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Actor Tony Randall, veteran stage, TV and film actor died Monday evening at NYU Medical Center due to complications from a prolonged illness. He was 84 and is survived by his wife Heather Harlan and his children Julia Laurette Randall, 7 and Jefferson Salvini Randall, 5. Know to millions of television fans as the fussbudget Felix Unger in the long-running TV series "The Odd Couple" opposite Jack Klugman, Randall was an accomplished film and stage actor as well. For example, many of you may know him his for his superb work opposite Doris Day and Rock Hudson as Hudson's romantic foil in a trio of films, Pillow Talk (1959), Lover Come Back (1961) and Send Me No Flowers (1964). He reprised this role in 2003's Down With Love and at the age of 82 stole the show from Ewen McGregor and Renee Zellweger.

While the Hudson/Day pics are a lot of fun and show off Randall's talent quite well, you'll do very well to get your hands on a copy of the film version of  George Axelrod's play Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? The film was written and directed by Frank Tashlin, and Randall opposite Jayne Mansfield is fantastic. In fact, Life Magazine described him as "the finest new comedian the movies have found in a couple of decades."

Randall starred in a rare dramatic stage role in the Broadway production of David Henry Hwang's 1988 play M. Butterfly and it was said to be one of his proudest moments as an actor. He also trod the boards with such noted thespians as Ethyl Barrymore in Emlyn Williams' The Corn is Green and Paul Muni in Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee's Inherit the Wind.

Randall in M In 1991 he launched the National Actors Theatre (NAT) in New York City and along with my theatre loving dad, I was lucky enough to be a series ticket holder for a few years. Among the productions I was able to attend were Arthur Miller's The Crucible, Georges Feydeau and Maurice Desvallierès's A Little Hotel on the Side, Anton Chekov's The Seagull and Henrik Ibsen's The Master Builder. Of these I think the Ibsen production was the best (the NAT was always hit or miss, as many rep companies are). I was lucky enough to have been brought up by theatre loving parents and companies like NAT are irreplaceable in their function as keepers of the flame, so's to speak. According to the Internet Broadway Database, The Seagull had not been performed on Broadway since 1964, The Crucible since 1972 and The Master Builder since the early 1920's!

Whether you remember him for his contributions to American theatre, his roles in classic 1960's comedies or as TV's Felix Unger, one thing is for sure. There was only one Tony Randall. Here's to you, Tony:


categories Cinematical