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Tony Randall

(1920 - 2004)

Tony Randall, born Leonard Rosenberg on Feb. 26, 1920, in Tulsa, Oklahoma, died Monday, May 18, 2004 of pneumonia; complications from heart bypass surgery he had undergone in December 2003; he was 84.

Tony Randall worked opposite Rock Hudson, Doris Day, David Letterman, Johnny Carson and, most famously, Jack Klugman in his role as Felix in "The Odd Couple." He won an Emmy Award as the fastidious Felix opposite the sloppy sportswriter Oscar Madison, played by Jack Klugman.

While Randall gained his greatest fame on TV, he also loved the theater, and it pained him that America never had a national repertory. He even noted that even before Israel was created it had a national theater, Habimah. In 1991, Randall founded the National Actors Theatre, putting in $1 million of his own money, to present classics by such twentieth century playwrights as Clifford Odets and Arthur Miller, as well as Ibsen, Chekhov and Shakespeare. As a consummate performer, Randall lamented having to work with co-stars he considered not up to par. He complained, for example, that Marilyn Monore, "was not a competent actor. She did one line at a time - cut - then she did the next line. Impossible! That's not what I call an actor."

Florence, Randall's wife of 54 years, died in 1992. They had no children. Three years later, at age 75, he married 25-year-old actress Heather Harlan in a City Hall ceremony conducted by Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. At 77, Randall became a father for the first time when Heather had a baby girl, Julia, named for his mother. A year later, his wife gave birth to a son.

Sources: Boxer, Tim. "The Jewish Rise of Tony Randall," The Jewish Week, 05/21/2004