July 11, 1924
Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada
|Died||September 15, 2007
Westport, Connecticut, U.S.
|Cause of death||Colon and stomach cancer|
|Other names||Audrey Klugman, Dawn Johnston|
|Occupation||Actress, comedian, singer, game show panelist, writer|
|Spouse(s)||Robert Klein (19??–19??; divorced)
Jack Klugman (1953–2007; her death)
|Children||Leslie Klein (died 2003)
David Klugman (b. 1959)
Adam Klugman (b. 1963)
Brett Somers (July 11, 1924 – September 15, 2007) was a Canadian-American actress, singer, and game show personality who was born in Canada and raised in Maine. She was best known as a panelist on the 1970s game show Match Game and for her recurring role as Blanche Madison opposite her real-life husband, actor Jack Klugman, on The Odd Couple.
Born Audrey Johnston in Saint John, New Brunswick, Somers grew up near Portland, Maine. She ran away from home at age 18 to New York City to pursue a career in acting; 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 "Somers" was reportedly her mother's maiden name. She became a U.S. citizen late in life.
After moving to New York, she married and had a daughter, Leslie, before divorcing her first husband. In 1953, she married actor Jack Klugman; they had two sons: Adam (who shared a July 11 birthday with Brett) and David. The couple separated in 1974 but reportedly never divorced.
A life member of The Actors Studio from 1952 on, 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.
Her Broadway debut, in the play Maybe Tuesday, was a flop; the show closed after five performances. She also appeared onstage in productions of Happy Ending, The Seven Year Itch, and The Country Girl, the last opposite her husband, Jack Klugman. She also amassed a number of film credits, including A Rage to Live, Bus Riley's Back in Town, and others.
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. She 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 1980 which featured Monte Markham as Perry Mason.
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 Charles Nelson Reilly, who joined as a regular around the same time and occupied the top right seat), although her debut episode had her sitting in the bottom-left position. She was clearly left-handed as she was always seen writing her answers with her left hand. She and the show became known for somewhat outlandish and risque dialogue; the show has been described as being like a game at a cocktail party. Somers was a familiar on-screen presence, wearing enormous eyeglasses and various wigs and playing foil to Charles Nelson Reilly, Betty White, Scoey Mitchell, and Fannie Flagg, among others. Somers was sometimes 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 in the first week of the program in 1973, he suggested that producers bring her aboard. She remained a regular panelist for the remainder of the show's nine-year network and syndicated run. 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. Quivers' impersonation of Somers was featured in the film Private Parts.
Later life and death
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 appeared with Reilly on Hollywood Squares during that show's "Game Show Week" in 2002. 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. She appeared in a cabaret show, An Evening with Brett Somers, from 2003-04.
In 2006, she appeared on PBS Match Game, in a special skit created just for her. She joined a special Match Game-esque panel with Dr. Joyce Brothers, Rip Taylor, and Wink Martindale. Introduced as a "celebrity look-alike" by Rip, Somers ad-libbed and introduced the Four Lads correct answer for "Istanbul is Constantinople". She can also be seen on the program's end credits singing "Goodnight, Sweetheart, Goodnight" with the McGuire Sisters and the entire cast.
During a 2002 interview, Somers denied rumors that she had suffered from cancer. She would reiterate that point in future interviews. Somers had a naturally husky voice that might have caused the misperception that she suffered from a throat ailment. However, she eventually was diagnosed with cancer in 2004, and, following a period of remission, she died on September 15, 2007, at her home in Westport, Connecticut at age 83. Her younger son, Adam, gave the cause of her death as stomach and colon cancer. She was survived by her husband, Klugman, and their two sons. Her daughter, Leslie Klein, died in 2003 from lung cancer.
- Biography for Brett Somers at the Internet Movie Database
- Andrew Gans "DIVA TALK: A Chat with "Match Game" Star Brett Somers", Playbill.com, July 11, 2003
- "Jack Klugman dies", cnn.com, December 24, 2012; accessed July 9, 2015.
- Michael Portantiere, "Somers in the City", Theatremania.com, July 3, 2003.
- Garfield, David (1980). "Appendix: Life Members of The Actors Studio as of January 1980". A Player's Place: The Story of The Actors Studio. New York: MacMillan Publishing Co., Inc. p. 280. ISBN 0-02-542650-8.
- Knopf, Terry Ann. "THE RULA LENSKA OF GAME SHOWS". The Boston Globe. December 14, 1980. "She has been a member of the Actors' Studio for more than 25 years - proudly noting she joined the same year as James Dean."
- Brett Somers at the Internet Movie Database
- Maybe Tuesday at the Internet Broadway Database
- Eakin, Marah; Teti, John; Adams, Erik (June 16, 2014). "Bonus round stars: 9 celebrities who found their greatest fame on game shows". The A.V. Club. Retrieved June 20, 2014.
- PBS Match Game, kqed.org; accessed December 21, 2015.
- "Actress Brett Somers of "Match Game" fame dies at 83". westportnow.com. September 17, 2007. Retrieved August 29, 2015.
- Brett Somers at the Internet Movie Database
- Brett Somers at the Internet Broadway Database
- The Final Taxi Podcast on Brett Somers, wildvoice.com
- Brett Somers at Find a Grave