Thursday, September 29, 2011

I Heart Jack Klugman ~ The Detective (1968)

Jack Klugman has a minor role a good Jewish cop in the non-Tony Rome/Frank Sinatra film The Detective (1968). He plays Officer Dave Schoenstein, whom besides Sinatra's Detective Joe Leland, is probably the most decent cop among the bunch. And he's the one cop that comes through for Sinatra in the end. Klugman's Dave also represents the viewer. We (Klugman and the audience) need to be convinced by Sinatra's Leland about his discoveries.

The Detective is not a film that holds up well today. I think the main attraction for folks is Frank Sinatra in a Tony Rome-esque role and possibly Lee Remick, Robert Duvall and a very young Jacqueline Bisset. If you love Jack Klugman as much as I do, this is a must see.  While the film was very likely avant garde for its time, looking back at it with contemporary eyes it seems homophobic. Sinatra stars as Joe Leland, a cop in a complicated marriage with sociology student Lee Remick. He's put on the case of a gay man who has been brutally murdered. The crime is of a sexual nature so the police are looking for the man's gay roommate and perhaps any other gay man in New York City with any connection to him. They convict and execute the gay man's gay roommate but Sinatra, after the execution, feels like they got the wrong guy. Even though the guy confessed and Sinatra was the one to arrest him and so on and so forth. So the guy confessed to a murder he didn't commit so he could be killed to end his life being a drug-addicted gay man?! As Klugman's character in the film would say, "Oy Vey!". There is some serious over acting on the part of Ralph Meeker who plays the gay roommate. Sinatra goes looking for the real killer even though the corrupt police force he works for is opposed to it. Sinatra and Klugman are sympathetic characers and Robert Duvall is a sad pitiful homophobe. If you like watching Lee Remick play another character on a downward spiral, watch this!

Funny coincidence but the gay roommate's character is named Felix. Felix. Hmmm.. that sounds familiar. Oh yeah! Oscar (Jack Klugman) and Felix (Tony Randall) are roommates in The Odd Couple. Klugman, Randall and Garry Marshall (producer) were always trying to avoid the two main characters being seen as potentially gay roommates.

Here are some screencaps of scenes from the film with Jack Klugman in it. You'll notice he's almost always in the background. I love the shots of him at the gym with all the bodybuilders! In his suit, coat and fedora he looks so out of place.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

I Heart Jack Klugman: Days of Wine and Roses (1962)

Day of Wine and Roses (1962) was directed by Blake Edwards and stars Jack Lemmon and Lee Remick. Lemmon plays Joe Clay, a public relations man whose job is to make rich clients happy. Even if that means providing them with lots of liquor and hot girls. He meets Kirsten Arnesen (Remick), the secretary of one of his boozing and womanizing clients. Kirsten is a girl from the country determined to make a life for herself in the big city, in this case San Francisco. Joe is absolutely smitten with Kirsten and they go on a date. Joe introduces Kirsten, whose only vice is a penchant for chocolate, to the wonders of alcohol. They marry, have a child and go on a wild alcoholic bender that last for years and gets worse and worse as time passes on. Can they make the marriage work? Can they raise their daughter? Can they pull themselves out of their alcoholic haze and stay sober for good?

Jack Klugman has a small role as Jim Hungerford, the leader of a local AA (Alcoholics Anonymous). Jim (Klugman) reaches out to Joe (Lemmon) at the rehab center that Joe has been placed in after a major binge drinking freak out. For any of you familiar with Jack Klugman as Oscar from The Odd Couple TV series, seeing Jack has a buttoned-up sober gentleman might throw you off. Klugman's character is the only person who shows real empathy for Joe. Jim is the beacon of hope of the story. He's the person whom Joe looks up to as a role model. He's the voice of reason and the speaker of hard truths. Jim is the epitome of stability as well as an example of how someone can lead a sober life for 14 years after being an alcoholic for 12. I always think opposites work very well in stories and in this case Joe and Jim are opposites because Joe represents before and Jim represents after. Through Jim (Klugman) we see what Joe (Lemmon) could become. If only he could stick to AA long enough for it to happen. While I didn't get to see much of Klugman in this film, what I did see I enjoyed very much. And boy, did he look good all cleaned up in a nice suit.

The irony of the AA scenes in the film is that the alcoholics are also big smokers, including Klugman and Lemmon's characters. 

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!

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