LOS ANGELES - Jack Klugman, 90, the prolific, craggy-faced character actor and South Philadelphia native who was loved by millions as the messy one in TV's The Odd Couple and the crime-fighting coroner in Quincy, M.E., died Monday, his family said.
Mr. Klugman, who lost his voice to throat cancer in the 1980s but trained himself to speak again, died with his wife at his side.
"He had a great life and he enjoyed every moment of it, and he would encourage others to do the same," son Adam said.
Adam Klugman said he was spending Christmas with his brother, David, and their families. Their father had been convalescing for some time but apparently died suddenly, and they were not sure of the exact cause.
"His sons loved him very much," David Klugman said. "We'll carry on in his spirit."
Never anyone's idea of a matinee idol, Mr. Klugman remained a star for decades by playing the type of man you could imagine running into at a bar or riding the subway with - gruff but down to earth, his tie stained and a little loose, a Daily Racing Form under his arm, a cigar in hand back when smoking was permitted pretty much everywhere.
He was a city actor ideal for The Odd Couple, which ran from 1970 to 1975 and was based on Neil Simon's play about divorced New York men who end up living together. The show teamed Mr. Klugman, as the sloppy sportswriter Oscar Madison, and Tony Randall, as the fussy photographer Felix Unger, in the roles played by Walter Matthau and Art Carney on Broadway by and Matthau and Jack Lemmon in the 1968 film. Mr. Klugman had already had a taste of the show when he replaced Matthau on Broadway, and he learned to roll with Randall, with whom he worked in 1955 on the CBS series Appointment With Adventure.
"There's nobody better to improvise with than Tony," Mr. Klugman said. "A script might say, 'Oscar teaches Felix football.' There would be four blank pages. He would provoke me into reacting to what he did. Mine was the easy part."
They were battlers on screen and the best of friends in real life. When Randall died in 2004 at 84, Mr. Klugman told CNN: "A world without Tony Randall is a world that I cannot recognize."
In Quincy, which ran from 1976 to 1983, Mr. Klugman played an idealistic but tough-minded medical examiner who tussled with his boss by uncovering evidence of murder in cases where others saw natural causes.
"We had some wonderful writers," he said in 1987. "Quincy was a muckraker, like Upton Sinclair, who wrote about injustices. He was my ideal as a youngster, my author, my hero.
"Everybody said, 'Quincy'll never be a hit.' I said, 'You guys are wrong. He's two heroes in one, a cop and a doctor.' A coroner has power. He can tell the police commissioner to investigate a murder. I saw the opportunity to do what I'd gotten into the theater to do - give a message."
The son of Russian Jewish immigrants, he began his acting career in college drama at Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh. He served in the Army during World War II and served seafood dishes as a waiter at Old Original Bookbinders in the late 1940s.
Mr. Klugman made his Broadway debut in 1952 in a revival of Golden Boy. His film credits included Sidney Lumet's 12 Angry Men and Blake Edwards' Days of Wine and Roses, and an early television highlight was appearing with Humphrey Bogart and Henry Fonda in a production of The Petrified Forest. His performance in the classic 1959 musical Gypsy brought him a Tony nomination for best featured (supporting) actor in a musical.
He also appeared in several episodes of The Twilight Zone, including a 1963 one in which he played a negligent father whose son is seriously wounded in Vietnam. His other TV shows included The Defenders and the soap opera The Greatest Gift.
Throat cancer took away his raspy voice for several years in the 1980s. When he was back on the stage for a 1993 revival of Three Men on a Horse, an Associated Press reviewer wrote, "His voice may be a little scratchy but his timing is as impeccable as ever."
"The only really stupid thing I ever did in my life was to start smoking," Mr. Klugman said in 1996. Seeing people smoking in television and films, he added, "disgusts me, it makes me so angry - kids are watching."
In his later years, he guest-starred on TV series including Third Watch and Crossing Jordan and appeared in a 2010 theatrical film, Camera Obscura.
Mr. Klugman's hobby was horse racing, and he eventually took up raising horses, too.
"I always loved to gamble," he said. "I never got close to a horse. Fate dealt me a terrible blow when it gave me a good horse the first time out. I thought, how easy this is.
"Now I love being around them."
His first wife, actress-comedian Brett Somers, played his ex-wife, Blanche, on The Odd Couple. The couple, who married in 1953 and had sons Adam and David, had been estranged for years at the time of her death in 2007.
In February 2008, at 85, Mr. Klugman married longtime girlfriend Peggy Crosby.
His attorney, Larry Larson, said via e-mail that Mr. Klugman is also survived by two grandchildren and that memorial services had not been set.