- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 18, 2004

NEW YORK- Tony Randall, the comic actor best known for playing fastidious photographer Felix Unger on “The Odd Couple,” has died. He was 84.

Mr. 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.

He is survived by his wife, Heather Harlan Randall — who is 50 years his junior and made him a father for the first time at age 77 — and their two children, 7-year-old Julia Laurette and 5-year-old Jefferson Salvini. Mr. Randall was married previously to his college sweetheart, Florence Gibbs, for 54 years until she died of cancer in 1992.

Mr. Randall was hospitalized after starring for a month in “Right You Are,” a revival of Luigi Pirandello’s play by the National Actors Theatre, which he founded.

In a tribute to the actor, known for his work onstage as well as television, lights at all the Broadway theaters were to be dimmed at 8 last night.

Mr. Randall, born Leonard Rosenberg on Feb. 26, 1920, in Tulsa, Okla., won an Emmy for playing Unger on the sitcom based on Neil Simon’s play and movie. The show ran from 1970-75.

Its charm sprang from Mr. Randall’s chemistry and conflict with Jack Klugman as sloppy sportswriter Oscar Madison, with whom he is forced to share an apartment after both men get divorced.

Mr. Randall attended Northwestern University before heading to New York at 19, where he made his stage debut in 1941 in “The Circle of Chalk.” After Army service during World War II, he returned to New York, where he appeared on radio and early television. He got his start in movies in 1957.

Mr. Randall was best known then as the “best friend” figure in several Rock Hudson-Doris Day movies, including 1959’s “Pillow Talk” and 1961’s “Lover Come Back.”

After “The Odd Couple,” Mr. Randall had two short-lived sitcoms, one of which was “The Tony Randall Show,” in which he starred as a stuffy Philadelphia judge, from 1976-78.

From 1981-83, he played the title role in the sitcom “Love, Sidney,” as a single, middle-aged commercial artist helping a female friend care for her young daughter.

Mr. Randall received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1998.

In an effort to bring classic theater back to Broadway, he founded and became artistic director of the nonprofit National Actors Theatre in 1991, using $1 million of his own money and $2 million from corporations and foundations.

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