Birthday: February 26, 1920
Died At Age: 84
Sun Sign: Pisces
Also Known As: Aryeh Leonard Rosenberg
Born in: Tulsa, Oklahoma
Famous as: Actor
Height: 5'8" (173 cm), 5'8" Males
Spouse/Ex-: Florence Gibbs (m. 1942–1992), Heather Harlan (m. 1995–2004)
father: Mogscha Rosenberg
mother: Julia Finston
children: Jefferson Salvini Randall, Julia Laurette Randall
Died on: May 17, 2004
place of death: New York City, New York
U.S. State: Oklahoma
City: Tulsa, Oklahoma
Who was Tony Randall?
Aryeh Leonard Rosenberg popularly known as Tony Randall was an American actor who rose to fame following his portrayal of the neat-freak, Felix Unger, in the TV show ‘The Odd Couple’. In the six decades of his career, Randall made immense contribution to Broadway, television and films. He was nominated for several awards of which he bagged the Emmy for ‘The Odd Couple’. Apart from acting he was also a raconteur and co-wrote a collection of show business anecdotes titled ‘Which Reminds Me’. He strongly promoted arts and often hosted the New York Philharmonic Orchestra's concerts in Central Park. Eventually, he founded the National Actors Theatre which was the only professional theatre company in a university in New York. Not only did he invest his own money in the venture, he also ensured that the tickets to his shows were reasonably priced so theatre enthusiast could enjoy his shows. He also supported several social causes and headed the Myasthenia Gravis Foundation, which works towards raising funds for the treatment of the incurable neuromuscular disease. His personal life became the talk of the town after he married Heather Harlan who is 50 years his junior.
Childhood & Early Life
Tony Randall was born on February 26, 1920 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, to Mogscha Rosenberg and his wife, Julia Finston. His father was an art and antiques dealer.
As a kid, Randall got interested in theatre after he watched a touring ballet troupe. His habit and mastery at mimicry annoyed a lot of his school teachers who often complained about it to his parents.
He completed his schooling from Tulsa Central High School and enrolled into Northwestern University where he studied speech and drama for a year. He then joined Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre in New York and studied under known names such as Sanford Meisner and Martha Graham.
For a brief period, he took up the name Anthony Randall and worked as an announcer at the radio station WTAG in Worcester, Massachusetts. He was also a part of two stage plays named ‘Candida’ and ‘Corn Is Green’ before enlisting with the Army. He served in the U.S. Signal Corps during World War II for four years.
After completing his service, he returned to work at Montgomery County's Olney Theatre for some time before moving back to New York City to further pursue his acting career.
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His appearance in the play ‘A Circle of Chalk’ marked his foray in Broadway in 1941. Thereafter, Randall took on several minor roles in theatre. His most notable character was that of Reggie from the long-running radio series ‘I Love a Mystery’.
Throughout the early 1950s Tony Randall played a lot of supporting roles in Broadway as well as television shows. The theatre play in ‘Inherit the Wind’ that came out in 1955, was one of his most successful plays. His role of Newspaperman E. K. Hornbeck was inspired by real life cynic H. L. Mencken.
In 1958, he played the leading role in the musical play ‘Oh, Captain!’. Even though the play did not meet much success, Randal was still nominated for the Tony Award nomination for his dance with ballerina Alexandra Danilova.
Thereafter, he appeared in films such as ‘Pillow Talk’ in 1959, ‘Lover Come Back to Me’ in 1961 and ‘Send Me No Flowers’ in 1964.
He also appeared in dramas simultaneously. In 1957, he played the role of an alcoholic in the show ‘No Down Payment’. He showed his acting prowess by playing all the seven faces in the 1964 drama ‘The 7 Faces of Dr. Lao.’
Randall spent the 1970s and 1980s playing numerous characters in television series. His first major television role was that of a history teacher, Harvey Weskit in the show ‘Mister Peepers’ from 1952 to 1955. Next, he appeared in a NBC special ‘The Secret of Freedom’ in 1959.
He played the role of an alcoholic who kills his wife in a drunken state in an episode of ‘The Alfred Hitchcock Hour’ in 1961.
Randall finally found fame following his portrayal of Felix Unger opposite Jack Klugmanin the hit TV series ‘The Odd Couple’ in 1970. The show was such a big hit that the two actors recorded an album called ‘The Odd Couple Sings’ for London Records which became very popular amongst the shows’ fans.
In ‘The Tony Randall Show’ that aired on television from 1976-78, he played the role of a Philadelphia judge.
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In the 1981 show ‘Love, Sidney’ he was cast as the supposed gay character, Sidney Shorr. Thereafter, Randall took a break from television and decided to fully concentrate on his Broadway shows.
Randall hosted the free preview of HBO’s premium channel ‘Festival’ for two months in late 1987.
He went on to reprise his role of Felix Unger along with Jack Klugman as they came together in the CBS-TV movie, ‘The Odd Couple: Together Again’, which was released in September 1993.
He founded the National Actors Theatre in 1991. He then acted in most of its plays such as ‘Three Men on a Horse’ in 1993, ‘A Christmas Carol’ and ‘The Inspector General’ in 1994, and finally Luigi Pirandello's ‘Right You Are’ in 2003 which also happened to be his last theatre performance.
Personal Life & Legacy
Tony Randall married Florence Gibbs in 1938 and they remained together till she died due to cancer in 1992.
Three years later, he married Heather Harlan, an intern at the National Actors Theatre, on November 17, 1995. The couple had a 50 years age gap with Randall being 75 years old and Harlan being 25 years old at the time of their marriage. Together they had two children, Julia and Jefferson.
Tony Randall passed away in his sleep on May 17, 2004 at the age of 84. He had undergone a coronary bypass surgery in December 2003 after which he contracted pneumonia that ultimately cost his life.
Tony Randall did not smoke and strongly opposed it.
He loved collecting modern art, opera recordings, and antiques.
He made a record 70 appearances on 'Late Show with David Letterman'.