Anthony Leonard Randall[1] (born Aryeh Leonard Rosenberg; February 26, 1920 – May 17, 2004) was an American actor. He is best known for portraying the role of Felix Unger in a television adaptation of the 1965 play The Odd Couple by Neil Simon.[2][3] In a career spanning six decades, Randall received six Golden Globe Award nominations and six Primetime Emmy Award nominations, winning one Emmy.

Tony Randall
Randall in 1976
Aryeh Leonard Rosenberg

(1920-02-26)February 26, 1920
DiedMay 17, 2004(2004-05-17) (aged 84)
Manhattan, New York City, U.S.
Burial placeWestchester Hills Cemetery, Hastings-on-Hudson, New York
EducationNorthwestern University
  • Actor
  • comedian
  • director
  • producer
Years active1940s–2003
Florence Gibbs
(m. 1938; died 1992)
Heather Harlan
(m. 1995)

Biography edit

Early years edit

Randall was born to a Jewish family in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the son of Julia (née Finston) (April 28, 1889 – October 3, 1950) and Moescha Rosenberg (August 6, 1875 – November 16, 1939), an art and antiques dealer.[4] He attended Tulsa Central High School.[5]

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.[6] 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 served for five years with the U.S. Army Signal Corps during World War II, including work at Arlington Hall for the codebreaking Signal Intelligence Service.[7]: 207  He rose to the rank of first lieutenant prior to his discharge.[8]

After the war, he worked at the Olney Theatre in Montgomery County, Maryland, before heading back to New York City.

One of Randall's first acting jobs was playing "Reggie" in the long-running 1940s radio series I Love a Mystery.[citation needed]

Broadway edit

In 1946, Randall was cast as one of the brothers in a touring production of Katharine Cornell's revival of The Barretts of Wimpole Street.[9]

Randall appeared on Broadway in Cornell's production of Antony and Cleopatra (1947–48) with Cornell, Charlton Heston, and Maureen Stapleton, and in Caesar and Cleopatra (1949–50) with Cedric Hardwicke and Lilli Palmer. Randall began appearing on television, notably episodes of One Man's Family.

Mister Peepers edit

Randall's first major television role was as history teacher Harvey Weskit in Mister Peepers (1952–1955). He continued to guest-star on other shows such as The Gulf Playhouse (directed by Arthur Penn), The Pepsi-Cola Playhouse, Kraft Theatre, The Motorola Television Hour, Armstrong Circle Theatre, Studio One in Hollywood, Appointment with Adventure, and The Philco-Goodyear Television Playhouse.

Randall replaced Gig Young in the Broadway hit Oh, Men! Oh, Women! (1954).

Inherit the Wind edit

Randall's first major role in a Broadway hit was in Inherit the Wind (1955–57), portraying newspaperman E. K. Hornbeck (based on real-life cynic H. L. Mencken), alongside Ed Begley and Paul Muni. On television he appeared in Heaven Will Protect the Working Girl (1956), co-written by Neil Simon. He also guest-starred on The Alcoa Hour.

Film star edit

Randall's success in Inherit the Wind led to film offers and his first significant big-screen role in Oh, Men! Oh, Women! (1957) for 20th Century Fox, which promoted Randall to stardom with Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? (1957) alongside Jayne Mansfield. He played one of the leads in No Down Payment (1957).

In 1958, Randall played the leading role in the Broadway musical comedy Oh, Captain!, taking on a role originated on film by Alec Guinness. The show was a financial failure, but Randall received a Tony Award nomination for his dance turn with prima ballerina Alexandra Danilova.

Randall appeared in Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse, Goodyear Theatre, The United States Steel Hour, Sunday Showcase and Playhouse 90.

Continuing success edit

Randall co-starred with Debbie Reynolds in The Mating Game (1959) at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. He appeared in the hit film Pillow Talk (1959) supporting Doris Day and Rock Hudson; he would reunite with Day and Hudson for two more films.[10]

He 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. On TV he was also in The Man in the Moon (1960), co-written by Mel Brooks.

Randall was top-billed in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn from MGM in 1960. He had a Pillow Talk-style support role in Let's Make Love (1960) with Marilyn Monroe and Yves Montand, and Lover Come Back (1961) with Hudson and Day. Randall continued to guest on TV shows including General Electric Theater and Checkmate. In 1961, 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. He starred in a TV adaptation of Arsenic & Old Lace (1962), and had big-screen leading roles in Boys' Night Out (1962) and Island of Love (1963).

Randall starred in the classic 1964 MGM film, 7 Faces of Dr. Lao, which was based on The Circus of Dr. Lao by Charles G. Finney. In addition to portraying and voicing the eponymous seven faces (Dr. Lao, the Abominable Snowman, Merlin, Apollonius of Tyana, The Giant Serpent, Pan, and Medusa), Randall also appeared without makeup in a two-second cameo as a solemn spectator in the crowd, for a total of eight roles in the film.

He played the lead in The Brass Bottle (1964) and made one last film with Hudson and Day, Send Me No Flowers (1965). Randall took the lead in Fluffy (1965), a comedy about a lion; The Alphabet Murders (1965), playing Hercule Poirot for Frank Tashlin; Our Man in Marrakesh (1966), as a secret agent; and Hello Down There (1969).

Randall returned to Broadway in UTBU (1966), which had only a short run. He appeared in the TV movie The Littlest Angel (1969) with Johnny Whitaker and Fred Gwynne.

The Odd Couple edit

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

Randall returned to television in 1970 as Felix Unger in The Odd Couple, opposite Jack Klugman, a role that lasted five years. The names of Felix's children in The Odd Couple were Edna and Leonard, named for Randall's sister and Randall himself.[citation needed]

In 1974, Randall and 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 set of The Odd Couple.[citation needed]

During the series run, Randall took a small role in Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* (*But Were Afraid to Ask) (1972).

In 1973, he was hired to play the voice of Templeton the gluttonous rat in Charlotte's Web, and recorded the part, but was replaced in the film by Paul Lynde, as Randall's voice was perceived as too sophisticated by the director, who wanted Templeton to have a nasal voice.[11]

The Tony Randall Show edit

Beginning in 1976, Randall starred for two seasons in The Tony Randall Show, playing Philadelphia judge Walter Franklin. He had roles in Kate Bliss and the Ticker Tape Kid (1978), Scavenger Hunt (1979), and Foolin' Around (1980).

Love, Sidney edit

Randall starred in the NBC series Love, Sidney from 1981 to 1983. In the TV movie that served as the show's pilot, Sidney Shorr: A Girl's Best Friend, Sidney Shorr was written as a middle-aged homosexual man; the character's sexuality was made ambiguous for the series. After the show was canceled in 1983, Randall refused to star in another television series, favoring the Broadway stage as his medium.

Randall continued to appear in TV movies. He starred in Sunday Drive (1986) for Disney, Save the Dog! (1988), and The Man in the Brown Suit (1989). From October 30 to November 2, 1987, he hosted the free preview of HBO's short-lived premium channel Festival.[12]

In 1989, Randall returned to Broadway as a replacement in M. Butterfly.

National Actors Theatre edit

In 1991, Randall founded the National Actors Theatre, ultimately based at Pace University in New York City. Their productions included The Crucible (1991), A Little Hotel on the Side (1992), The Master Builder (1992), The Seagull (1992), Saint Joan (1993), Three Men on a Horse (1993), Timon of Athens (1993), The Government Inspector (1993), The Flowering Peach (1994), Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1994), The School for Scandal (1995), Inherit the Wind (1996), and The Gin Game (1997). In 1997, he performed in The Sunshine Boys with Klugman to great success.

In September 1993, Randall and 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 had left his voice very raspy.

Randall in 2001

Randall's later stage productions included Night Must Fall (1999) and Judgment at Nuremberg (2001).

Periodically, he performed in stage revivals of The Odd Couple with Klugman, including a stint in London in 1996. Later film roles included Fatal Instinct (1994) and Down with Love (2003).

Randall's last appearances on stage as an actor were in The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui (2002) and Right You Are (2003).

Guest appearances edit

On September 4, 1955, Randall and 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 and the salaciousness of many of its 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 had appeared.[citation needed]

Randall was well-known for being a guest panelist on the game show What’s My Line?, from 1958 to 1967, 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.

Randall was a guest star on the fifth and final season of The Muppet Show in an episode that first aired on October 11, 1980. This was the 100th episode of the show.

Randall, along with John Goodman and Drew Barrymore, was among the first guests on the debut episode of Late Night with Conan O'Brien on September 13, 1993. He would also appear in Conan O'Brien'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.[13] Letterman said that Randall was one of his favorite guests, along with Regis Philbin.[citation needed]

On November 7, 1994, Randall appeared on the game show Jeopardy!, as part of a celebrity episode, playing on behalf of the National Actors Theatre. He came in second place behind General Norman Schwarzkopf Jr. but ahead of actress Stefanie Powers, with a final tally of $9,900.[14]

Other creative activities edit

In 1973, Randall and Klugman recorded an album for London Records titled The Odd Couple Sings. Roland Shaw and the London Festival Orchestra and Chorus provided the music and additional vocals.[15] The record was not a chart-topper but is a highly sought-after item for many Odd Couple fans.[16] Randall and Klugman also collaborated on a series of television commercials for Eagle brand snacks.

A noted raconteur, Randall, along with co-writer Mike Mindlin, wrote a collection of amusing and sometimes racy showbusiness 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, Randall 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 had once sung a duet of Lombardo's signature song "Boo Hoo (You've Got Me Crying for You)" on The Tonight Show.

In the 1980s, Randall served as off-camera narrator for several video productions by the Metropolitan Opera, announcing performers to the television audience as they appeared on stage during curtain calls and providing brief descriptions of scenes. [citation needed]

For the 1990 sequel Gremlins 2: The New Batch, Randall voiced the Brain Gremlin.[17]

Personal life edit

Randall's footstone in Westchester Hills Cemetery

Randall was married to his high school sweetheart, Florence Gibbs,[18] from 1938 until her death from cancer on April 18, 1992. They had no children. On November 17, 1995, at the age of 75, he married 25-year-old Heather Harlan,[19] an understudy from the production of The School for Scandal in which Randall was starring at National Actors Theatre; the ceremony was officiated by Rudy Giuliani.[20] They lived in a Manhattan apartment and bought a vacation apartment in Key Biscayne, Florida, in 2003. The couple had two children, Julia, born on April 11, 1997, and Jefferson, born on June 15, 1998—and remained married until Randall's death in May 2004.[21]

In his book Which Reminds Me, Randall maintained that any publicity that an actor generates should be about his work, not himself: "The public knows only one thing about me: I don't smoke."[22]

Advocacy and politics edit

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.

Randall was politically liberal. He was an active supporter of Eugene McCarthy during the 1968 Democratic Party presidential primaries.[23] When he was dropped as a regular panelist on the Opera Quiz intermission feature of the Metropolitan Opera radio broadcasts because of his opposition to the Vietnam War, he donated the remainder of his contract fee to the McCarthy campaign.[24] During the U.S. presidential primaries in 1972, he appeared as the featured celebrity at numerous fundraising house parties for Democratic Party candidate George McGovern.[25] His name was featured on the master list of Richard Nixon's political opponents.[26]

Death edit

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.[27] His remains are interred at the Westchester Hills Cemetery in Hastings-on-Hudson, New York.[2][3]

Filmography edit

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
1957 No Down Payment Jerry Flagg
1959 The Mating Game Lorenzo Charlton
1959 Pillow Talk Jonathan Forbes
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
1962 The Alfred Hitchcock Hour Hadley 'Had' Purvis Season 1 Episode 12: "Hangover"
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: Rescue at Midnight Castle 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
1991 Dragon and Slippers Merlin (voice)
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 nominations edit

Year Award Category Work Result
1994 Drama Desk Awards Outstanding Revival of a Play Timon of Athens Nominated
1997 The Gin Game Nominated
1957 Golden Globe Awards Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? Nominated
1959 Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture Pillow Talk Nominated
1961 Lover Come Back Nominated
1976 Best Actor in a Television Series – Musical or Comedy The Tony Randall Show Nominated
1981 Love, Sidney Nominated
1982 Nominated
1957 Laurel Awards Top New Male Personality 6th Place
1958 Top Male Comedy Performance The Mating Game Nominated
1960 Top Male Supporting Performance The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn 5th Place
1961 Top Male Comedy Performance Lover Come Back Nominated
1954 Primetime Emmy Awards Best Series Supporting Actor Mister Peepers Nominated
1971 Outstanding Continued Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Comedy Series The Odd Couple Nominated
1972 Nominated
1973 Nominated
1974 Best Lead Actor in a Comedy Series Nominated
1975 Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series Won
1958 Tony Awards Best Leading Actor in a Musical Oh, Captain! Nominated
1993 Best Revival Saint Joan Nominated
1994 Best Revival of a Play Timon of Athens Nominated
1996 Inherit the Wind Nominated
1997 The Gin Game Nominated
2004 TV Land Awards Quintessential Non-Traditional Family The Odd Couple
(Shared with Jack Klugman)

Honors edit

Bibliography edit

  • Randall, Tony; Mindlin, Michael (1989). Which Reminds Me. New York: Delacorte Press. ISBN 0-385-29785-8.

See also edit

References edit

  1. ^ "Tony Randall - Archive Interview Part 1 of 4". Archive of American Television. YouTube. March 20, 2008. Archived from the original on November 17, 2021.
  2. ^ a b Severo, Richard (May 19, 2004). "Tony Randall, 84, Dies; Fussbudget Felix in 'Odd Couple,' He Loved the Stage". The New York Times. Retrieved October 21, 2010.
  3. ^ a b Shales, Tom (May 10, 2004). "Tony Randall, Bright, Zestful And Always Endearing". The Washington Post. Retrieved April 26, 2008.
  4. ^ "Tony Randall at 100 — Once a Rosenberg, always a Rosenberg". The Forward. February 25, 2020. Retrieved October 26, 2022.
  5. ^ Conner, Thomas (May 19, 2004). "Randall's dreams of acting started in Tulsa". Tulsa World.
  6. ^ "Behind the Mike" (PDF). Broadcasting. 21 (7): 39. August 18, 1941. ISSN 1068-6827.
  7. ^ Mundy, Liza (2017). Code Girls: The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers of World War II. New York City / Boston: Hachette Books. ISBN 978-0-316-35253-6. There was the actor Tony Randall – later famous as Felix Unger in The Odd Couple – clowning around (at one point he danced on a table) as he waited for the intelligence summary to be taken to the Pentagon.
  8. ^ Randall, Tony Retrieved November 1, 2023.
  9. ^ Mosel, Tad (1978). Leading Lady: The World and Theatre of Katharine Cornell. Little, Brown and Company. ISBN 0316585378.
  10. ^ Stevens, Dana (May 20, 2004). "The Odd Couple's sexual ambiguity". Slate Magazine. Retrieved October 26, 2022.
  11. ^ Takamoto, Iwao; Mallory, Michael (2009). Iwao Takamoto: My Life with a Thousand Characters. University Press of Mississippi. p. 148. ISBN 978-1604734775.
  12. ^ Festival Free Preview Oct. 13–Nov. 2, 1987 promotional mailer
  13. ^ Bernstein, Adam (May 19, 2004). "Actor Tony Randall Dies". The Washington Post. Retrieved October 26, 2022.
  14. ^ "J! Archive". Retrieved October 3, 2011.
  15. ^ Ankeny, Jason. The Odd Couple Sings at AllMusic. Retrieved 2011/12/20.
  16. ^ WLNY-TV. The Odd Couple marathon. January 1, 2013
  17. ^ Buss, Andrew (June 15, 2020). "An Oral History of Gremlins 2: The New Batch". Consequence. Retrieved January 2, 2021.
  18. ^ Rettenmund, Matthew (July 9, 2020). "Late Director James Sheldon on James Dean and Affairs With Men". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved October 26, 2022.
  19. ^ Newman, Judith (January 29, 2008). "She Was a 20-Year-Old Intern, He Was 50 Years Her Senior". Marie Claire Magazine. Retrieved October 26, 2022.
  20. ^ Newman, Judith (May 19, 2009). "The odd couple: A look at Heather Randall's infamous marriage". Retrieved October 26, 2022.
  21. ^ Newman, Judith (January 28, 2008). "The Odd Couple". Marie Claire. ISSN 0025-3049.
  22. ^ Randall, Tony; Mindlin, Michael (1989). Which Reminds Me. New York: Delacorte Press. p. 143. ISBN 0-385-29785-8.
  23. ^ Jones, J.R. "Actor Robert Ryan was The Wild Bunch's party man," Reader (Chicago, IL), May 27, 2015. Retrieved June 20, 2021
  24. ^ Bergan, Ronald. "Tony Randall" (obituary), Guardian US, Wednesday 19 May 2004. Retrieved June 20, 2021
  25. ^ Invitation letter for "Together for McGovern at the Garden, June 14, 1972" (producer: Warren Beatty)
  26. ^ Nixon's First Enemies List – Retrieved June 20, 2021
  27. ^ "Actor Tony Randall dies at age 84". Today. Associated Press. May 18, 2004.

External links edit