Tony Randall


Actor
Tony Randall

About

Also Known As
Leonard Rosenberg
Birth Place
Tulsa, Oklahoma, USA
Born
February 26, 1920
Died
May 17, 2004
Cause of Death
Died Of Complications From A Long Illness

Biography

Though he had a long, successful career on stage and screen, it was not until he made millions laugh as the fussy Felix Unger on "The Odd Couple" (ABC, 1970-75) that actor Tony Randall found the perfect role. Prior to his career-defining turn, Randall had appeared in a number of Broadway productions and foreshadowed Felix as an overbearing history teacher on "Mr. Peepers" (NBC, 1952-55)....

Photos & Videos

Pillow Talk - Movie Posters
7 Faces of Dr. Lao - British Front-of-House Stills
The Mating Game - Scene Stills

Family & Companions

Florence Randall
Wife
Former model. Married c. 1937 for 54 years until her death on April 18, 1992; born c. 1910; was Randall's school sweetheart.
Heather Harlan
Wife
Actor. Married on November 17, 1995; born c. 1970; met when Harlan was understudy in production of "The School for Scandal".

Notes

Inducted into the Theatre Hall of Fame in 1998

Biography

Though he had a long, successful career on stage and screen, it was not until he made millions laugh as the fussy Felix Unger on "The Odd Couple" (ABC, 1970-75) that actor Tony Randall found the perfect role. Prior to his career-defining turn, Randall had appeared in a number of Broadway productions and foreshadowed Felix as an overbearing history teacher on "Mr. Peepers" (NBC, 1952-55). In features, he stole the show from Doris Day and Rock Hudson in the famous onscreen couple's three classic collaborations, hilariously playing the friend role in "Pillow Talk" (1959), "Lover Come Back" (1961) and "Send Me No Flowers" (1964). On the surface, his performances were played for laughs, but there was always an emotional vulnerability and complexity about his characters. Following the success of "The Odd Couple," Randall starred in two short-lived series, "The Tony Randall Show" (ABC/CBS, 1976-78) and the controversial "Love, Sidney" (NBC, 1981-83), where he played a not-so-closeted gay man which caused vehement response from religious groups. After that show was duly canceled, Randall swore never to star in his own series again and kept to his word. Meanwhile, he appeared less and less as he grew older, effectively retiring following a turn as a judge in "Basic Instinct" (1993). Of course, he was a frequent guest on talk shows, and held the record for appearances with David Letterman, proving that Randall's star continued to shine regardless of where he was in his career.

Born Arthur Leonard Rosenberg on Feb. 26, 1920 in Tulsa, OK, Randall was raised by his father, Mogscha, an art and antiques dealer, and his mother, Julia. After graduating from Tulsa Central High School, he spent a year studying speech and drama at Northwestern University, before moving to New York City to continue his studies at Columbia University and the Neighborhood Playhouse with renowned acting coach Sanford Meisner. Also at the time, he studied movement with Martha Graham and took voices lessons from Henri Jacobi. Following his years of training, Randall made his Broadway debut in "A Circle of Chalk" (1941), and soon turned in critically praised performances in "The Corn is Green" with Ethel Barrymore and "Candida" with Jane Cowl. Randall was set to star in Elia Kazan's "The Skin of Our Teeth," only to have his career interrupted after being called to serve in the U.S. Army during World War II. He served four years in the Signal Corps and was discharged with the rank of lieutenant. Randall wasted no time returning to acting, and moved back to New York where, after a brief stint on Harry Morgan's popular radio show, was ready to take on the theater world once again.

In the early 1950s, Randall appeared in a role that largely foreshadowed Felix Unger - overbearing Mr. Weskitt on the high school sitcom "Mr. Peepers" (NBC, 1952-55). After his stint on television, he returned to features with a breakthrough performance opposite Jayne Mansfield in "Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?" (1957), which followed with a leading stage role in the musical "Oh, Captain" (1958), based on the Alec Guinness film "The Captain's Paradise" (1953). He was hilarious in the lead role of a ferry captain who had a wife in every port, and although the musical was not a critical success, the actor received a Tony Award nomination for his performance. He followed with a successful trio of romantic comedies alongside Doris Day and Rock Hudson, playing the best friend role in "Pillow Talk" (1959), "Lover Come Back" (1961), and "Send Me No Flowers" (1964). Randall played multiple roles like Merlin, Pan, Medusa and the titular Dr. Lao in the comedy "7 Faces of Dr. Lao" (1964), before portraying more straightforward characters in "The Brass Bottle" (1964), "Robin and the 7 Hoods" (1964) and the mystery spoof "The Alphabet Murders" (1965).

Following more film roles in "Our Man in Marrakesh" (1966), "The Littlest Angel" (1969) and "Hello Down There" (1969), Randall found the role with which he would forever be identified, playing neurotic neat freak Felix Unger opposite the cigar-chomping slob Oscar Madison (Jack Klugman) on the TV version of "The Odd Couple" (ABC, 1970-75). For five years, Randall and Klugman entertained audiences with a deft blend of witty dialogue and physical comedy, and while the 1968 film version was made famous by Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau, both Randall and Klugman made the characters their own. In fact, Randall added his own touch of having Felix make strange noises during his sinus attacks and having him love opera as the actor did in real life. Over the course of the show's five seasons, Randall was nominated for five Golden Globes and two Emmy Awards, winning the later in 1975 for Best Actor in a Comedy Series. After "The Odd Couple" ended its esteemed run, Randall received his own show, "The Tony Randall Show" (ABC/CBS, 1976-78), where he played Walter Franklin, a stuffy judge and widower from Philadelphia. The show struggled to stay on air and was canceled after switching networks for its second season.

Though he spent most of the 1970s on the small screen, Randall did manage to tackle the occasional film role. He appeared as the operator of a NASA-like control center of a man's brain in the "What Happens During Ejaculation?" segment of Woody Allen's sex spoof, "Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* (*But Were Afraid to Ask") (1972). He next portrayed the father of four spoiled kids in the ensemble comedy "Scavenger Hunt" (1979) and was a tuxedoed performer in the critically derided comedy "The Gong Show Movie" (1980). Back on television, Randall played a single, middle-aged commercial artist in "Love, Sidney" (NBC, 1981-83), a character that was thought to be gay, though the series never overtly confirmed the speculation. Still, it was clear enough for most viewers and created controversy among religious and conservative groups. The series failed thanks in part to the uproar, and Randall refused to star in any more television series due to what he perceived as censorship. Instead, he returned to features and the stage, while often appearing on a number of talk and variety shows, including David Letterman's two late night shows on NBC and CBS, where Randall sat in the guest chair for a record 70 times or made unannounced cameos.

As he advanced in years, Randall was seen less and less on screen, though he did secure some voice work in the animated "My Little Pony: The Movie" (1986) and the sequel "Gremlins 2: The New Batch" (1990). Following a turn as a judge in "Basic Instinct" (1993) and a voice role as Mr. Grimm in "How the Toys Saved Christmas" (1996), Randall remained essentially retired from acting, though he did reprise Felix Unger opposite Jack Klugman's Oscard Madison - despite Klugman's throat cancer issues - for a black tie benefit performance of "The Odd Couple," which was followed by the television movie version, "The Odd Couple: Together Again" (CBS, 1993) with guest stars Penny Marshall, Jerry Adler and Dick Van Patten. Meanwhile, in 1992, Randall lost his wife of 55 years, Florence Gibbs, to cancer and remarried three years later to 25-year-old aspiring actress, Heater Harlan, when he was 50 years her senior. Regardless of the age difference, the pair had children in 1997 and 1998, which landed Randall in the tabloids for the first time in his storied career.

Meanwhile, Randall spent his later years advocating for causes, including an anti-smoking campaign, while launching the National Actors Theater in 1991 and donating $1 million to the theater in order to preserve and ensure the place of classical theater in everyday life. In fact, it was in one of his theater programs that he had met Harlan. After a long absence from the screen, Randall returned one last time for a cameo in the Ewan McGregor-Renee Zellweger romantic comedy, "Down with Love" (2003), a throwback to the 1960s sex farces that made Randall famous. In the visually stylish but under-performing romantic comedy, Randall spoofed his characters from "Pillow Talk" and "Lover Come Back." The role turned out to be the last time he appeared in film or on television. To the surprise of many, Randall died on May 17, 2004 of complications from pneumonia contracted after bypass surgery in 2003. Klugman - who believed he would predecease Randall due to his own throat cancer struggles - was devastated and wrote affectionately of his relationship with him in his memoir, Tony and Me: A Story of Friendship (2005).

By Shawn Dwyer

Filmography

 

Cast (Feature Film)

Down With Love (2003)
Fatal Instinct (1993)
The Odd Couple: Together Again (1993)
The Boss (1992)
Narrator
Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990)
Voice
The Man in the Brown Suit (1989)
Minks
That's Adequate (1989)
Going Hollywood: The War Years (1988)
Himself
Sunday Drive (1986)
My Little Pony (1986)
Voice
Hitler's SS: Portrait in Evil (1985)
The Fantasy Film Worlds of George Pal (1985)
Off Sides (Pigs vs. Freaks) (1984)
The King Of Comedy (1983)
Himself
Sidney Shorr: A Girl'S Best Friend (1981)
Sidney Shorr
Foolin' Around (1980)
Scavenger Hunt (1979)
Kate Bliss and the Ticker Tape Kid (1978)
Hello Down There (1969)
Fred Miller
The Alphabet Murders (1965)
Hercule Poirot
Fluffy (1965)
Daniel Potter
Robin and the 7 Hoods (1964)
Hoods
7 Faces of Dr. Lao (1964)
Dr. Lao/Merlin the Magician/Pan/The Abominable Snowman/Medusa/The Giant Serpent/Apollonius of Tyana
The Brass Bottle (1964)
Harold Ventimore
Send Me No Flowers (1964)
Arnold Nash
Island of Love (1963)
Paul Ferris
Boys' Night Out (1962)
George Drayton
Lover Come Back (1961)
Peter Ramsey
Let's Make Love (1960)
Howard Coffman
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1960)
The King of France
The Mating Game (1959)
Lorenzo Charlton
Pillow Talk (1959)
Jonathan Forbes
Oh, Men! Oh, Women! (1957)
Grant Cobbler
No Down Payment (1957)
Jerry Flagg
Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? (1957)
Rockwell P. "Rock" Hunter

Misc. Crew (Feature Film)

Going Hollywood: The War Years (1988)
Other
The King Of Comedy (1983)
Other

Cast (Special)

Television: The First 50 Years (2001)
Interviewee
The 2001 TV Guide Awards (2001)
Performer
Tony Randall: Center Stage (1999)
Howard Cosell: Telling It Like It Is (1999)
Interviewee
Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (ATAS) 13th Annual Hall of Fame (1998)
Performer
NYTV: By the People Who Made It (1998)
The Magic School Bus Family Holiday Special (1996)
Debbie Reynolds (1995)
The Kennedy Center Honors: A Celebration of the Performing Arts (1994)
Performer
Jayne Mansfield: Love and Kisses (1994)
The 48th Annual Tony Awards (1994)
Presenter
Kathie Lee... Looking For Christmas (1994)
Bob Hope: The First Ninety Years (1993)
More of the Best of the Hollywood Palace (1993)
The Creative Spirit (1992)
The 46th Annual Tony Awards (1992)
Presenter
Stars and Stripes: Hollywood and World War II (1991)
Narration
Doris Day: A Sentimental Journey (1991)
Spotlight Colorado (1991)
Night of 100 Stars III (1990)
Sanford Meisner: The Theater's Best Kept Secret (1990)
Rock Hudson: Tall, Dark & Handsome (1989)
Disney-MGM Studios Theme Park Grand Opening (1989)
Bob Hope's Easter Vacation in the Bahamas (1989)
Happy Birthday, Bob -- 50 Stars Salute Your 50 Years With NBC (1988)
Hope News Network (1988)
NBC Investigates Bob Hope (1987)
Walt Disney World Celebrity Circus (1987)
Host
Bob Hope's Christmas Show (1987)
Bob Hope Lampoons the New TV Scene (1986)
The 40th Annual Tony Awards (1986)
Performer
The Night of 100 Stars II (1985)
Curtain's Up (1985)
Host
Circus of the Stars (1984)
The 38th Annual Tony Awards (1984)
Performer
Parade of Stars (1983)
Doug Henning: Magic on Broadway (1982)
Bob Hope Special: Bob Hope For President (1980)
Battle of the Network Stars IV (1978)
Cbs Team Captain
The Paul Lynde Comedy Hour (1977)
La Boheme (1977)
Celebrity Challenge of the Sexes (1977)
Cos: The Bill Cosby Comedy Special (1975)
Guest
The Wonderful World of Aggravation (1972)
The Wide Open Door (1967)
Geoffrey Judge; Inspector Berry
Arsenic and Old Lace (1962)
Mortimer Brewster
The Man in the Moon (1960)
So Help Me, Aphrodite (1960)
Ernest
Four For Tonight (1960)
The Sid Caesar Special (1959)
Holiday in Las Vegas (1957)
Heaven Will Protect the Working Girl (1956)
Host
Panorama (1956)

Music (Special)

Happy Birthday, Bob -- 50 Stars Salute Your 50 Years With NBC (1988)
Song Performer

Cast (TV Mini-Series)

Save the Dog! (1988)
Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile the Musical: The House on East 88th Street (1987)
Voice

Life Events

1941

Broadway acting debut, "Circle of Chalk"

1942

Served in US Army

1957

Feature acting debut, "Oh Men! Oh Women!"

1957

First starring role, as title character of the feature, "Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?"

1959

Appeared in three Rock Hudson-Doris Day films, the first "Pillow Talk"

1970

Starred as Felix Unger on TV show, "The Odd Couple"

1976

Had his own TV program, "The Tony Randall Show"

1981

Starred in the comedy-drama, "Love, Sidney" and performed the theme song

1991

Established National Actors Theater on Broadway in the fall, a non-profit acting company to present theatrical classics

1993

Reunited with series mate Jack Klugman for the feature "The Odd Couple: Together Again"

1996

Voiced the character Mr. Grimm for "How the Toys Saved Christmas"

1998

Received a Star on the Hollywood walk of fame

2003

Cast in the feature "Down With Love"

Photo Collections

Pillow Talk - Movie Posters
Pillow Talk - Movie Posters
7 Faces of Dr. Lao - British Front-of-House Stills
7 Faces of Dr. Lao - British Front-of-House Stills
The Mating Game - Scene Stills
Here are a few scene stills from The Mating Game (1959), starring Debbie Reynolds and Tony Randall.
Send Me No Flowers - Movie Posters
Send Me No Flowers - Movie Posters
Boys' Night Out - Publicity Stills
Here are a few Publicity Stills featuring the cast of Boys' Night Out (1962). Publicity stills were specially-posed photos, usually taken off the set, for purposes of publicity or reference for promotional artwork.
7 Faces of Dr. Lao - Tony Randall Publicity Stills
Here are some photos of Tony Randall in a few of his final guises from George Pal's 7 Faces of Dr, Lao (1964). Publicity stills were specially-posed photos, usually taken off the set, for purposes of publicity or reference for promotional artwork.
Lover Come Back - Movie Posters
Here are a few original release American movie posters for Lover Come Back (1961), starring Doris Day and Rock Hudson.
7 Faces of Dr. Lao - Behind-the-Scenes Stills
Here are a few photos taken behind-the-scenes during production of George Pal's 7 Faces of Dr. Lao (1964), as Tony Randall is in the makeup chair being worked on for some of his many guises in the film.
7 Faces of Dr. Lao - Pressbook
Here is the original campaign book (pressbook) for MGM's 7 Faces of Dr. Lao (1964), starring Tony Randall and Barbara Eden, and produced and directed by George Pal. Pressbooks were sent to exhibitors and theater owners to aid them in publicizing the film's run in their theater.

Videos

Movie Clip

Pillow Talk (1959) - Title Song Cute graphics, the leading lady with the title tune by Buddy Pepper and Inez James, to Doris Day in the blue negligee and leading man Rock Hudson introducing the premise and the graphic gimmick, off to a rollicking start in their first picture together, in Pillow Talk, 1959.
Lover Come Back (1961) - I Wish I Were A Man Right Now! Ad man Jerry (Rock Hudson) is managing his neurotic boss and buddy Peter (Tony Randall), legacy owner of the agency, who's worried that competitor Carol (Doris Day) has filed a complaint, director Delbert Mann using the split-screen phone gimmick from Pillow Talk, 1959, early in Lover Come Back, 1961.
Mating Game, The (1959) - Open, My Place Paul Douglas, playing "Pop Larkin," narrates the opening, leading to co-star Debbie Reynolds singing the title tune, in The Mating Game, 1959, also starring Tony Randall.
Mating Game, The (1959) - Under My Skin Without warning, auditor Lorenzo (Tony Randall), given a "special" drink, leaps into Cole Porter's "Under My Skin," baffling Mariette (Debbie Reynolds), her family, and his boss (Fred Clark) in The Mating Game, 1959.
Mating Game, The (1959) - Irresponsible People Mariette (Debbie Reynolds), daughter of the tax-cheat, has lured auditor Lorenzo (Tony Randall) to her favorite spot, where he confesses his ambition, in The Mating Game, 1959.
Let's Make Love (1960) - To See What You're Like Following a comic prologue, French playboy magnate Clement (Yves Montand) is surrounded by sycophants, soon including Wales (Wilfrid Hyde White) and Coffman (Tony Randall) from PR, early in George Cukor's Let's Make Love, 1960.
Brass Bottle, The (1964) - You're Beginning To Twitch Leading man Tony Randall as architect Harold brings home the ancient bottle he's been warned is probably a fake, as a gift for his Egyptologist presumptive father-in-law (Edward Andrews) and wife (Ann Doran), who came home from Europe after hearing that he was engaged to their daughter (Barbara Eden), early in The Brass Bottle, 1964.
Brass Bottle, The (1964) - He's A Big King Solomon Fan Now convinced that the antique bottle he bought as a gift for his fianceè’s parents must be a fake, architect Harold (Tony Randall) is planning to turn it into a lamp when Burl Ives (as “”Farkrash-el Aamash”) pops out, so he assumes it’s an elaborate trick by his Bohemian buddy Seymour, in The Brass Bottle, 1964.
Brass Bottle, The (1964) - Also From The Caterer? In total panic because his unwanted genie (Burl Ives) turned his house into an Arabian pleasure palace before the dinner he planned with his fianceè (Barbara Eden) and his skeptical in-laws (Edward Andrews, Ann Doran), things get even worse for architect Harold (Tony Randall) when a dancing “houri” (Kamala Devi) appears, in The Brass Bottle, 1964.
No Down Payment (1957) - Born At The Right Time At the barbecue Jeffrey Hunter and Patricia Owens are new arrivals David and Jean, all are accustomed to Tony Randall (as Jerry) drinking, Barbara Rush, Sheree North, Patricia Owens and Joanne Woodward as spouses, Cameron Mitchell as Troy, Pat Hingle the host Herm, in the suburban exposè No Down Payment, 1957.
No Down Payment (1957) - Open, Serving All Of Southern California Pretty fascinating as a record of early suburban LA, interstates and roads around Pacific Palisades, Martin Ritt directing Jeffrey Hunter and Patricia Owens in the car, Cameron Mitchell, Joanne Woodward, Tony Randall, Sheree North, Barbara Rush among their neighbors-to-be leaving church, opening No Down Payment, 1957.
No Down Payment (1957) - This Is A Snap The first full go-round of the four suburban couples, Pat Hingle and Barbara Rush greet new neighbors Jeffrey Hunter and Patricia Owens, observed by Sheree North, then Joanne Woodward with spouse Cameron Mitchell, Tony Randall the last to appear, Martin Ritt directing from the novel by John McPartland, in No Down Payment, 1957.

Trailer

Family

Julia Laurette Randall
Daughter
Born April 11, 1997; mother, Heather Harlan.
Jefferson Salvini Randall
Son
Born on June 15, 1998; mother, Heather Harlan.

Companions

Florence Randall
Wife
Former model. Married c. 1937 for 54 years until her death on April 18, 1992; born c. 1910; was Randall's school sweetheart.
Heather Harlan
Wife
Actor. Married on November 17, 1995; born c. 1970; met when Harlan was understudy in production of "The School for Scandal".

Bibliography

Notes

Inducted into the Theatre Hall of Fame in 1998