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Charles Durning and Jack Klugman

December 27, 2012

They each lived long, good lives, having accomplished so much in their careers. Yet it is truly sad to note the passing of acting giants, Jack Klugman and Charles Durning, each roughly the same age, both of whom, died on Christmas Eve.

So few of the old greats are left. The table is both symbolically, and in the case of Klugman’s “Twelve Angry Men,” literally empty. See, if one were to go “around the (jury) table,” looking for the 12 great actors in the Sidney Lumet directed, classic, “Twelve Angry Men” you find they are all dead. Klugman, whose character shed important “light” on the case with his knowledge of knives, was the last survivor.

It is quite possible that on the afternoon I saw Charles Durning in a supporting role really “support” Burt Reynolds’ character in the 1979 film, “Starting Over,” that I watched Jack Klugman with Tony Randall in the TV series “The Odd Couple” that night in a Channel 11 rerun. Days could be spent much worse than doing that. Alas they could have been better; but that has nothing to do with Durning nor Klugman, who entertained all members of society, those active and inactive, rich or poor.

A good way to pay tribute is to let your mind flow with memories of their performances. Durning as a Depression era, crooked vice squad cop getting Robert Shaw’s “Doyle Lonnegan” out of the faux “bookie joint,” enabling the celebration at the end of “The Sting,” a personal favorite and great film. Klugman helped Jack Lemmon’s alcoholic character in “Days of Wine and Roses” and it was more than TV’s “Oscar” helping the movie version’s “Felix.” It was a genuine “accounting” portraying how tough it is to deal with an addiction and how important it is to have someone, who has been through it, to care and give that most valuable commodity, time.

Born ten months apart, dying on the same day, with rich careers in both movies and on stage, Charles Durning and Jack Klugman will long be remembered. Thankfully, many of their performances were preserved to be enjoyed as we go through time.

Charles Durning

Charles Durning

Jack Klugman

Jack Klugman

The StingWine and Roses

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