As Mrs. Uppington in Fibber McGee and Molly
December 4, 1889|
Chicago, Illinois, USA
|Died||January 11, 1973
Burbank, California, USA
Born in 1889 in Chicago, Illinois, Randolph had an extensive acting career in regional theater all over the American Midwest, from the pre-WWI era right up through to the start of her radio career in the mid-1930s — for example, she was at the Princess Theater in Des Moines, Iowa, in 1918, and, in 1931, at the Loyola Community Theater in Chicago.
Isabel Randolph gained nationwide popularity on the famous radio show Fibber McGee and Molly (on the air 1935-1959), where she began in various "snooty" roles January 13, 1936, eventually becoming the long-running series character, the pompous Mrs. Abigail Uppington, a snooty society matron whom Fibber addressed as "Uppy", and whose pretensions Fibber delighted in deflating. She stayed with the comedy series for seven years, but was gone when the show began its eighth season in the fall of 1943.
She also starred as the wife in NBC's soap opera Dan Harding's Wife (on the air January 20, 1936 thru February 10, 1939), and was in the cast of another NBC soap opera One Man's Family (on the air 1932-59) during the 1940s.
Even while young, Randolph specialized in middle-aged "grand dame" roles on stage and radio, continuing in these roles when she entered films in 1940. She re-created her character of Mrs. Uppington in RKO's Look Who's Laughing in 1941 and Here We Go Again in 1942, both spin-offs of the Fibber McGee and Molly radio series. In 1943, she co-starred again as Mrs. Uppington, but with country–music pioneer Roy Acuff instead, in the Republic musical O, My Darling Clementine. She worked in more than a few 1940s films with Lucille Ball. She played many small roles in major pictures, and starred in major (though stereotypical) roles in B-pictures — though, in at least one Republic Studios western of the early 1950s (Thundering Caravans, one of the Sheriff Rocky Lane film series), she was cast against type as an evil criminal mastermind.
Randolph worked on over seventy films from 1939 to 1959. Among them were:
- Scrambled Eggs (1939), a Walter Lantz cartoon (voice (unconfirmed)), playing various Mother Bird characters
- The Women (1939) (uncredited) playing Woman in Cabinet
- The Corsican Brothers (1941) (uncredited) playing Countess Isabelle's Mother
- Mr. Dynamite (1941) (uncredited) playing Dowager
- Take a Letter, Darling (1942) (uncredited) playing Mrs. French
- My Favorite Blonde (1942) (uncredited) playing Frederick's Mother
- Henry Aldrich Gets Glamour (1943) (uncredited) playing Mrs. Stacey
- Shadow of a Doubt (1943) (uncredited) playing Mrs. Margaret Green
- The Missing Corpse (1945)
- Little Women (1949) (uncredited) playing Mrs. Gardiner
- The Fuller Brush Girl (1950) (uncredited) playing bridge player Mrs. Annabel South
- Secrets of Monte Carlo (1951)
- Ain't Misbehavin' (1955) (uncredited) playing Matron
- Hot Shots (1956) playing Mrs. Taylor
- It Started with a Kiss (1959) (uncredited) playing Mrs. Chalmers
In her television career from 1951 to 1966, Isabel appeared most often on comedies, with an occasional drama (such as Perry Mason). She was seen as private-school proprietress Mrs. Nestor during the final (1955–1956) season of Our Miss Brooks. She played the recurring character of neighbor Mrs. Boone in Meet Millie, one of the first of the sitcom hits for CBS in 1954. She was also a regular comedic actor in 1952 on The Abbott and Costello Show, and from 1957-1962 on The Red Skelton Show. Her first role on television was a protagonist on the 1951 version of Dick Tracy.
In 1958, Randolph appeared as Grandma Wilkins on the episode "Wyatt Earp Rides Shotgun" of the ABC/Desilu western series, The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp. In the story line, deputy Wyatt Earp (Hugh O'Brian) is trying to stop the Dan Purvis gang from attacking Wells Fargo and encounters unexpected help from Grandma Wilkins in his task. Mason Alan Dinehart appears in this episode a young Bat Masterson.
Randolph appeared in The Andy Griffith Show episodes "A Plaque for Mayberry" and "Rafe Hollister Sings". One of her last appearances on television was in 1966 in her recurring role as Clara Petrie, the mother of Rob (Dick Van Dyke) on The Dick Van Dyke Show. Later that year she concluded her television career when she played the role of Madam Rosa Bruening in the Perry Mason episode, "The Case of the Misguided Model."
Randolph was born December 4, 1889, in Chicago.
She died January 11, 1973, in Burbank, California, survived by two daughters.
- Jones, Ken D.; McClure, Arthur F; Twomey, Alfred E. (1976) "Character People" A. S. Barnes, ISBN 0-498-01697-8, page 170
- University of Virginia (1951) "Iowa Journal of History (Volume 49): the Princess Theater of Des Moine", State Historical Society of Iowa, pages 13, 21 (available online at the Google Books online archive
- National Collegiate Players (1931) "Players (Volumes 8-100)" University of Michigan page 23
- Dunning, John (1998) "On the Air: the Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio" Oxford University Press US, ISBN 0-19-507678-8, page 245
- "Radio: Fibber McGee and Molly" (review), Billboard, October 16, 1943, page 12 (also available at the Google Books online archive
- Cox, Jim (2005) "Historical Dictionary of American Radio Soap Operas" Eowman & Littlefield, ISBN 0-8108-5323-X, ISBN 978-0-8108-5323-2, page 69
- Cox, Jim (2005) "Historical Dictionary of American Radio Soap Operas" Eowman & Littlefield, ISBN 0-8108-5323-X, ISBN 978-0-8108-5323-2, page 161
- ""Wyatt Earp Rides Shotgun", The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp, February 18, 1958". Internet Movie Data Base. Retrieved May 6, 2014.