John Randolph (actor)

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John Randolph
John Randolph (actor).jpg
Born Emanuel Hirsch Cohen
(1915-06-01)June 1, 1915
New York City, New York, U.S.
Died February 24, 2004(2004-02-24) (aged 88)
Hollywood, California, U.S.
Occupation Actor
Years active 1938–2003
Spouse(s) Sarah Cunningham (1942–1986; her death; 2 children)

John Randolph (June 1, 1915 – February 24, 2004)[1] was an American film, television and stage actor.

Early life[edit]

Randolph was born Emanuel Hirsch Cohen in New York City, the son of Jewish immigrants Dorothy (née Shorr), an insurance agent, and Louis Cohen, a hat manufacturer.[1][2][3] His stepfather was Joseph Lippman, and as a result Randolph was known as Mortimer Lippman until he changed his name to John Randolph as an adult actor.The storey he told about this concerned an article he wrote for a newspaper (probably political in nature) and the use of a pen name JR ATKINS. He learned that the name belonged to a man named John Randolph Atkins and he decided to take the JR part of that. There is no way to be sure this is true but is was the story he told his kids for many years.[4] In the 1930s, he was active in politics, as well as acting. Randolph summered at Pine Brook Country Club in Nichols, Connecticut which was the summer home of the Group Theatre (New York). Some of the other artists who summered there were; Elia Kazan, Harry Morgan, John Garfield, Lee J. Cobb, Will Geer, Clifford Odets, Howard Da Silva and Irwin Shaw.[5][6] He made his Broadway debut in 1938 in Coriolanus.[7] He also appeared briefly in The Naked City in 1948 Randolph joined the United States Army Air Forces in World War II. Randolph never fought in the war but was a control tower operator for an army air field and was trained as a firefighter as well. His political views were well known and as a result the military kept him in the USA.

He and wife Sarah Cunningham were blacklisted from working in Hollywood films and in New York film and television and radio after 1948. In 1955 they were both called before the HUAC to testify concerning ongoing investigations concerning Communist infiltration in the American entertainment industry. Both John and Sarah refused to answer questions and cited the Fifth Amendment) protection against testifying against themselves. However, they both offered statements to be read to the committee which the committee did not allow. The statements were recorded for posterity and may be found in the Actor's Equity and Screen Actors Guild Archives.

John and Sarah Randolph were very active in AFTRA, SAG and in Actor's Equity, were elected members of union boards and became vice presidents at various times during their careers. They were always active for social change, equal rights for all ethnicities, genders and religious affiliations. They worked with various friendship organizations like the National Council of American-Soviet Friendship and the GDR-American Friendship Society in support of international peaceful relations and nuclear non-proliferation. Through these organization they organized and participated in numerous delegations of artists, performers, writers, directors etc to and from the respective countries to promote better understanding between the respective nations.[citation needed]


Randolph was one of the last blacklisted actors to regain employment in Hollywood films when director John Frankenheimer cast him in a major role in Seconds in 1966. Randolph was in the original New York stage productions of The Sound of Music (as Von Trapp's butler, Franz), Paint Your Wagon, and The Visit.

He won the 1987 Tony Award for Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Play for his performance in the Neil Simon play, Broadway Bound. He made his last Broadway appearance in 1991 in Prelude to a Kiss.

With numerous screen and television appearances in secondary roles, among which he played Donna Pescow's father in-law on the television series, Angie, his was a familiar face. He was often stopped on the street by people who asked if they knew him. He would reply, "Yes, I've been in your living room many times."[8]

In the 1970s he made 3 appearances as Cornelius "Junior" Harrison, father of Emily Hartley in The Bob Newhart Show. In 1975, Randolph was cast as General Philip Blankenship in The New Original Wonder Woman pilot. He was replaced by Richard Eastham in the television series.

In 1982, he appeared in a first season episode of Family Ties as Jake Keaton, Steven Keaton's father, who shared an adversarial relationship with his son before finally revealing during his latest visit that he was, in fact, dying. His death was dealt with off-screen and addressed during a final season flashback following Steven's heart attack. In between, Jake was seen one other time (played by Michael Alldredge) in a flashback to Steven's childhood while he is visiting back home following Jake's death. In 1989, he appeared in two episodes of the hit sitcom Roseanne as Roseanne and Jackie's father, Al Harris. As he only appeared in the first and second seasons, the character was only referred to over the course of the series (his character's extramarital affairs were introduced late in the series as a way of explaining Roseanne's parents' estrangement and his departure from the scene).

In 1990, he co-starred in the NBC comedy Grand.

He appeared in "The Handicap Spot", an early episode of the television sitcom Seinfeld as Frank Costanza, George Costanza's father. He was later replaced by Jerry Stiller. In 1995, the scenes in which Randolph appeared were re-shot with Stiller. The re-shot version is shown in syndication in the United States. The original version, with Randolph, can be seen outside the U.S. and on DVD.

He also appeared in a Season 2 episode of Matlock as Sam Gerard, the head of a crime family in "The Investigation".

He costarred with Alec Guinness, Leo McKern, Jeanne Moreau and Lauren Bacall, in the BBC production of A Foreign Field (1993) as a World War II veteran returning to France to find the woman he fell in love with. Among his most famous film roles was Chief Sidney Green in Serpico (1973), directed by Sidney Lumet.[1] He also played the father of Charlie Partana (played by Jack Nicholson) in Prizzi's Honor and Clark W. Griswold, Sr. in National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (with Chevy Chase). One of his last film roles was as Joe Fox's grandfather in You've Got Mail (1998).

On February 24, 2004, Randolph died of natural causes at age eighty-eight.


  1. ^ a b c "Film Reference bio". Retrieved 2011-02-25. 
  2. ^ People's Weekly World: "John Randolph's life and legacy"[dead link]
  3. ^ Ronald Bergan (2004-03-08). "John Randolph The Guardian Article". London: Guardian. Retrieved 2011-02-25. 
  4. ^ (Martha Randolph daughter)"John Randolph Biography - Yahoo! Movies". Retrieved 2011-02-25. 
  5. ^ "Pinewood Lake website retrieved on 2010-09-10". 2009-05-20. Retrieved 2011-02-25. 
  6. ^ Images of America, Trumbull Historical Society, 1997, p. 123
  7. ^ Martha Randolph
  8. ^, February 27, 2004

External links[edit]