Klugman loves sound of Oscar's voice

September 24, 1993|By Mark Dawidziak | Mark Dawidziak,Knight-Ridder News Service

Having beaten back the throat cancer that cost him a vocal cord, Jack Klugman is more than eager to slip into the role that fits him like a wrinkled suit -- sloppy sportswriter Oscar Madison.

"It's a miracle," Mr. Klugman said during a telephone interview. "It's truly a wonderful feeling, considering that, a few years ago, I didn't think I'd be able to act again."

Mr. Klugman reunites with Tony Randall for "The Odd Couple," a TV movie based on their ABC series (1970-75) of the same title. The reunion film will be broadcast tonight at 9 on WBAL (Channel 11)

During the five-season run of "The Odd Couple," Mr. Klugman won two Emmys for playing messy Oscar. Mr. Randall picked up one Emmy for playing fastidious Felix Unger.

But the TV movie will have a slightly serious side. Mr. Klugman insisted that his throat cancer be written into the script. So Oscar will be recovering from the same operation Mr. Klugman endured. "Everybody told me that there's nothing funny about throat cancer. I maintained that we can make it funny and important. We can make people laugh while we're doing some good.

"We try not to get too heavy with it. In the first scene together, Felix comes into the hospital room and starts with the 'Oscar, Oscar, Oscar.' There's a lot of emotion. Then he sees a pizza box and reverts back to the old Felix, and it becomes a very funny scene."

When the movie opens, Felix is driving everybody crazy by interfering with his daughter's wedding plans. His wife, Gloria (Barbara Barrie), throws him out of the house.

Moving back in with Oscar, Felix decides to devote every moment to his friend's recovery.

"Through Oscar, we see how cancer patients can survive," Mr. Klugman said. "But the accent remains mostly on the incredible friendship these two men share."

Created by playwright Neil Simon, Felix and Oscar began bickering when "The Odd Couple" opened at New York's Plymouth Theater in March 1965 with Walter Matthau as Oscar and Art Carney as Felix.

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