NEW YORK — Veteran stage and television actress Joyce Randolph, whose role as the wise-cracking Trixie Norton on “The Honeymooners” provided the perfect support for her ditzy TV husband, has died. She was 99 years old.
Randolph died of natural causes Saturday night at his home on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, his son Randolph Charles told The Associated Press on Sunday.
He was the last surviving main character of the hit comedy from the 1950s, the golden age of television.
“The Honeymooners” was a loving look at Brooklyn tenement life and was based in part on star Jackie Gleason’s childhood. Gleason played boisterous bus driver Ralph Kramdan. Audrey Meadows was his witty, strong-willed wife, Alice, and Art Carney was his cheerful sewer worker, Ed Norton. Alice and Trixie often found themselves commiserating over their husbands’ various follies and mishaps; Whether they’re unknowingly marketing dog food as a popular snack, trying in vain to resist a rent increase, or freezing when their heat goes out in the winter.
Randolph would later quote several favorite episodes, including one where Ed sleepwalks.
“And Carney calls out: ‘Thelma?!’ He never knew his wife’s real name,” he later told the Television Academy Foundation.
“The Honeymooners,” which originated as a recurring skit on Gleason’s variety show “Cavalcade of Stars” in 1950, remains among television comedy’s all-time favorites. The show’s popularity increased when Gleason switched networks with “The Jackie Gleason Show.” It later became a full-fledged series for one season in 1955-56.
These 39 episodes became the basis for syndicated programs broadcast across the country and beyond.
In an interview with The New York Times in January 2007, Randolph said that he received no compensation for these 39 episodes. He said he eventually started receiving royalties when “lost” segments from variety hours were discovered.
After five years as a member of Gleason’s on-air repertory company, Randolph nearly retired, choosing to focus on marriage and motherhood full-time.
“I haven’t missed anything by not working all the time,” he said. “I didn’t want a nanny to raise my wonderful son.”
But decades after leaving the show, Randolph still had many fans and was receiving dozens of letters a week. In his 80s, he was a regular at Sardi’s downstairs bar; here he liked to sip his favorite White Cadillac concoction — Dewar’s and milk — and chat with customers who recognized him from the portraits of the sitcom’s four characters above the bar.
Randolph said he didn’t realize the impact the show had on television audiences until the early 1980s.
“When my son was in college at Yale one year, he came home and said, ‘I’ve had guys and girls come up to me and say, ‘Is your mom really Trixie?'” she told The San Antonio Express. “Did you know they asked?” in 2000. “I guess he wasn’t really interested until then.”
She has previously complained that playing Trixie limited her career.
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“Years after this role, directors said: ‘No, we can’t use him. She’s very well known as Trixie,” Randolph told the Orlando Sentinel in 1993.
Gleason died in 1987 at the age of 71, followed by Meadows in 1996 and Carney in 2003. Gleason revived “The Honeymooners” in the 1960s, starring Jane Kean as Trixie.
Randolph was born Joyce Sirola in Detroit in 1924 and was around 19 when she joined a road company called “Stage Door.” From there she went to New York and performed in a number of Broadway shows.
In the late 1940s and early 1950s, Eddie Cantor was frequently seen on television alongside Dean Martin and such stars as Jerry Lewis, Danny Thomas and Fred Allen.
Randolph first met Gleason while shooting a Clorets commercial on the subject of “Cavalcade of Stars,” and the Big One took a liking to him; He didn’t even have an agent at the time.
Randolph spent his retirement going to Broadway openings and fundraisers, being active in the USO, and visiting other favorite Manhattan spots, including the Angus, Chez Josephine, and the Lambs Club.
Her husband, Richard Lincoln, a wealthy marketing executive who died in 1997, served as president of the Lambs, a drama club, and reigned as “First Lady.” They had a son named Charles.