Tony Randall

On this date in 1920, actor Tony Randall, né Leonard Rosenberg, was born in Tulsa. His talent for mimicry brought notes home from teachers to his parents begging, "Please stop him from making faces!" He attended Northwestern University for one year before enrolling in the Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre. Randall also studied under choreographer Martha Graham. He served in the Army Signal Corps during World War II, then went back to the stage. Randall portrayed the character based on H.L. Mencken in the 1955 Broadway production of "Inherit the Wind." New York Herald Tribune reviewer Walter Kerr wrote that Randall uttered "juicy sarcasm with great finesse." Randall's career in television took off when he played the overbearing history teacher, Harvey Weskit, on "Mr. Peepers" (1952-1955). His film roles, mostly comedies, included a recurring role as foil in the Rock Hudson/Doris Day movies. Randall portrayed the "brain" in Woody Allen's "Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Sex * But Were Afraid to Ask" (1972). A critic of rightwing cuts to the arts, Randall founded and funded the National Actors Theater in New York in 1991, to ensure that classic plays would be available to the public at reasonable ticket prices. Randall was a well-known opera aficionado and booster. His wife of 54 years, nee Florence Gibbs, died in 1992, and he remarried a young woman, Heather Harlan, in 1995, with whom he had two children. In his autobiography, Which Reminds Me, he suggested for his epitaph: "I'm not going to take this lying down." D. 2004.

“I wish I believed I'd see my parents again, see my wife again. But I know it's not going to happen.”

—Tony Randall, Washington Post, Sept. 25, 2003

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

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