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Brett Somers
Born Audrey Johnston
July 11, 1924(1924-07-11)
Halcomb, New Brunswick, Canada
Died September 15, 2007 (aged 83)
Westport, Connecticut, U.S.
Occupation Actress, comedienne, singer, game show panelist
Years active 1955–2006
Spouse(s) Jack Klugman (1953-2007, separated 1974-2007)

Brett Somers (July 11, 1924 – September 15, 2007)[1] was a Canadian-born American actress, singer, and comedienne. She was best known as a panelist on the 1970s game show, Match Game and for her role as Blanche Madison opposite her real life husband Jack Klugman on The Odd Couple .

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Personal life

Born Audrey Johnston in Halcomb, Northumberland County, New Brunswick, Brett grew up near Portland, Maine. She ran away from home at age 17 and moved to New York City to pursue a career in acting.[2] There she settled in Greenwich Village. She changed her first name to "Brett" after the lead female character in Ernest Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises, and the surname "Somers" was her mother's maiden name. She became a U.S. citizen late in life.[3] After moving to New York City, Somers married and had a daughter, Leslie, before divorcing her first husband.[2] In 1953, she married actor Jack Klugman; they had two sons: Adam and David. The couple separated in 1974, but never divorced.[4]

Career

Early career

Somers began her career in theater, and made many of her initial television appearances in dramatic programs such as "The Philco Television Playhouse", "Kraft Television Theatre", "Playhouse 90" and "Robert Montgomery Presents".[5] Her Broadway debut, in the play "Maybe Tuesday", was a flop; the show closed after five performances. [6] She also appeared in Happy Ending, The Seven Year Itch and The Country Girl with her husband, Jack Klugman. She also amassed a number of film credits, including A Rage to Live, Getting There, Bone, Bus Riley's Back in Town and The Great American Beauty Pageant.

Television credits

Somers made many appearances on episodic primetime television, including Love, American Style, The Defenders, Have Gun Will Travel, Ben Casey, CHiPs, The Love Boat, Barney Miller, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and The Fugitive.

Somers had recurring roles as Blanche, the ex-wife of Oscar Madison (played by real-life spouse Klugman), on the ABC sitcom television series The Odd Couple in the early 1970s, as well as the role of "Siress Belloby" on the science fiction series Battlestar Galactica in 1978. She played Perry Mason's receptionist "Gertie" on a short-lived revival of the series in 1973 which featured Monte Markham as Perry Mason.

Match Game

Somers was best-known for her appearances as a panelist on the 1970s CBS game show Match Game (during her tenure she sat in the top center seat, next to fellow regular-panelist Charles Nelson Reilly who joined as a regular around the same time). She and the show became known for somewhat outlandish and risque dialogue; the show has been described as having the feel of being at a game at someone's cocktail party. Somers was an iconic on-screen presence, wearing enormous eyeglasses, various wigs, and playing foil to Charles Nelson Reilly, Betty White, Richard Dawson, and Fannie Flagg, among others. Somers was often the subject of questions on Match Game, such as "You may or may not believe in reincarnation, but listen to this. In a previous life, Brett used to be a ________."

Somers was not originally on the celebrity panel. When spouse Jack Klugman appeared on the first week of the program in 1973, he suggested that producers bring her aboard. Her wit and dry humor proved extremely successful, and she would remain a regular panelist for the remainder of the show's nine-year network and syndicated run.[7]

Her appearances on The Match Game led radio personality Robin Quivers to impersonate her in parodies of such game shows on The Howard Stern Show. Robin's impersonation of Brett Somers is featured in the film Private Parts.

Later life

In 2002, she appeared with Charles Nelson Reilly and Betty White (via videolink) as part of a Match Game reunion on CBS's The Early Show. She also appeared with Reilly on Hollywood Squares during that show's "Game Show Week" in 2003.

In 2006, she was a prominent interviewee in The Real Match Game Story: Behind the Blank on GSN, and hosted the Match Game DVD as well. Somers also appeared in a cabaret show, An Evening with Brett Somers, from 2003 to 2004.

In 2006, she also appeared on "PBS Match Game", in a special skit created just for her. In the TJL Production "My Music: Magic Moments". Brett joined a special Match Game-esque panel with Dr. Joyce Brothers, Rip Taylor and Wink Martindale. Introduced as "celebrity look-alike" by Rip, Brett ad-libbed and introduced the Four Lads correct answer for "Istanbul is Constantinople". She can also be seen on the programs end credits singing "Goodnight, Sweetheart Goodnight" with the McGuire Sisters and the entire cast.[8]

Death

During a 2002 interview, Somers denied rumors that she had suffered from cancer. She would reiterate that point in future interviews.[4] Somers had a naturally husky voice which may have caused the misperception that she suffered from a throat ailment.

Somers died on the morning of September 15, 2007 at her home in Westport, Connecticut. Her son Adam gave the cause of her death as stomach and colon cancer, which first developed in 2004 but was held in remission until August 2007.[9] She was survived by her husband, Klugman, and their two sons. Her daughter, Leslie, from Somers' first marriage, died in 2003 from lung cancer.

References

  1. ^ Brett Somers' Personal Webpage (web archive)
  2. ^ a b Andrew Gans "DIVA TALK: A Chat with "Match Game" Star Brett Somers", Playbill.com, July 11, 2003
  3. ^ Peter Leavy, "Another Opening Another Show"
  4. ^ a b Michael Portantiere, "Somers in the City", Theatremania.com, July 3, 2003.
  5. ^ Official biography
  6. ^ Internet Broadway Database: Maybe Tuesday Production Credits
  7. ^ Brett Somers - Review
  8. ^ Brett Somers - Review
  9. ^ "Actress Brett Somers of "Match Game" fame dies at 83". Associated Press. September 17, 2007. http://www.cnn.com/2007/SHOWBIZ/TV/09/17/obit.somers.ap/. Retrieved 2008-12-18. "Actress and comedian Brett Somers, who amused game show fans with her quips on the "Match Game" in the 1970s, has died, her son said. She was 83. Somers died Saturday at her home in Westport of stomach and colon cancer, Adam Klugman said Monday." 

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