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John Randolph (June 1, 1915 – February 24, 2004) was an American Tony Award-winning film, television and stage actor.

Early life

Randolph was born Emanuel Hirsch Cohen in New York Citymarker, the son of Jewish immigrants Dorothy (née Shore), an insurance agent, and Louis Cohen, a hat manufacturer. His stepfather was Joseph Lippman, and as a result Randolph was briefly known as Mortimer Lippman during his childhood. In the 1930s he was active in politics as well as acting. He made his Broadway debut in 1938 in Coriolanus. Randolph joined the United Statesmarker Army Air Force in World War II. He wound up blacklisted by the Hollywood studio bosses in 1955 after he refused to answer questions and claimed the Fifth Amendment before the HUAC relating to the Cold War Communist infiltration of the State Department.In 1988 he was elected president of the National Council of American-Soviet Friendship, which succeeded the National Council on Soviet Relations, founded in 1941. The NCSR grew out of the more overtly radical American-Soviet friendship movement of the 1930s, whose organizational center was the Friends of the Soviet Union founded in 1929. The Council, composed largely of professionals who were sympathetic to Socialism, believed that the USSR and the United States should join together in their common fight against fascism. In 1946, the House Un-American Activities Committee began a formal investigation of NCASF, and in 1947, it was indicted for failure to register with the Subversive Activities Control Board. Throughout its operation, the NCASF issued numerous pamphlets and bibliographies about life in the Soviet Union, as well as information on American-Soviet relations.


Randolph was the last blacklisted actor to regain employment in Hollywood films when director John Frankenheimer cast him in the lead role in Seconds in 1966. Randolph was in the original New York stage productions of The Sound of Music, Paint Your Wagon, and The Visit. In 1975, Randolph was cast as General Philip Blankenship in The New Original Wonder Woman. 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.

He starred in the emotionally-powerful drama A Foreign Field (1993) as a World War II veteran. One of his last movie roles was in 1998 as Tom Hanks's crass businessman of a grandfather in You've Got Mail, but perhaps he is best known for playing the father of main character Charlie Partana (played by Jack Nicholson) in Prizzi's Honor or as Clark W. Griswold, Sr. in National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (with Chevy Chase).

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". Randolph appeared in Roseanne as the title character's father, but left the series. 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).

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 where Randolph appeared were re-shot with Stiller. The re-shot version is shown in syndication in the United Statesmarker. The original version, with Randolph, can be seen outside the U.S. and on DVD.

On February 24, 2004, Randolph died of natural causes at age 88; he was cremated.


  1. People's Weekly World - Acting on principle: John Randolph's life and legacy
  2. John Randolph Biography (1915-)
  3. John Randolph Biography - Yahoo! Movies
  4., February 27, 2004

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