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Friday, May 16, 2008

Tony Randall (1920-2004)

Arthur Leonard Rosenburg was born February 26, 1920, in Tulsa, Oklahoma. His parents, Mogscha and Julia were antique dealers. Known as Leonard, he had a sister named Edna. Later, when he played Felix Unger on the TV series, the Odd Couple, his character had two children, a son named Leonard and a daughter named Edna.

Leonard attended Tulsa Central High School (class of 1938). He had an English teacher named Isabelle E. Ronan. A humble, unpretentious woman who taught at Central High from the early 1920s through the 1950s, she had two other famous students. One was Paul Aurant, who was a prankster. Paul and Leonard never saw much of each other in school, even though Paul was just one year ahead of him in school (class of 1937). Paul was not serious enough for Leonard. Some things would happen to change all of that in time. After graduation from Central, Leonard went to Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, where he only stayed one year. After that, he transferred to the Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theater in New York City. It was at this time he began using the stage name, Anthony Randall.

But then he was drafted by the U.S. Army. He went to Officer Candidate School (OCS) and became an officer in the Signal Corps. His job was connected with his work in that he helped to create training films. Later to become a proficient television director, Tony often said he cherished the time he spent in the Army. He learned what worked in the movies and what didn't. Training films he helped to create included everything from Insomnia to How to Urinate.

Tony was discharged in 1946. He immediately went back to New York City and went back into acting. One year later, he started his career in radio on the Adventures of Frank Merriwell. Later, he became Reggie York on the soap opera, I Love a Mystery.

Television came next. He played the part of high school gym teacher Harvey Weskit on Mr. Peepers. It was television that would keep him busy for the rest of his life.

Tony never hid his past as being a kid from Tulsa, Oklahoma, a secret from anyone. However, he never had the typical Oklahoma accent (not even when he was young) and he always had a big city attitude about life.

His motion picture career started in 1957 with Oh Men! Oh Women!

Most of what there was to know about Tony Randall could be gathered from watching old reruns of the Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. It was here that one discovers what a good story teller he was. He had a very interesting life.

Now, Tony did a lot of television in the 1950s and 1960s. But the one TV show that he would be remembered for was the Odd Couple. He played the part of Felix Unger, a photographer. Recently divorced, he shared an apartment with Oscar Madison, a sports reporter, also divorced. Felix was neat and Oscar was a slob. It wasn't a bad show.

After that show went off, he'd be in Love, Sydney, about a butler who was rumored to be homosexual.

In Tony's personal life, he married Florence Gibbs in 1938 and it was only her death in 1992 that split them. In 1995, he married Heather Harlan, a Broadway actress who was 50 years younger than he. They had two children, a daughter named Julia and a son named Joseph. Tony died peacefully in his sleep at home from pneumonia which he contracted after double bypass heart surgery in December 2003. He had been sick with that case of pneumonia until it killed him on May 17, 2004.

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