March 1, 2024

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Joyce Randolph, the last of the honeymooners, dies at the age of 99

Joyce Randolph, the last of the honeymooners, dies at the age of 99

Joyce Randolph, who played Trixie Norton, the guffawing, rubber-limbed wife of a sewer worker forever ensnared in an arrogant neighbor's get-rich-quick schemes and other life perils on the classic 1950s sitcom “The Honeymooners,” has died. Her home is in Manhattan. It was 99.

Her son, Randy Charles, confirmed her death.

Ms. Randolph was the last survivor of the four-person cast that dominated the Saturday night viewing habits of millions in the golden age of live television, and for decades afterward in rebroadcast and home video. Jackie Gleason (Ralph Kramden) died in 1987; Audrey Meadows (Ralph's wife, Alice) in 1996; and Art Carney (Ed Norton) in 2003.

In an era when telephones, televisions and refrigerators were status symbols in a Brooklyn tenement, the Kramdens had nothing to pay for their $62-a-week bus driver's wage. Reflecting the experience of America's working class, they struggled for a better life, shared disappointments and had fun, even if there was no uranium mine in Asbury Park and no market for glow-in-the-dark wallpaper, zero-calorie pizza or a Krammar's. “. A “delicious mystery appetizer,” which turns out to be dog food.

In the role of Trixie, Ms. Randolph played the upstairs wife who crosses her arms and sympathizes with her best friend, Alice, over addicted husbands who have somehow gotten drunk on grape juice, stumbled upon a bag of counterfeit mob money, and invented a “handy-to-use” kitchen gadget that can… the basic”. a apple,” and after waiting all year for the International System of Friendly Raccoons conference, they boarded the wrong train.

While her character was less developed than the others, Ms. Randolph was revered by enthusiasts as the last living link to the inspiring craziness of the show that had a cult following, with fan clubs, esoteric trivia contests and memorabilia sales. At the 1984 Long Island meeting of the Royal Society for Longevity and Preservation of Honeymooners, or RALPH, one could purchase a size 52 bus driver's uniform or the coveted Trixie bib.

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Ms. Randolph appeared in the program's heyday from 1951 to 1957. Her first skit was about “Cavalcade of Stars,” a variety show on the DuMont network featuring Mr. Gleason. From 1952 to 1954, he was a segment on CBS' “The Jackie Gleason Show.” From 1955 to 1956, the series was a stand-alone half-hour CBS series, with 39 episodes filmed in front of a live audience of 1,000 people. Finally in 1957, she reappeared as part of “The Jackie Gleason Show.”

At the height of the show's popularity, Ms. Randolph was the lowest-paid star at $500 a week. Mr. Gleason had contracts that paid millions, but he covered all production costs and earned between $65,000 and $70,000 an episode. Mr. Carney was paid $3,500 and Ms. Meadows $2,000 a week.

The cast had no illusions about making television history, and for Ms. Randolph, “The Honeymooners” wasn’t just a full-time job. There was only one rehearsal, hours before broadcast time.

“We never saw Jackie until 11 a.m. on Saturday, the morning of the show,” she recalled in an interview with The New York Times. “At lunchtime there was only one round with Jackie. He said comedy wouldn't work if it was over-rehearsed.

Joyce Sirola was born in Detroit on October 21, 1924, one of two children of Carl and Mary Sirola. Her father, a Finnish immigrant, was a butcher.

She graduated from Cooley High School in Detroit and moved to New York in 1943. She began acting at the age of 19, joining a road company production of “Stage Door.”

After touring with “Abie's Irish Rose” and “Good Night, Ladies,” she made her Broadway debut in 1945 in “A Goose for the Gander” starring Gloria Swanson. In the late 1940s, she appeared increasingly on television, seen with Eddie Cantor, Danny Thomas, Fred Allen, and the comedy team of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis.

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Mr. Gleason discovered her in a 1951 chewing gum commercial and hired her to perform a skit in his movie “Cavalcade of Stars.” She later joined “The Honeymooners” replacing Elaine Stritch in the role of Trixie after one performance. By then she was known as Joyce Randolph.

“The Honeymooners” was the pinnacle of her career, but it gave her time for many other television roles, often as a victim of murder and mayhem. “Last year,” said a 1952 New York Daily News profile, “television actress Joyce Randolph was shot 14 times, strangled four times, stabbed three times, thrown out of windows twice, and run over by a speeding car.” Once.”

In 1955, Mrs. Randolph married Richard Charles, a business executive. He died in 1997. Their son, Randy, is her only survivor.

After leaving “The Honeymooners,” which was revived with a different cast in the 1960s and 1970s, she found herself in print and largely abandoned acting, except for occasional television and personal appearances.

Mrs. Randolph is dedicated Bronze statue measuring eight feet tall for Mr. Gleason at the Port Authority Bus Terminal in 2000. She received a standing ovation at the USO Gala in New York in 2006.

“I think all these young Marines are watching TV,” she said.

Jack Cadden contributed reporting.