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Actor Tony Randall (Odd Couple)


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Acting Legend Tony Randall Dies At 84

Randall Won Emmy After 'Odd Couple' Ended

 

POSTED: 10:16 a.m. EDT May 18, 2004

UPDATED: 2:58 p.m. EDT May 18, 2004

 

NEW YORK -- Tony Randall, the comic actor known for playing lovably prissy characters, has died. He was 84.

 

 

Randall died in his sleep Monday night at New York University Medical Center of complications from a long illness, according to his publicity firm, Springer Associates. The actor developed pneumonia after undergoing heart bypass surgery in December.

 

Born Leonard Rosenbergin in Tulsa, Okla., on Feb. 26, 1920, Randall was best known for his role as Felix Unger on the "Odd Couple" but also had a long career as a stage actor, in film and on radio.

 

He starred opposite Jack Klugman, who played Oscar Madison on the hit series, from 1970 to 1975. The duo reunited in 1993 for a television movie "The Odd Couple: Together Again."

 

The show's charm sprang from Randall's chemistry and conflict with Klugman as sloppy sportswriter Oscar Madison, with whom he's forced to share an apartment after both men get divorced.

 

He was honored with an Emmy Award for his role as Felix in 1975 -- but only after the show had been canceled. It prompted him to quip at the awards ceremony, "I'm so happy I won. Now if I only had a job."

 

Randall started his career in radio in the 1940s and was linked with all three major TV networks.

 

Over the years, Randall was also a popular guest on a number of variety and talk shows.

 

In addition to his television roles, Randall frequently appeared in the romantic comedies of the late 1950s and early 1960s. Playing the role of the fastidious "best friend," Randall starred opposite Rock Hudson and Doris Day in "Pillow Talk" in 1959 and "Lover Come Back" in 1961, and Marilyn Monroe and Yves Montand in "Let's Make Love" in 1960 -- and returned last year for "Down With Love," which was inspired by those earlier films.

 

In that homage to the classic romantic comedy genre, Randall starred opposite Ewan McGregor and Renee Zellweger.

 

In a tribute to Randall, lights at all Broadway theaters will be dimmed at 8 p.m. Eastern time Tuesday. Just before being hospitalized, Randall starred in a revival of the play "Right You Are" by the National Actors Theatre, which he founded.

 

Randall once joked about how he saw his funeral.

 

He said President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney would show up, but they'd be turned away because his family knows he didn't like them.

 

During a speech to the National Funeral Directors Association, he said funerals should be planned as a celebration of life and "a touch of humor doesn't hurt a bit."

 

Randall is survived by his wife, Heather Harlan Randall, and they have two children together -- Julia Laurette, 7, and Jefferson Salvini, 5. He became a father for the first time at 77. Heather is 50 years younger than Randall.

 

Randall was married to Florence Gibbs from 1942 until her death in 1992.

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