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Monday, September 17, 2007
Brett Somers 1924-2007
Born Audrey Sommers in New Brunswick, Canada, Brett Somers grew up near Portland, Maine. She moved to New York City at age 18 to pursue a career in acting. She became a U.S. citizen, and at the time of her death resided in Westport, Connecticut.
After moving to New York City, Somers married and had a daughter, Leslie, before divorcing her first husband. In 1953, she married actor Jack Klugman; they had two sons: Adam and David. The couple separated in 1974, but never divorced.
In 2002, Somers reunited with Charles Nelson Reilly and Betty White for an interview on the CBS program The Early Show, to reminisce about Match Game. During the interview, she denied rumors that she had suffered from cancer. She would reiterate that point in future interviews. Somers had a naturally husky voice which may have caused the misperception that she suffered from a throat ailment. However, her son Adam says the ultimate cause of her death was cancer of the stomach and colon.
Somers began her career in theater, and made many of her initial television appearances in theatrical programs like "Philco Playhouse". "Kraft Theater 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 in "Happy Ending", "Seven Year Itch", and "The Country Girl" with "Odd Couple" co-star and spouse Jack Klugman.
Somers amassed a number of film credits, including "Getting There", "Bone", "Bus Riley's Back in Town", and "The Great American Beauty Pageant".
Somers made a number of 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 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 in the short-lived revival of the series in 1973 which featured Monte Markham as Perry Mason.
Somers is perhaps best known for her appearances as a panelist on the 1970s CBS game show Match Game. 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. According to a Boston Globe article in the early 1980's, Brett Somers was being paid $250,000 a year for her appearance on Match Game.
Somers maintained a fairly active career until her death. In 2002, she appeared alongside Charles Nelson Reilly and Betty White 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 (by this time, Gene Rayburn was dead and Reilly had become mortally ill, leaving Somers as the only remaining regular from the show able and willing to do it).
Outside of Match Game-related work, Somers appeared in a cabaret show, An Evening with Brett Somers, from 2003 to 2004.
Somers died on the morning of September 15, 2007, according to her website.