BIOGRAPHY: TONY RANDALL
Tony Randall has achieved his dream with the 1991 launching of his National Actors Theatre.
For over a decade, he has worked tirelessly to raise the money necessary to kick off his idea of such a theatre company. Now the dream is a reality. But that doesn't mean that Randall has retired from the areas of acting for which he has become best known. As a matter of fact, he is not only artistic director of the company, but actor and director as well. But you expect the utmost in versatility from Tony Randall, who, by the way, was recently inducted into the prestigious Theater Hall of Fame.
The National Actors Theatre is a not-for-profit subscription based company formed to bring the
great classical repertoire of the world, with the finest actors, to a theatre that is within reach of all - from the serious playgoer to students, and to the very young who will have the opportunity to experience, for the first time, the glories of one of our greatest arts. The National Actors Theatre will serve as a living library of our national and world theatre, ensuring that classical drama is as vital and immediate today as when it was written.
In the company's first season, the plays were "The Crucible," "A Little Hotel on the Side" and
"The Master Builder." Tony appeared in "A Little Hotel.....," and directed the production of "The Master Builder." The second season began with "The Seagull," followed by a Tony Award - nominated production of "Saint Joan," and ending with the screwball comedy "Three Men on a Horse" starring Jack Klugman and Tony Randall. The company's third season opened with the Tony Award - nominated production of "Timon of Athens" with Brian Bedford and was followed by "The Government Inspector" with Tony and Lainie Kazan. It concluded with "The Flowering Peach" with Eli Wallach and Anne Jackson. Tony also starred with Jack Klugman that summer in an eight week national tour of "The Odd Couple" to benefit N.A.T.
In its fourth season, The National Actors Theatre presented the musical comedy Gentlemen Prefer
Blondes." Its fifth season featured Richard Brinsley Sheridan's comedy "The School for Scandal"
with Tony playing Sir Peter Teazle, and "Inherit The Wind," starring George C. Scott as Henry Drummond and Charles Durning as Matthew Harrison Brady. "Inherit the Wind" broke box - office records for the company and was hailed by critics. Among the accolades the production received were the Best Revival and Best Actor Award (Scott) fiorn the Outer Critics Circle, a Drama Desk Award for Scott, and the production was nominated for the prestigious Tony Award in the categories of Broadway revival and Best Actor. Tony appeared in the original 1955 production of the play in the role of E.K. Hornbeck, and on a few special evenings recreated his role in the revival. He also played selected performances in the lead role of Henry Drummond.
Tony and Jack Klugman successfully reprised their "Odd Couple" roles last summer at the
Haymarket Theatre in London as a benefit for The National Actors Theatre, and in December
(1996) Tony played Scrooge in A Christmas Carol at the Paramount in New York. The National
Actors Theatre recently opened its sixth season with an acclaimed production of "The Gin Game
starring Julie Harris and Charles Durning and directed by Charles Nelson Reilly. The production
has received nominations for Outstandirig Revival by the Outer Critics Circle, Drama Desk
Committee, and TONY Awards. Charles Nelson Reilly received a TONY nomination for Best
Director, Julie Harris received her historic tenth TONY nomination for Best Actress. The NAT
production of "The Gin Game" is on National tour through May 1999. Tony has just finished
starring with his good friend Jack Klugman in Neil Simon's "The Sunshine Boys." The NAT
production opened to ecstatic reviews last September and ran through June 1998, The Company's
latest offering is "Night Must Fall" starring Matthew Broderick, which opened a limited engagement
March 8, 1999 and ran till June 27. In the Spring and early Summer of 1999, Tony and Jack
appeared together in Tom Stoppard's "Rough Crossing" at the Coconut Grove Playhouse in
Florida, and in the NAT production of "The Sunshine Boys" in Texas.
Tony Randall is a comedian. You start with that and it is something everyone accepts. There is
all that television - from "Mr. Peepers" to "The Odd Couple" and more - to prove it. And those brilliant movie comedy roles. And the theatre.
But the Emmy Award - winning Actor is rnore than a funny man. He's one of the more erudite
and accomplished conversationalists. He's an authority on opera and a serious student of the theatre and art. You see him talking with Carson and Letterman - and it's highly amusing conversation. But you realize, too, that he knows what he's talking about.
Above all, Tony Randall is an actor of seemingly limitless range. Yes, he can break you up with
laughter as the fastidious Felix of "The Odd Couple" or in the Doris Day comedies, but there is also
something very human and touching about those baffled characters he has played. And, when he has the opportunity, as in Broadway's "M.Butterfly" or such a movie as "No Down Payment," he can create a character of dramatic strength -- with Comedy overtones only pointing up the characterization. Take his funny and poignant characterization in "Love, Sidney," the TV series spinoff of his memorable "Sidney Schorr" performance.
Still noted is the successful five year run of "The Odd Couple," which was based on the play by
Neil Simon. Now in syndication, "The Odd Couple" is a phenomenon; many cities run two or three
episodes nightly. Simon's Felix was one of those roles that seemed to have been written for him. He
had played it on stage and was the immediate choice for the television movie.
In 1991, as a gala black tie benefit for his theatre, Tony brought "The Odd Couple" back to
Broadway. Reunited with Jack Klugman and featuring an all-star cast, this production was treated by press and public as one of the outstandirig theatre events of the decade. Tony and Jack reprised their roles for two more gala National Actors Theatre benefits. In January 1992, they were again joined by an all - star cast for two one night benefits of "The Odd Couple" in Palm Beach and Los Angeles. In 1995, Jack and Tony toured the U.S., and in the summer of '96 brought Felix and Oscar over to London.
Despite his busy schedule with movies and all of the many talk show appearances he makes, he is also a frequent guest star on variety shows. He fits easily into dramatic and comedy sketches, and even sings and has been known to dance a bit, adding rating points to these shows with his appearance.
Born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the sork of an art dealer, he graduated from Tulsa Central High School,
then enrolled in Northwestern University, where he majored in speech and drama. In New York he
studied at Columbia University and the Neighborhood Playhouse with the renowned Sanford Meisner. He also studied movement with Martha Graham and voice with Henri Jacobi, with whom he still studies.
His Broadway debut was in 1941 "A Circle of Chalk." Soon thereafter he appeared with Ethel
Barrymore in "The Corn is Green" and with Jane Cowl in "Candida," playing the role of
Marchbnks. After a short stint as a radio announcer, he was set for Elia Kazan's production of
"The Skin of Our Teeth" but after rehearsing one day, he was called into the Army. He served four
years in the Signal Corps, being discharged as a Lieutenant.
After his discharge, he acted and directed in summer stock in Washington, D.C. before moving
to New York and a job with Harry Morgan's highly popular radio show. In the theater came roles with the legendary Katherine Cornell in "Anthony and Cleopatra" and as the stuttering brother in "The Barretts of Wimpole Street." With Lilli Palmer and Sir Cedric Hardwicke, he appeared in Shaw's "Caesar and Cleopatra."
It was the Edward Chodorov comedy, "Oh, Man! Oh, Woman", which really established him in
the theatre. He played Arthur Tanner, the bibulous rnovie idol (he was also in the Fox film version, but in a different role).
In the meantime, television had come into his life. He was a natural for the panel shows and his
Mister Weskitt oppositle Wally Cox in "Mr. Peepers" made him one of the most popular television actors of the day.
In the theatre there was Lawrence and Lee's powerful courtroorn drama, "Inherit the Wind"
starring Paul Muni, based on the famous Scopes trial. Tony's character, that of a cynical reporter, was based on H.L. Menken. After 17 months in the role, he was off to Hollywood and the Film version of George Axelrod's "Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?" Life Magazine summed up his film work by saying, "Tony Randall is the finest new comedian the movies have found in a couple of decades."
A complete about - face came with the performance of unusual dramatic depth as the desperate,
pathetic husband opposite Joanne Woodward in "No Down Payrnent." But there have been many other notable Randall screen appearances: "Lets Make Love" opposite Marilyn Monroe; "The Mating Game" with Debbie Reynolds; the trilogy of his Doris Day - Rock Hudson movies, "Pillow Talk," "Send Me No Flowers," and "Lover Come Back," in which his special character becomes one of the dominant elements. He is proud of his many tour-de-force characterizations in the little known "The Seven Faces of Dr. Lao."
There has been more theatre, too, notably the musical comedy, "Oh, Captain!, based on the
successful Alec Guinness film, "The Captain's Paradise," as well as the aforementioned "The Odd
Couple," which he frequently toured with his television co - star, Jack Klugman, to record - breaking box office receipts. Add a sell - out touring version of "The Music Man." And in 1989, he scored with a rare dramatic theatre role in the original Broadway production of "M. Butterfly."
To the despair of his agents who had to turn down lucrative movie offers -- he has three times
joined John Neville's repertory company in Nova Scotia. His Trigorin in Chekov's "The Sea Gull" won raves ftoen theatre critics, including the illustrious Clive Barnes, who journeyed to see it. A year later he rejoined the company, this time to direct "The Master Builder." And then he directed and starred in "The Diary of a Scoundrel."
Says Tony: "I love classical music with the same passion with which I despise rock 'n roll." For
Columbia Records, he provided a stunning narration of "Facade," conducted by Arthur Fiedler.
"Facade" is a comical piece consisting of 21 poems written by Edith Sitwell and put to music by Sir
William Walton during the 1920's. (It might be noted that Tony recorded two highly successful record albums for Mercury Records. These spoofed the "Mickey Mouse" sound of some of the dance bands of the'30s, and Tony's rendition of "Boo Hoo" may be the most definitive this side of Carmen Lombardo.) He and Jack Klugrnan also did an album called "The Odd Couple Sings" on London Records. Opera audiences have known him as a regular on Texaco's Opera Quiz and as intermission commentator on TV's "Live from Lincoln Center."
For over two decades, he has been the National Chairman of the Myasthenia Gravis Foundation
for which he is a tireless worker. But he lends his support and prestige to all manner of causes in which he believes.
A man of rnany opinions, Randall says, "There's only one thing worse than a man who doesn't
have strong likes and dislikes, and that's a man who has strong likes and dislikes without the courage to voice them." Randall has rarely failed to make his opinions known. His anti-smoking campaigns are famous. He has been known to snatch a cigarette from someone like Johnny Carson during a TV appearance. The Carsons and their like not only take it, but respect it. He's also outspoken on the subject of producers and critics who think of him solely as a comic. "I'm an actor," he says. "Any actor skilled in his profession should be able to do comedy parts, but that's where the similarity ends."
An example of the wide range of his talents is a show that was particularly meaningful to him. In
the title role of "Sidney Schorr," the actor portrays a middle - aged New York homosexual whose unexpected association with a teen-age girl changes the course of his life. "Love Sidney," the NBC-TV series filmed in New York, found him continuing the funny-sad adventures of the same character. Never one to flinch frorn controversy, Tony took on the forces who complained of the implied homosexuality of the character. After some sharply witty attacks by Randall in the press and on talk shows, the opposition backed down. "Sidney" remained a character who "was what he was." And so, in a different sense but always, does Tony Randall.
His TV and movie appearances have lessened with his immersion into the National Actors
Theatre, but he has still had time for two films for Disney "Sunday Drive" and "Save the Dog," as well as the Agatha Christie mystery, " Man in the Brown Suit." In Septernber 1993, there was a TV special movie reuniting him with Jack Klugman in further adventures of "The Odd Couple" In this period, he also completed two theatrical films, "That's Adequate," a spoof on the "B movie genre, and "It Had to Be You," a Joseph Bologna / Renee Taylor comedy.
Tony Randall also starred in the British farce, "Two Into One," at the Paper Mill Playhouse,
where he broke all existing records, and he starred in a production of "The Man Who Came To Dinner" with the Kenley Players in Ohio.
But the most exciting role Tony has played recently is that of new husband and father. After a
long happy marriage of 54 years, Tony's wife, Florence, died in 1992 after a long illness. Tony has since found love again with actrss Heather Harlan whorn he met while she was interning at the National Actors Theatre. The two were married in New York by Mayor Guiliani on November 17, 1995. Then on April 11, 1997 Tony and Heather become first time parents to lovely Julia Laurette Randall. On June 15, 1998, Tony and Heather became parents again with young Jefferson Salvini Randall making his debut.
But, at this writing, his work, energy and talent remains devoted to his National Actors Theatre.