And then there were none... Jack Klugman, last of the 12 Angry Men, dies aged 90


James Cusick
Tuesday 25 December 2012 21:11

The death of the American actor Jack Klugman will be mourned by TV fans of the slovenly sportswriter Oscar Madison in The Odd Couple and the forensic medic Quincy, M.E.

But his death at 90 will be noted by Hollywood historians for another reason. Klugman was the last survivor of the dozen jurors in Sidney Lumet's landmark 1957 film, 12 Angry Men.

Five years ago the Library of Congress selected the film as being culturally and significantly important in US history. The US Supreme Court Justice, Sonia Sotomayor, recently said the jury drama was crucial to her decision to follow a career in the law.

Klugman made his name on television in the early 1950s, but got his big-screen break in Lumet's film. For the 12 actors who appeared together in the one-set jury room throughout virtually all the film's 96 minutes, the drama became the defining, and in many cases the proudest, project of their careers.

Based on a teleplay by Reginald Rose, it explores the tense road towards a unanimous verdict of a jury following the murder trial of an 18-year-old Puerto Rican in New York.

The acting credits for 12 Angry Men are a Hollywood rarity. No names are used in Rose's script. The accused is simply referred to as "the boy". Klugman played juror # 5 whose backstory included a violent slum past and support for Baltimore's baseball team. He was the youngest of all the jurors.

For an American audience that had for six years endured the anti-Communist witch hunts of McCarthyism, Lumet's film would have made uncomfortable viewing. For Lee J Cobb, who played juror #3, a hot-tempered businessman who was the main antagonist for juror #8, Henry Fonda's liberal architect, the horrors brought by Senator McCarthy were real. Cobb was accused of being a Communist, and refused to give evidence to the House Un-American Activities Committee, for which he was blacklisted. But in 1953, after his wife had been institutionalised, he "named names", 20 of them. He said he'd been worn down.

Klugman went on to appear in a succession of film and TV roles throughout the 1960s before securing his starring role in The Odd Couple from 1970 to 1975, for which he was nominated for two Emmy Awards. A year later he was back on the small screen in Quincy, the series about a medical examiner in Los Angeles who used forensic science to get to the bottom of suspicious deaths. The show aired on NBC until 1983 and netted Klugman another four Emmy nominations. He described Quincy as a precursor to later crime-scene investigation shows, which he said "just took what we did and made it bloodier and sexier".

Whatever happened to the 12 angry men?

Martin Balsam Juror (foreman). Died 1996. Appeared in 'Psycho', 'Breakfast at Tiffany's' and 'All The President's Men'. Won an Oscar in 1966 for 'A Thousand Clowns'.

John Fielder Juror. Died 2005. Best known as Vinnie in film version of Neil Simon's 'The Odd Couple' (alongside Klugman). Voice of Piglet in Disney's Winnie-the-Pooh films.

Lee J. Cobb Juror. Died 1976. Nominated for an Oscar for his role opposite Marlon Brando in 'On the Waterfront'.

E G Marshall Juror. Died 1998. One of the original group of actors, alongside Marlon Brando and Montgomery Clift, to join the Actors' Studio union in 1948.

Jack Klugman Juror. Died 2012.

Edward Binns Juror. Died 1990. Played General Bedlell Smith in award-winning 1970 film 'Patton'.

Jack Warden Juror. Died 2006. Oscar nominations for 'Shampoo' and 'Heaven Can Wait'.

Henry Fonda Juror. Died 1982. Hollywood legend who won best actor Oscar for 'On Golden Pond' (1981). Also appeared in 'The Longest Day' and 'Once Upon a Time in the West'.

Joseph Sweeney Juror. Died 1963. '12 Angry Men' came at the end of a distinguished stage career in the US.

Ed Begley Juror. Died 1970. Won 1962 Oscar for 'Sweet Bird of Youth'. Appeared in 'Bonanza'.

George Voskovec Juror. Fled to the US from Prague in 1939.

Robert Webber Juror. Died 1989. Appeared with Dudley Moore in '10'.

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