Wednesday, May 19, 2004
When Tony Randall won an Emmy for playing Felix Unger in "The Odd Couple" just after the TV series was canceled, he deadpanned, "I'm so happy. Now if only I had a job."
Randall actually never stopped working in a career that spanned six decades. He died of complications from a long illness on Monday at New York University Medical Center at the age of 84. (He developed pneumonia after undergoing heart bypass surgery in December.) And he worked right to the end. A month before entering the hospital, the actor starred as Lamberto Laudisi in Luigi Pirandello's play "Right You Are."
The lights were dimmed Tuesday night in Broadway theaters as a tribute to a comic actor of rare talent and suave timing.
Randall's gifts as a raconteur and a biting wit that was often self-deprecating put him in demand on the talk-show circuit. David Letterman made him a fixture with 70 appearances on the "Late Show."
Randall will be forever identified with Felix Unger, the neurotic photographer condemned to share the slovenly lifestyle of sportswriter Oscar Madison (Jack Klugman) on "The Odd Couple." The show, based on the Neil Simon play, ran from 1970 to 1975.
His other TV series were "Mr. Peepers," costarring with Wally Cox; "The Tony Randall Show," which cast him as a Philadelphia judge; and "Love, Sidney," in which he played a single commercial artist.
In his movies, Randall had a particular flair for playing the fussy best friend, especially in the romantic comedies of Doris Day and Rock Hudson, "Pillow Talk," "Lover Come Back" and "Send Me No Flowers." He also fit the bill as a gray-flannel ad man playing against Jayne Mansfield in 1957's "Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?"
In 1991, Randall realized a long-held dream by putting up $1 million of his own money to found the National Actors Theatre, a nonprofit company that sought to bring the classical repertory back to Broadway on a consistent basis and at accessible prices. Its productions have included Arthur Miller's "The Crucible" and Ibsen's "The Master Builder."
He was married to his first wife, Florence, for 54 years; she died of cancer in 1992. He later wed Heather Harlan, an intern at the National Actors Theatre who was 50 years his junior. When Randall became a father for the first time seven years ago at age 77, he found himself the focus of a spirited debate about the wisdom of having a child so late in life. The Randalls were not deterred by the controversy and had second child in 1998.
|Highlights of Tony Randall's film and television career, which spanned six decades:Films"Down With Love" 2003"Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex but Were Afraid to Ask" (1972)"Fluffy" 1965"7 Faces of Dr. Lao" 1964"Send Me No Flowers" 1964"Lover Come Back" 1961"Pillow Talk" 1959"The Mating Game" 1959"No Down Payment" 1957"Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?" 1957Television"Love, Sidney" 1981-83"The Tony Randall Show" 1976-78"The Odd Couple" 1970-75|