TONY RANDALL Biography - Actors and Actresses


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Name: Tony Randall                                                                   
Born: 26 February 1920 Tulsa, Oklahoma                                               
Died: 17 May 2004 New York City, New York                                             
Tony Randall (February 26, 1920 - May 17, 2004) was an American comic actor.         
He was born as Arthur Leonard Rosenberg to a Jewish family in Tulsa, Oklahoma,       
the son of Mogscha Rosenberg, an art and antiques dealer, and his wife, Julia         
Finston. Known as Leonard, he had a sister Edna.                                     
He was first attracted to show business when a ballet company played in Tulsa.       
He attended Northwestern University for a year before traveling to New York City     
to study at the Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre. He studied under       
Sanford Meisner and choreographer Martha Graham around 1935. Under the name           
Anthony Randall, he worked onstage opposite stars Jane Cowl in George Bernard         
Shaw's Candida and Ethel Barrymore in Emlyn Williams's The Corn Is Green.             
Randall then served for four years with the United States Army Signal Corps in       
World War II, refusing an entertainment assignment with Special Services. Then       
he worked at the Olney Theatre in Montgomery County, Maryland before heading         
back to New York City.                                                               
A noted raconteur, Randall co-wrote (with Mike Mindlin) a collection of amusing       
and sometimes racy show business anecdotes called Which Reminds Me.                   
Randall on a 1963 episode of What's My Line?                                         
Randall began his career on the stage, appearing in minor roles on Broadway, and     
supporting roles on tours. His first major role in a Broadway hit was in Inherit     
the Wind in 1955. In 1958 he played the leading role in the musical comedy Oh,       
Captain!, taking on a role originated on film by Alec Guinness. Oh, Captain! was     
a critical failure, but a personal success for Randall, who received glowing         
notices and a Tony Award nomination for his legendary dance turn with prima           
ballerina Alexandra Danilova.                                                         
He is perhaps best known for his work on television. His breakthrough role was       
as gym teacher Harvey Weskit in Mr. Peepers (1952-1955). He had the starring         
role 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. After a long hiatus from the medium,       
he returned in 1970 as fussbudget Felix Unger in The Odd Couple, opposite Jack       
Klugman, a role he would keep for five years. The names of Unger's children on       
The Odd Couple were Edna and Leonard, named after Randall's sister and Randall       
Subsequently, he starred in The Tony Randall Show and Love, Sidney. In the TV         
movie that served as the show's pilot, Sidney Shorr was clearly written as a gay     
man, but his character's sexuality was made ambiguous when the series premiered.     
Disappointed by this turn of events and the series' lack of acceptance, Randall       
stayed away from television thereafter.                                               
Randall's film roles included Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? (1957), Pillow         
Talk (1959), Let's Make Love (1960), Boys' Night Out (1962), The King of Comedy       
(1983), and Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990).                                         
He also played the title role(s) in the cult classic The 7 Faces of Dr. Lao (1964),   
co-starring Barbara Eden. That same year, they co-starred in The Brass Bottle.       
The handprints of Tony Randall in front of The Great Movie Ride at Walt Disney       
World's Disney's Hollywood Studios theme park.                                       
Pillow Talk was the first of three movies in which Doris Day, Rock Hudson and         
Randall all starred. Randall, by all accounts, ended up with the best lines ("It     
takes an early bird to take a worm like me"; on the crying Doris Day: "I never       
knew a woman such a size had so much water in her", etc). The other two are           
Lover Come Back (1961) and Send Me No Flowers (1963). Elements from the plots of     
these films, particularly Pillow Talk, were parodied in the 2003 comedy Down         
With Love, with Renee Zellweger in the Doris Day role, Ewan McGregor in the Rock     
Hudson, and David Hyde Pierce as the Tony Randall character. Randall's final         
role was in this film.                                                               
Tony Randall was the host during the breaks for the October 30 - November 2,         
1987 free preview of HBO's short lived premium channel Festival.                     
In 1991, he founded the National Actors Theatre (ultimately housed at Pace           
University in New York City) where he gave his final stage performance in Luigi       
Pirandello's Right You Are (If You Think You Are). Periodically, he performed in     
stage revivals of The Odd Couple with Jack Klugman including a stint in London       
in 1996. The following year, Randall and Klugman reunited to appear on Broadway       
in a revival of The Sunshine Boys.                                                   
He was a frequent and popular guest on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson       
and often spoke of his love of opera, claiming it was due in no small part to         
the salaciousness of many of the plotlines. He also admitted to (actually             
bragged about) sneaking tape recorders into operas to make his own private           
bootleg recordings. He would often chide Johnny Carson for his chain-smoking,         
and was generally fastidious and fussy, much like his Felix Unger                     
characterization. He seemed to have a wealth of facts and trivia at his disposal,     
and he told Carson that the secret was simply "to retain everything you were         
supposed to have learned in elementary school." At the time of his death,             
Randall had appeared as a guest on The Tonight Show more often (105 times) than       
any other celebrity.                                                                 
Randall was also a frequent guest 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.               
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 Carson show.