July 11, 1924
Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada
|Died||September 15, 2007
Westport, Connecticut, U.S.
|Cause of death||Colon cancer and Stomach cancer|
|Occupation||Actress, comedian, singer, game show panelist|
|Spouse(s)||Robert Klein (19??–19??; divorced)
Jack Klugman (1953–2007; her death)
|Children||Leslie Klein (19??–2003)
David Klugman (b. 1959)
Adam Klugman (b. 1963)
Brett Somers (July 11, 1924 – September 15, 2007) was a Canadian-American actress, singer, and comedian 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 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 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, Getting There, Bone, Bus Riley's Back in Town, and The Great American Beauty Pageant.
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). She was clearly left-handed as she was always seen writing her answers with her left-hand. However, her debut episode had her sitting in the bottom left position. She and the show became known for somewhat outlandish and risque dialogue; the show has been described as being at 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. Her wit and dry humor proved extremely successful, and 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, Betty White and Homer J. Simpson (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. Somers also 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 "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. 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. 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
- Brett Somers' Personal Webpage at the Wayback Machine (archived January 7, 2007)
- Andrew Gans "DIVA TALK: A Chat with "Match Game" Star Brett Somers", Playbill.com, July 11, 2003
- Peter Leavy, "Another Opening Another Show" at the Wayback Machine (archived January 7, 2007)
- "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."
- Official biography at the Wayback Machine (archived January 7, 2007)
- 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.
- Brett Somers - Review at the Wayback Machine (archived January 7, 2007)
- Brett Somers - Review at the Wayback Machine (archived January 7, 2007)
- "Actress Brett Somers of "Match Game" fame dies at 83". Associated Press. September 17, 2007. 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.[dead link]
- 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