Tony Randall

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Tony Randall
1976 Tony Randall.jpg
Randall in 1976
Aryeh Leonard Rosenberg

(1920-02-26)February 26, 1920
DiedMay 17, 2004(2004-05-17) (aged 84)
Burial place Westchester Hills Cemetery, Hastings-on-Hudson, New York
Education Northwestern University
OccupationActor, comedian and singer
Years active1940s–2003
Florence Gibbs
(m. 1938;died 1992)

Heather Harlan
(m. 1995)

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



Early years

Randall was born to a Jewish family, in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the son of Julia (née Finston) and Mogscha Rosenberg, 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 four years with the United States Army Signal Corps in World War II, including work at the Signal Intelligence Service. [7] :207 After the war, he worked at the Olney Theatre in Montgomery County, Maryland before heading back to New York City.

In the 1940s, one of his first jobs was playing "Reggie" on the long-running radio series I Love a Mystery .


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 . [8]

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

Mr Peepers

Randall's first major television role was as a 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

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 was in Heaven Will Protect the Working Girl (1956) co-written by Neil Simon. He guest starred on The Alcoa Hour .

Film star

Randall's success in Inherit the Wind led to film offers and his first significant big-screen role in Oh, Men! Oh, Women! (1957). It was made at 20th Century Fox who promoted Randall to stardom with Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? (1957) alongside Jayne Mansfield. He had 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. Oh, Captain! was a financial failure, but Randall received a Tony Award nomination for his dance turn with prima ballerina Alexandra Danilova.

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

Continuing success

Randall co-starred with Debbie Reynolds in The Mating Game (1959) at MGM. He was in a huge hit with Pillow Talk (1959) supporting Doris Day and Rock Hudson; he would reunite with Day and Hudson for two more films.

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 MGM's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (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. [9] 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 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. In addition to portraying and voicing the eponymous seven faces (Dr. Lao, the Abominable Snowman, Merlin, Appolonius 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 8 roles in the film. The film received an Oscar for William J. Tuttle's makeup artistry.

He had the lead in The Brass Bottle (1964) and made one last film with Hudson and Day, Send Me No Flowers (1965). Randall had 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 only had a short run. He was in the TV movie The Littlest Angel (1969), alongside Johnny Whitaker and Fred Gwynne.

The Odd Couple

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

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

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 to his voice sounding too sophisticated and the director wanting Templeton to have a nasal voice.

The Tony Randall Show

From 1976 to 1978, he starred in The Tony Randall Show , playing a Philadelphia judge. He had small roles in Kate Bliss and the Ticker Tape Kid (1978), Scavenger Hunt (1979), and Foolin' Around (1980).

Love, Sidney

Randall starred in Love, Sidney from 1981 to 1983. 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.

He did star in the TV movies Sunday Drive (1986) for Disney, Save the Dog! (1988), and The Man in the Brown Suit (1989). From October 30 to November 2, 1987, Randall hosted the free preview of HBO's short-lived premium channel Festival. [10]

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

National Actors Theatre

In 1991, Randall founded the National Actors Theatre (ultimately housed 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). He also did a production of The Sunshine Boys (1997) with Klugman which was a big success.

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 in 2001 Tony Randall 2001.jpg
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 Jack 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

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.

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 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 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 ; 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. [11]

Other creative activities

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. [12] The record was not a chart-topper but is a highly sought-after item for many Odd Couple fans. [13] 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 Party candidate George McGovern. [14]

Personal life

Randall's headstone in Westchester Hills Cemetery Tony Randall best 800.jpg
Randall's headstone in Westchester Hills Cemetery

Randall was married to his high school sweetheart 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." [15] 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 was 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. [16]

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." [17]


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


1942 Saboteur CameramanUncredited
1957 Oh, Men! Oh, Women! Cobbler
1957 Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? Rockwell P. Hunter/Himself/Lover DollNominated 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 ForbesNominated 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
1960Hooray for LoveTV movie
1960Open WindowsTV movie
1961 Lover Come Back Peter 'Pete' RamseyNominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture
1962 Arsenic & Old Lace Mortimer BrewsterTV movie
1962 Boys' Night Out George Drayton
1962 Two Weeks in Another Town Ad Lib in LoungeUncredited
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 HoodUncredited
1964 Send Me No Flowers Arnold
1965 Fluffy Prof. Daniel Potter
1965 The Alphabet Murders Hercule Poirot
1966 Our Man in Marrakesh Andrew JesselAlternate title: Bang! Bang! You're Dead!
1969 Hello Down There Fred MillerAlternate title: Sub-A-Dub-Dub
1969 The Littlest Angel DemocritusTV 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 DeveryTV movie
1979 Scavenger Hunt Henry Motley
1980 The Gong Show Movie Himself
1980 Foolin' Around Peddicord
1981Sidney Shorr: A Girl's Best FriendSidney ShorrTV movie
1982 The King of Comedy Himself
1984 My Little Pony The Moochick (voice)TV movie
1984 Off Sides (Pigs vs. Freaks) Rambaba OrganimusTV movie
1985 The Fantasy Film Worlds of George Pal Himself
1985 Hitler's SS: Portrait in Evil PutziTV movie
1986 My Little Pony: The Movie The Moochick (voice)
1986 Sunday Drive Uncle BillTV movie ( The Disney Sunday Movie )
1987Lyle, Lyle Crocodile: The Musical - The House on East 88th StreetNarrator / Signor Valenti (voice)TV movie
1987 The Gnomes' Great Adventure Gnome King / Ghost of the Black Lake (voice)
1988Save the Dog!Oliver BishopTV movie
1988 The Man in the Brown Suit Rev. Edward ChicesterAgatha Christie TV movie
1989 That's Adequate HostMockumentary
1989It Had to Be YouMilton
1990 Gremlins 2: The New Batch Brain Gremlin (voice)
1991The BossNarrator (voice)Short
1991 Dragon and Slippers Merlin (voice)
1993The Odd Couple: Together AgainFelix UngerTV movie
1993 Fatal Instinct Judge Skanky
1996 How the Toys Saved Christmas Mr. Grimm (voice)
2003 Down with Love Theodore Banner
2005It's About TimeMr. RosenbergPosthumous release

Awards and honors

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 also

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  1. "Tony Randall - Archive Interview Part 1 of 4". Archive of American Television. YouTube. March 20, 2008.
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