Brett Somers, born Audrey Dawn Johnston on July 11, 1924 in Saint John, spent her childhood near Portland, Maine. At 18, she relocated to New York City to chase her dreams of acting and took up residence in Greenwich Village. She adopted the first name “Brett” from the main female character in Ernest Hemingway’s ‘The Sun Also Rises’, and her last name “Somers” was said to be her mother’s maiden name.
Upon moving to New York, she married Robert Klein and had a daughter, Leslie. Following their divorce, she married actor Jack Klugman in 1953, with whom she had two sons, Adam and David. Coincidentally, Adam shares his July 11 birthday with Brett. Although it was widely believed that Somers and Klugman separated in 1974 but never divorced, California records reveal they officially ended their marriage in August 1977. Somers became a U.S. citizen later in life.
As a member of the Actors Studio since 1952, Somers’ career began in theater. She made her first television appearances in dramatic shows like ‘The Philco Television Playhouse’, ‘Kraft Television Theatre’, ‘Playhouse 90’, and ‘Robert Montgomery Presents’. Her Broadway debut, ‘Maybe Tuesday’, was short-lived, closing after just five performances. She participated in other stage productions such as ‘Happy Ending’, ‘The Seven Year Itch’, and ‘The Country Girl’, the latter starring alongside Klugman. Additionally, she appeared in films like ‘A Rage to Live’ and ‘Bus Riley’s Back in Town’.
Somers featured in various primetime television episodes, including ‘Love, American Style’, ‘The Defenders’, ‘Have Gun Will Travel’, ‘Ben Casey’, ‘CHiPs’, ‘The Love Boat’, ‘Barney Miller’, and ‘The Fugitive’. In 1973, she portrayed Rhoda Morgenstern’s Aunt Rose in the fourth season of ‘The Mary Tyler Moore Show’.
She interacted with fellow panelists like Charles Nelson Reilly, Betty White, Scoey Mitchell, and Fannie Flagg.
At times, she was even the subject of questions on the show. Somers joined the celebrity panel after her husband, Jack Klugman, suggested her to the producers in 1973. She remained a regular panelist throughout the show’s nine-year run. Her appearances on ‘Match Game’ inspired radio personality Robin Quivers to impersonate her in parodies on ‘The Howard Stern Show’, which were also featured in the film ‘Private Parts’.
In 2002, Somers participated in a ‘Match Game’ reunion on CBS’s The Early Show, alongside Charles Nelson Reilly and Betty White. She also appeared with Reilly on ‘Hollywood Squares’ during their “Game Show Week” in 2002. In 2006, she was featured in ‘The Real Match Game Story: Behind The Blank’ on GSN and hosted the ‘Match Game DVD’. Somers performed in a cabaret show, ‘An Evening with Brett Somers’, from 2003 to 2004.
In 2006, she made a special appearance on ‘PBS Match Game’ in a skit created just for her, alongside Dr. Joyce Brothers, Rip Taylor, and Wink Martindale. During the program’s end credits, she sang “Goodnight, Sweetheart, Goodnight” with the McGuire Sisters and the entire cast.
In a 2002 interview, Somers denied rumors that she had cancer, attributing her husky voice to a natural vocal quality rather than a throat ailment. However, she was diagnosed with cancer in 2004. After a period of remission, Somers passed away on September 15, 2007, at her Westport, Connecticut home, at the age of 83.
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