda to Frank Sinatra to to Jack Lemmon to his dear old friend Tony Randall. I admire Klugman for many reasons. One of them being the fact that he always stands up for himself. If he didn't like how things were going, he'd always try to change them. He'd even boycott episodes of his own TV show just to protest what he didn't think was right. He isn't just an actor in the regular sense of the word. He is talented in writing, improvising and directing. Klugman got into acting when he got in trouble for some gambling debts. For fear of being severely punished, he left Philadelphia and moved to New York City. He learned the trade and started acting in theater, in movies and on TV. He's best known for his work on the popular 70s TV shows The Odd Couple and Quincy M.E. He was also in films such as Days of Wine and Roses (1962), 12 Angry Men (1957) and The Detective (1968). He became really close friends with Tony Randall and they stayed friends until Randall passed away in 2004. Klugman survived really aggressive throat cancer from years of smoking cigarettes and cigars. He lost most of his vocal chords and learned how to talk using with what little was left of them. Klugman is a great sports enthusiasts and has an affinity for horse racing and baseball.

Why do I heart Jack Klugman so much? Maybe it's his smile. His charm. His scratchy voice. I am always so excited when I get to watch Klugman on screen in a episode or move I have never seen. I'm devoting a week to Klugman. It's all Klugman all the time. What a great week it will be!

Popular Posts

 Twitter   Instagram   Facebook