Aryeh Leonard Rosenberg popularly known as Tony Randall was an American actor who rose to prominence following his portrayal of the neat freak, Felix Unger, in the TV program ‘The Odd Couple’. Randall made significant contributions to Broadway, television, and film over the course of his six-decade tenure. He was nominated for several awards of which he won the Emmy for ‘The Odd Couple’. Aside from acting, he was a raconteur and co-wrote ‘Which Reminds Me,’ a compilation of show business anecdotes. He was an outspoken supporter of the arts and frequently held concerts by the New York Philharmonic Orchestra in Central Park. He eventually established the National Actors Theatre, New York’s only professional theatre company in a university. He not only put his own money into the venture, but he also made sure that the tickets to his shows were reasonably priced so that theatergoers could appreciate them. He also supported several social causes and served as the president of the Myasthenia Gravis Foundation, which raises money for the treatment of incurable neuromuscular illnesses. After he married Heather Harlan, who is 50 years younger, his personal life became the talk of the town.
Childhood and Adolescence
Tony Randall was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on February 26, 1920, to Mogscha Rosenberg and Julia Finston. His father was a dealer in art and collectibles. Randall became involved in theatre as a child after seeing a touring ballet troupe. His habit and mastery of mimicry irritated many of his school instructors, who frequently complained to his parents.
He graduated from Tulsa Central High School and attended Northwestern University for a year, where he studied speech and acting. He then enrolled in the Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre in New York, where he trained with well-known actors such as Sanford Meisner and Martha Graham.
For a short time, he went by the name Anthony Randall and worked as a broadcaster at Worcester, Massachusetts’s WTAG radio station. He also appeared in two theatrical plays, ‘Candida’ and ‘Corn Is Green,’ before joining the Army. During WWII, he served in the United States Signal Corps for four years. After finishing his service, he worked briefly at Montgomery County’s Olney Theatre before returning to New York City to further his acting career.
Tony Randall’s Career
His performance in the play ‘A Circle of Chalk’ marked his foray on Broadway in 1941. Randall went on to play a number of minor parts in theatre. Reggie from the long-running radio series ‘I Love a Mystery’ was his most memorable character.
Tony Randall had a number of supporting roles on Broadway and in television shows in the early 1950s. One of his most popular plays was ‘Inherit the Wind,’ which was released in 1955. H. L. Mencken, a real-life cynic, influenced his portrayal of newspaperman E. K. Hornbeck.
He performed the lead in the musical play ‘Oh, Captain!’ in 1958. Despite the fact that the show was a flop, Randal was nominated for a Tony Award for his dance with ballerina Alexandra Danilova. Following that, he was featured in films like ‘Pillow Talk’ in 1959, ‘Lover Come Back to Me’ in 1961, and ‘Send Me No Flowers’ in 1964.
He also starred in several dramas at the same time. In 1957, he appeared in the program ‘No Down Payment’ as an alcoholic. He demonstrated his acting abilities by portraying all seven features in the 1964 drama ‘The 7 features of Dr. Lao.’
Randall spent the 1970s and 1980s portraying a variety of characters on television. His first major television part was that of a history teacher, Harvey Weskit in the show ‘Mister Peepers from 1952 to 1955. Next, he was featured in an NBC special ‘The Secret of Freedom’ in 1959.
Randall rose to prominence after portraying Felix Unger opposite Jack Klugman in the popular TV series ‘The Odd Couple’ in 1970. The show was such a success that the two actors recorded an album for London Records called ‘The Odd Couple Sings,’ which became very famous among the show’s fans. He portrayed a Philadelphia judge in ‘The Tony Randall Show,’ which aired on television from 1976 to 1978.
In the 1981 show ‘Love, Sidney,’ he played the ostensibly homosexual Sidney Shorr. Randall then took a break from television and chose to focus solely on his Broadway shows. Randall presented a two-month free preview of HBO’s premium channel ‘Festival’ in late 1987. He later reprised his part as Felix Unger alongside Jack Klugman in the CBS-TV movie ‘The Odd Couple: Together Again,’ which was released in September 1993.
In 1991, he established the National Actors Theatre. He then appeared in the majority of the company’s plays, including ‘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 occurred to be his final theatre performance.
Personal History and Legacy
Tony Randall married Florence Gibbs in 1938, and they were married until she died of cancer in 1992.
On November 17, 1995, he married Heather Harlan, an apprentice at the National Actors Theatre, three years later. The pair married with a 50-year age difference, with Randall being 75 and Harlan being 25 at the time. Julia and Jefferson were their two daughters.
Tony Randall, 84, died peacefully in his slumber on May 17, 2004. He had undergone coronary bypass surgery in December 2003, following which he developed pneumonia, which eventually claimed his life.
Estimated Net Worth
Tony Randall was an American actor and producer who died with a personal worth of $30 million. That net worth includes the value of his Central Park apartment, which his widow sold for just under $18 million three years after his passing.
Tony Randall did not smoke and was vehemently averse to it. He was into contemporary art, opera recordings, and antiques. He appeared on ‘Late Show with David Letterman’ a remarkable 70 times.