Randall, Tony 1920-2004
RANDALL, Tony 1920-2004
See index for CA sketch: Born February 26, 1920, in Tulsa, OK; died May 17, 2004, in New York, NY. Actor and author. Randall was an award-winning actor best known for his comedic roles in film and television, especially for the memorable character Felix Unger in the 1970s comedy series The Odd Couple. Loving the theater from a very young age, he enjoyed playing parts in grade-school productions but was prevented from acting in high school plays because he stammered. Determined to make his way as an actor, he enrolled at the Northwestern University drama school but dropped out after a year to study at the Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theater in New York City. After this, he found work in radio as an announcer in Worcester, Massachusetts, and as a recurring character named Reggie in the series I Love a Mystery. His first stage role came in 1941 when he won a part in a New York production of A Circle of Chalk. During World War II, Randall served in the U.S. Army, becoming a first lieutenant while serving stateside. After the war, he returned to radio and stage, acting on Broadway and in touring productions. Randall's first big television role came with his supporting part as Harvey Weskitt in the popular series Mr. Peepers, which ran from 1953 to 1955. This job made Randall a star, and he began appearing in numerous television specials and programs, as well as in such movies as Oh, Men! Oh, Women! (1957), Pillow Talk (1959), and Send Me No Flowers (1964). It was as Felix, playing opposite Jack Klugman's slovenly Oscar Madison, that Randall gained his largest fan following, as well as an Emmy Award. The Odd Couple ran from 1970 to 1975, and although he would have other starring parts in the sitcoms The Tony Randall Show (1977-78) and Love, Sidney (1981-83), Randall would never find such success on television again. His acting career was far from over, however, and he continued to act on stage and screen, including in the films Scavenger Hunt (1979), The King of Comedy (1983), and That's Adequate (1988). Critics who appreciated Randall's acting talents often felt his gifts were underused on television and in movies. While seen by many as a comic actor, Randall could also hold his own in dramatic parts for the theater, and the actor often said that his favorite role was his starring part in the 1988 production of M. Butterfly. Other stage roles for Randall included The Barretts of Wimpole St. (1947), Inherit the Wind (1955-56), The Music Man (1978), and The Crucible (1992). Later in his life, Randall's love of the theater led to unsuccessful efforts to preserve the old Metropolitan Opera House and his founding, in 1991, of the National Actors Theater in New York City, where he served as producer of The Sea Gull (1992), Saint Joan (1993), and Timon of Athens (1994), the latter two of which earned Randall Tony award nominations. In 1994 he also wrote the memoir Which Reminds Me.
OBITUARIES AND OTHER SOURCES:
Chicago Tribune, May 19, 2004, Section 1, p. 5.
Los Angeles Times, May 19, 2004, p. B12.
New York Times, May 19, 2004, p. A20.
Times (London, England), May 20, 2004, p. 34.
Washington Post, May 19, 2004, p. B5.