John Randolph
Emanuel Hirsch Cohen

(1915-06-01)June 1, 1915
New York City, U.S.
DiedFebruary 24, 2004(2004-02-24) (aged 88)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Years active1938–2003
(m. 1942; died 1986)

Emanuel Hirsch Cohen (June 1, 1915 – February 24, 2004),[citation needed] better known by the stage name John Randolph, was an American film, television and stage actor.[1]

Early life

Randolph was born Emanuel Hirsch Cohen in New York City on June 1, 1915, the son of Jewish immigrants from Russia and Romania.[2] His mother, Dorothy (née Shorr), was an insurance agent, and his father, Louis Cohen, was a hat manufacturer.[3][4] In the 1930s, he spent his summers at the Pine Brook Country Club in Nichols, Connecticut, which was the summer home of the Group Theatre.[5][6] He made his Broadway debut in 1938 in Coriolanus. Randolph joined the United States Army Air Forces in World War II. He had a small role in the 1948 film The Naked City.[4]

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 House Un-American Activities Committee to testify concerning ongoing investigations regarding Communist infiltration in the American entertainment industry. Both he and his wife refused to answer questions and cited the Fifth Amendment protection against testifying against themselves.[7]

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.[citation needed]

From 1988 to 1991, Randolph served as chairman of the National Council of American–Soviet Friendship.[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.[4]

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.[citation needed] He made his last Broadway appearance in 1991 in Prelude to a Kiss.

Randolph made numerous screen and television appearances in secondary roles. He played Chief Sidney Green in Serpico (1973), directed by Sidney Lumet. 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). From 1973 to 1976, he made three appearances as Cornelius "Junior" Harrison, Jr., father of Emily Hartley, in The Bob Newhart Show (shows #37, #59, and #106).

In 1974, he played an Air Force Colonel in the Columbo episode "Swan Song". He played a mayor in Earthquake (1974), a disaster film. 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. He had an uncredited role in the 1976 film All The President's Men as the voice of Richard Nixon's Attorney General John Mitchell.

In 1975, Randolph took over the role of the principal of fictional Harry S Truman High School in the series Lucas Tanner starring David Hartman. He was with the series for the last half of its single season.

He played Judge J. Waties Waring in "With All Deliberate Speed", a 1976 episode of CBS's mini-series The American Parade, dealing with events culminating in the 1954 Supreme Court decision (Brown v Board of Education) barring racial segregation in US public schools.[8][9] In 1977, Randolph appeared in a made-for-TV movie entitled The Gathering, a Christmas-themed show along with Edward Asner and Maureen Stapleton. The movie won the Emmy for Outstanding Special – Drama or Comedy.[citation needed]

In 1979, he had a guest appearance on M*A*S*H as an adjutant army general admiring the culinary prowess of a master chef errantly assigned as a foot soldier in a front unit. From 1979 to 1980, he played Donna Pescow's father-in-law on the television series Angie.[10]

In 1982, he appeared in a first-season episode of Family Ties as Jake Keaton, Steven Keaton's father. He was a special guest star in the 1986 ABC made-for-TV movie The Right of the People, playing Police Chief Hollander in a town soon allowing all adults to carry handguns.[11][12]

In 1988, he appeared in a Season 2 episode of Matlock as the head of a crime family in "The Investigation". In 1989, he appeared in two episodes of Roseanne playing Al, Roseanne's dad, who was later revealed to be an abusive parent. In 1991, he guested in an episode of Married ... With Children entitled "Al Bundy, Shoe Dick".

In 1990, he landed a regular series role, co-starring as a family patriarch in the NBC comedy Grand, co-starring Bonnie Hunt, and Michael McKean. The series only lasted two seasons, despite a timeslot following NBC's highly successful Cheers.

He co-starred 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.

He appeared as Frank Costanza, George Costanza's father, in "The Handicap Spot", an early episode of the television sitcom Seinfeld, which reunited him with his Broadway Bound co-star Jason Alexander. He was later replaced in that role by Jerry Stiller, and, in 1995, the scenes in which Randolph appeared were re-shot with Stiller, though Randolph continued to be credited in some airings. The re-shot version is shown in syndication in the United States (but can also be seen on the DVD). The original version, with Randolph, can be seen outside the U.S. and on DVD, Hulu and Crackle.[citation needed]

One of his last film roles was as Joe Fox's grandfather in You've Got Mail (1998).

On February 24, 2004, Randolph died at his home in Hollywood, California, of natural causes, aged 88.[1][13] He acted up until the year before his death.

Selected filmography


  1. ^ a b Sisario, Ben (February 28, 2004). "John Randolph, 88, an Actor On Broadway and in the Movies". The New York Times. Retrieved 2013-10-03. Mr. Randolph and his wife were called before the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1955 but refused to testify. He remained blacklisted from film and television work until the mid-1960s, returning to work in the science-fiction film Seconds in 1966. That film, directed by John Frankenheimer, starred Rock Hudson and also featured Will Greer [sic] and Jeff Corey, who had also been blacklisted.
  2. ^ "The Name Game". Los Angeles Times. September 27, 1986. p. F7. Retrieved 16 March 2015.
  3. ^ Rabinowitz, Noel (June 5, 2004). "John Randolph's life and legacy". People's Weekly World. Archived from the original on October 29, 2006.
  4. ^ a b c Bergan, Ronald (March 8, 2004). "John Randolph, US stage actor whose film career outlasted the blacklist". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 2011-02-25.
  5. ^ "About". Pinewood Lake Association. Retrieved 21 January 2019.
  6. ^ Trumbull Historical Society (January 1, 2004). Trumbull. Arcadia. p. 123. ISBN 978-0-7385-3458-9.
  7. ^ "Six Entertainers Defy Un-American Probers in Red Theater Quiz". Schenectady Gazette. United Press. August 16, 1955. p. 1. Retrieved 27 August 2014.
  8. ^ Todd, Sharon (June 4, 1976). "Actor John Randolph, Wife Take Time Off In Greenville". The Greenville News (Main ed.). p. 10. Retrieved January 17, 2018 – via
  9. ^ "With All Deliberate Speed". Longview News-Journal. June 13, 1976. p. 12-G. Retrieved January 17, 2018 – via
  10. ^ "Character actor John Randolph dead at 88". CNN. Associated Press. February 27, 2004. Archived from the original on 2004-02-28.
  11. ^ Dorsey, Tom (January 13, 1986). "'Right of the People' is a case of overkill of handgun controversy". The Courier-Journal (Metro ed.). Louisville, Kentucky. p. B2. Retrieved January 17, 2018 – via
  12. ^ Harrison, Tom (January 12, 1986). "'Right of the People': Gun Crazy". The Greenville News. p. 29. Retrieved January 17, 2018 – via
  13. ^ McLellan, Dennis (February 27, 2004). "John Randolph, 88; Tony-Winning Character Actor Was Blacklisted". Los Angeles Times. p. B13. Retrieved 3 May 2022.