Tony Randall

On this date in 1920, actor Tony Randall, né Aryeh Leonard Rosenberg, was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma. His talent for mimicry brought notes home from teachers to his parents begging, “Please stop him from making faces!” He attended Northwestern University for a year before enrolling in the Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre in New York City. Randall also studied under choreographer Martha Graham.

He served in the U.S. 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.” Randall’s career in television took off when he played the overbearing history teacher Harvey Weskit on “Mr. Peepers” (1952-55). His film roles, mostly comedies, included a recurring role as foil in the Rock Hudson/Doris Day movies. He portrayed the “brain” in Woody Allen’s “Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex (But Were Afraid to Ask,” 1972).

A critic of right-wing 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, née Florence Gibbs, died in 1992 and he married Heather Harlan in 1995 when he was 75 and she was 25. They had two children.

In his autobiography, Which Reminds Me, he suggested for his epitaph: “I’m not going to take this lying down.” He died in 2004 of pneumonia at age 84, several months after coronary bypass surgery.

Freedom From Religion Foundation