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Tony Randall (born Aryeh (Arthur) Leonard Rosenberg; February 26, 1920 – May 17, 2004) was an American actor. He is best known for his role as Felix Unger in a television adaptation of the 1965 play The Odd Couple by Neil Simon.[1][2]

Tony Randall
1976 Tony Randall.jpg
Randall in 1976
Born Aryeh (Arthur) Leonard Rosenberg
(1920-02-26)February 26, 1920
Tulsa, Oklahoma, U.S.
Died May 17, 2004(2004-05-17) (aged 84)
New York City, U.S.
Occupation Actor
Years active 1940s–2003
  • Florence Gibbs (m. 1938; d. 1992)
  • Heather Harlan (m. 1995)

In a career spanning about 6 decades, Randall received six Golden Globe Award nominations and six Primetime Emmy Award nominations (winning one). On the May 9, 1990 episode of "The Tonight Show," he added, “This is my 95th time on this show."


Early yearsEdit

Randall was born to a Jewish family, in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the son of Julia (née Finston) and Mogscha Rosenberg, an art and antiques dealer.[3] He attended Tulsa Central High School.[4]

Randall attended Northwestern University for a year before going to New York City to study at the Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre. He studied under Sanford Meisner and choreographer Martha Graham. Randall worked as an announcer at radio station WTAG in Worcester, Massachusetts.[5] As Anthony Randall, he starred with Jane Cowl in George Bernard Shaw's Candida and Ethel Barrymore in Emlyn Williams's The Corn Is Green.

Randall then served for four years with the United States Army Signal Corps in World War II, refusing an entertainment assignment with Special Services. After the war, he worked at the Olney Theatre in Montgomery County, Maryland before heading back to New York City.


Randall appeared in minor roles on Broadway and supporting roles on tours. In the 1940s, one of his first jobs was playing "Reggie" on the long-running radio series I Love a Mystery. In 1946, he was cast as one of the brothers in a touring production of Katharine Cornell's revival of The Barretts of Wimpole Street.[6] His first major role in a Broadway hit was in Inherit the Wind in 1955 portraying Newspaperman E. K. Hornbeck (based on real life cynic H. L. Mencken). In 1958, he played the leading role in the musical comedy Oh, Captain!, taking on a role originated on film by Alec Guinness. Oh, Captain! was a financial failure, but Randall received a Tony Award nomination for his dance turn with prima ballerina Alexandra Danilova. In 1973, he was originally hired to play the voice of Templeton the gluttonous rat in Charlotte's Web, but was replaced at the last minute by Paul Lynde, due his voice sounding too sophisticated and the director wanting Templeton to have a nasal voice.


Randall with Jack Klugman in a publicity photo of The Odd Couple, 1972

Tony Randall's first major television role was as a history teacher, Harvey Weskit, in Mister Peepers (1952–1955). He then starred in an NBC-TV special The Secret of Freedom, which was filmed during the summer of 1959 in Mount Holly, New Jersey, and broadcast on the network during the fall of 1959 and again in early 1960. Two years later, Randall played a highly dramatic role in "Hangover," an episode of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour in which he portrayed an alcoholic business executive who strangles his wife in a drunken rage.[7]

He returned to television in 1970 as Felix Unger in The Odd Couple, opposite Jack Klugman, a role lasting for five years. The names of Felix's children on The Odd Couple were Edna and Leonard, named for Randall's sister and Randall himself. In 1974, Randall and Jack Klugman appeared in television spots endorsing a Yahtzee spinoff, Challenge Yahtzee. They appeared in character as Felix and Oscar, and the TV spots were filmed on the same set as The Odd Couple.

From 1976-78, he starred in The Tony Randall Show, playing a Philadelphia judge, and Love, Sidney from 1981-83. In the TV movie that served as the latter show's pilot, Sidney Shorr was written as a gay man, but his character's sexuality was made ambiguous when the series premiered. Randall refused to star in any more television shows, favoring the Broadway stage as his medium.

From October 30 to November 2, 1987, Randall hosted the free preview of HBO's short-lived premium channel Festival.[8] Then in September 1993, Randall and Jack Klugman reunited in the CBS-TV movie The Odd Couple: Together Again reprising their roles. The story began when, after Felix ruined plans for his daughter Edna's wedding, his wife Gloria threw him out of the house for 11 days, which left him no choice but to move back in with Oscar and to help him recover, getting him back in shape after throat cancer surgery left his voice very raspy.


Randall starred as nearly all of the leading characters in the 1964 classic film 7 Faces of Dr. Lao, which was based on The Circus of Dr. Lao by Charles G. Finney. The film received an Oscar for William J. Tuttle's makeup artistry.

His film roles included Oh, Men! Oh, Women! (1957), Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? (1957), The Mating Game (1959), Let's Make Love (1960), Boys' Night Out (1962), The Brass Bottle (1964), Hello Down There (1969), Scavenger Hunt (1979), The King of Comedy (1983) and Gremlins 2: The New Batch (voice; 1990). He co-starred in all three Doris Day/Rock Hudson romps, Pillow Talk (1959), Lover Come Back (1961), and Send Me No Flowers (1964).

The hand prints of Tony Randall in front of The Great Movie Ride at Walt Disney World's Disney's Hollywood Studios theme park.


In 1991, Randall founded the National Actors Theatre (ultimately housed at Pace University in New York City) where he starred in A Christmas Carol (1994), The Inspector General (1994), Three Men on a Horse (1993), and gave his final stage performance in Luigi Pirandello's Right You Are (If You Think You Are) in 2003.

Periodically, he performed in stage revivals of The Odd Couple with Jack Klugman including a stint in London in 1996. The following year, Randall and Klugman reunited to appear on Broadway in a revival of The Sunshine Boys. From 1988 to 1990, he appeared in John Dexter's production of M. Butterfly.

Guest appearancesEdit

On September 4, 1955, Randall and Jack Klugman appeared together with Gena Rowlands in the episode "The Pirate's House" of the CBS anthology series, Appointment with Adventure.

Randall was a frequent guest on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson and often spoke of his love of opera, saying it was due in no small part to the salaciousness of many of the plotlines. He also admitted to sneaking tape recorders into operas to make his own private recordings. He chided Johnny Carson for his chain-smoking and was generally fastidious. At the time of his death, Randall had appeared as a guest on The Tonight Show 105 times, more often than any other celebrity.

Randall appeared frequently on What's My Line?, Password, The Hollywood Squares, and the $10,000 and $20,000 Pyramids. He also parodied his pompous image with an appearance as a "contestant" on The Gong Show in 1977.

First aired on October 11, 1980, Randall was a guest star on the 5th and final season of The Muppet Show. This was the 100th episode of the show.

Randall, along with John Goodman and Drew Barrymore, was one of the first guests on the debut episode of Late Night with Conan O'Brien on September 13, 1993. He would also appear in Conan's 5th Anniversary Special with the character PimpBot 5000. Randall was a frequent guest as well on both of David Letterman's late-night shows Late Night with David Letterman and the Late Show with David Letterman, making 70 appearances, according to his obituary in the Washington Post; Letterman said that Randall was one of his favorite guests, along with Regis Philbin.

On November 7, 1994, Randall appeared on the game show Jeopardy!, as part of a Special Edition Celebrity Jeopardy! episode playing on behalf of the National Actors Theatre. He came in second place after General Norman Schwarzkopf, Jr. and before Actress Stefanie Powers, with a final score of $9,900.[9]

Other creative activitiesEdit

In 1973, Tony Randall and Jack Klugman recorded an album called The Odd Couple Sings for London Records. Roland Shaw and The London Festival Orchestra and Chorus provided the music and additional vocals.[10] The record was not a chart-topper but is a highly sought-after item for many Odd Couple fans.[11] Randall and Klugman also collaborated for a series of television commercials for Eagle Brand snacks, which can be viewed on youtube.

A noted raconteur, Randall co-wrote with Mike Mindlin a collection of amusing and sometimes racy show business anecdotes called Which Reminds Me, published in 1989.

In keeping with his penchant for both championing and mocking the culture that he loved, during the Big Band era revival in the mid-1960s, he produced a record album of 1930s songs, Vo Vo De Oh Doe, inspired by (and covering) The New Vaudeville Band's one-hit wonder, "Winchester Cathedral". He mimicked (and somewhat exaggerated) the vibrato style of Carmen Lombardo, and the two of them once sang a duet of Lombardo's signature song "Boo Hoo (You've Got Me Crying for You)" on The Tonight Show.


Randall was an advocate for the arts. During the summer of 1980, he served as the celebrity host of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra's concerts in Central Park, New York City.

He was politically liberal. During the U.S. presidential primaries in 1972, he appeared as the featured celebrity at numerous fundraising house-parties for Democratic candidate George McGovern.[12]

Personal lifeEdit

Randall's headstone in Westchester Hills Cemetery

Randall was married to Florence Gibbs from 1938 until her death from cancer on April 18, 1992. The following year, he said, "I wish I believed I'd see my parents again, see my wife again. But I know it's not going to happen."[13] He remarried on November 17, 1995, to Heather Harlan, an intern in one of his theatrical programs. At the time, Tony was 75 years old and Heather, 25. They lived in a Manhattan apartment and bought a vacation apartment in Key Biscayne, Florida, in 2003. The couple, who had two children, Julia born on April 11 1997 and Jefferson born on June 15 1998, remained married until his death in May 2004.[14]

In his book Which Reminds Me, Randall maintained that any publicity an actor generates should be about his work, not himself. "The public knows only one thing about me: I don't smoke."[15]


Randall died in his sleep on May 17, 2004, at NYU Medical Center of pneumonia that he had contracted following coronary bypass surgery in December 2003. He had been hospitalized since the operation.[16] His remains are interred at the Westchester Hills Cemetery in Hastings-on-Hudson, New York.[1][2]

Complete filmographyEdit

Year Title Role Notes
1942 Saboteur Cameraman Uncredited
1957 Oh, Men! Oh, Women! Cobbler
1957 Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? Rockwell P. Hunter/Himself/Lover Doll Nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy
1957 No Down Payment Jerry Flagg
1959 The Mating Game Lorenzo Charlton
1959 Pillow Talk Jonathan Forbes Nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture
1960 The Man in the Moon TV movie
1960 The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn The King of France
1960 Let's Make Love Alexander Coffman
1960 Hooray for Love TV movie
1960 Open Windows TV movie
1961 Lover Come Back Peter 'Pete' Ramsey Nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture
1962 Arsenic & Old Lace Mortimer Brewster TV movie
1962 Boys' Night Out George Drayton
1962 Two Weeks in Another Town Ad Lib in Lounge Uncredited
1963 Island of Love Paul Ferris
1964 7 Faces of Dr. Lao Dr. Lao / Merlin / Pan / Abominable Snowman / Medusa / Giant Serpent / Apollonius of Tyana
1964 The Brass Bottle Harold Ventimore
1964 Robin and the 7 Hoods Hood Uncredited
1964 Send Me No Flowers Arnold
1965 Fluffy Prof. Daniel Potter
1965 The Alphabet Murders Hercule Poirot
1966 Our Man in Marrakesh Andrew Jessel Alternate title: Bang! Bang! You're Dead!
1969 Hello Down There Fred Miller Alternate title: Sub-A-Dub-Dub
1969 The Littlest Angel Democritus TV movie
1972 Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* (*But Were Afraid to Ask) The Operator
1973 The All-American Boy Uncredited
1978 Kate Bliss and the Ticker Tape Kid Lord Seymour Devery TV movie
1979 Scavenger Hunt Henry Motley
1980 The Gong Show Movie Himself
1980 Foolin' Around Peddicord
1981 Sidney Shorr: A Girl's Best Friend Sidney Shorr TV movie
1982 The King of Comedy Himself
1984 My Little Pony The Moochick (voice) TV movie
1984 Off Sides (Pigs vs. Freaks) Rambaba Organimus TV movie
1985 The Fantasy Film Worlds of George Pal Himself
1985 Hitler's SS: Portrait in Evil Putzi TV movie
1986 My Little Pony: The Movie The Moochick (voice)
1986 Sunday Drive Uncle Bill TV movie (The Disney Sunday Movie)
1987 Lyle, Lyle Crocodile: The Musical - The House on East 88th Street Narrator / Signor Valenti (voice) TV movie
1987 The Gnomes' Great Adventure Gnome King / Ghost of the Black Lake (voice)
1988 Save the Dog! Oliver Bishop TV movie
1988 The Man in the Brown Suit Rev. Edward Chicester Agatha Christie TV movie
1989 That's Adequate Host Mockumentary
1989 It Had to Be You Milton
1990 Gremlins 2: The New Batch Brain Gremlin (voice)
1991 The Boss Narrator (voice) Short
1993 The Odd Couple: Together Again Felix Unger TV movie
1993 Fatal Instinct Judge Skanky
1996 How the Toys Saved Christmas Mr. Grimm (voice)
2003 Down with Love Theodore Banner
2005 It's About Time Mr. Rosenberg Posthumous release

Awards and honorsEdit

Randall was nominated for five Golden Globe awards and six Emmy Awards, winning one Emmy in 1975 for his work on the sitcom The Odd Couple. In 1993, he received The Hundred Year Association of New York's Gold Medal Award "in recognition of outstanding contributions to the City of New York." Pace University granted him an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree in 2003. In 1999 the City College of New York honored Randall with the John H. Finley Award for outstanding service to the City of New York.


See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b Severo, Richard (19 May 2004). "Tony Randall, 84, Dies; Fussbudget Felix in 'Odd Couple,' He Loved the Stage". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-10-21. 
  2. ^ a b Shales, Tom (10 May 2004). "Tony Randall, Bright, Zestful And Always Endearing". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2008-04-26. 
  3. ^ "Tony Randall Biography". filmreference. 2008. Retrieved 2008-12-11. 
  4. ^ Conner, Thomas (19 May 2004). "Randall's dreams of acting started in Tulsa". Tulsa World. 
  5. ^ "Behind the Mike" (PDF). Broadcasting. 21 (7): 39. 18 August 1941. ISSN 1068-6827. 
  6. ^ Mosel, Tad (1978). Leading Lady: The World and Theatre of Katharine Cornell. Little, Brown and Company. ISBN 0316585378. 
  7. ^ "Hangover," The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, S01E17, originally telecast December 6, 1962. International Movie Database (IMDb). Retrieved March 30, 2017.
  8. ^ Festival Free Preview Oct. 13–Nov. 2, 1987 promotional mailer
  9. ^ "J! Archive". Retrieved 2011-10-03. 
  10. ^ Ankeny, Jason. The Odd Couple Sings at AllMusic. Retrieved 2011/12/20.
  11. ^ WLNY-TV. The Odd Couple marathon. January 1, 2013
  12. ^ Invitation letter for "Together for McGovern at the Garden, June 14, 1972" (producer: Warren Beatty)
  13. ^ "Aging Actor Tony Randall Fantasizes About His Funeral". The Washington Post. September 25, 2003. 
  14. ^ Newman, Judith (28 January 2008). "The Odd Couple". Marie Claire. ISSN 0025-3049. 
  15. ^ Randall, Tony; Mindlin, Michael (1989). Which Reminds Me. New York: Delacorte Press. p. 143. ISBN 0-385-29785-8. 
  16. ^ "Actor Tony Randall dies at age 84". Today. Associated Press. May 18, 2004. 

External linksEdit