Two Acting Legends Pass on Christmas Eve
The entertainment world suffered a very cruel one two punch on Christmas Eve with the passing of two amazing actors. First word came out about the passing of Jack Klugman. While many remember him for his role on the TV series, “The Odd Couple,” many of us better remember him in the starring role of “Quincy, M.E.” In that show, he played a courageous medical examiner who bucked the system, his boss, or whoever he needed to solve a case.
Quincy was a distinctly different character for the world of television. There had been some shots of morgues in passing, with the medical examiner being interviewed away from it in neutral ground. Quincy broke the mold, taking viewers into the world of forensic medicine, and how it functioned. It was not only entertaining, but it started to raise the curiosity of viewers about this area of police work. Because of this interest, more of these kinds of shows and characters in police shows started to do the same. There would have never been a Bones, Ducky, or other similar characters if Jack Klugman had not led the way as Quincy.
The show also had an impact on our world. Because of the episode involving a person who needed what is called an orphan drug (one that helps people, but does not make a profit for the company), Klugman was invited to testify before a Congressional committee about the matter. His efforts resulted in Congress passing what is called the Orphan Drug Act, which offers incentives to drug companies to make those drugs.
His page on IMDB.com reads like a cross section of movie and television genre. Drama, comedy, science-fiction – he had done it all. One of my favorite episodes of “The Twilight Zone featured Klugman and Jonathan Winters. Klugman portrayed a pool player who wanted to face the very best player ever to show he was truly the best. One night, that person appeared in the pool hall, and after a very long match, lost to Klugman’s character. But the last laugh was on Klugman as when he beat Winter’s character, he learned that the man had been dead for sometime and it was his ghost he was playing. Klugman must now replace that man and do as he was, playing anyone any time till someone beat him legitimately which would allow him to cross over to the other side.
The other legend who left us Christmas Eve was the man who many regard as the king of character actors, Charles Durning. He was an actor who had literally done it all, ranging from playing a bumbling Nazi officer in a Mel Brooks movie, to playing Pope John XXIII. His IMDB page is a long as Klugman’s and just as diverse. You name the genre, he had performed in it. In 2008, for his lifetime of work, he received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and the Screen Actors Guild presented him with its Lifetime Achievement Award.
However, Durning was not just an actor, but a genuine American hero. Durning served in World War II, being in the first wave of troops that landed on Normandy beach on D-Day, and was the only member of his unit to survive. He was attacked by a German soldier, who bayoneted his leg, but Durning managed to kill the German with a rock. He also fought in the Battle of the Bulge, was captured and even survived a prisoner massacre. For his service, he was decorated with the Silver Star, and three Purple Hearts. Because of his service, Durning will be buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
SoEntertain.Me sends out our thoughts and prayers to the families and friends of these two gentleman.