Brett Somers (born Audrey Johnston, July 11, 1924-September 15, 2007) was a Canadian-American Actress, Singer, and Game Show panelist. She was best known for appearing as one of the three regular panelists on CBS' Match Game and for her recurring role of Blanche Madison opposite her real-life husband, Jack Klugman, on the ABC sitcom The Odd Couple.
Born under the birth name Audrey Johnston in Saint John, New Brunswick, Somers grew up near Portland, Maine. She ran away from home at the age of 18 to New York City to pursue a career in acting as 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. They separated in 1974 and quietly divorced in 1977.
A life member of The Actors Studio from 1952 on, Brett 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 only five performances. She also appeared onstage in productions of Happy Ending, The Seven Year Itch, and The Country Girl, 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.
Brett became more known for her appearances as one of the regular panelists 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 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. She 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 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.
In 2002, Brett reunited with Charles Nelson Reilly and Betty White (via videolink) as part of a Match Game reunion on CBS's The Early Show. Later that year, she appeared with Reilly on the syndicated game show Hollywood Squares during a special week of shows titled "Game Show Week". 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 appeared on PBS Match Game, in a special skit created just for her.
During a 2002 interview, Somers denied rumors that she had suffered from cancer. She would reiterate that point in future interviews. She had a naturally husky voice that might have caused the misperception that she suffered from a throat ailment. Brett eventually was diagnosed with cancer in 2004 and following a period of remission, she passed away on September 15, 2007 in 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 (who died on December 24, 2012) and their two sons. Her daughter, Leslie Klein, died in 2001 from lung cancer.