Joyce Randolph, the “Honeymooners” star who charmed American households during the show’s height of popularity in the 1950s, has become the final main cast member to pass away. She was 99.
Randolph’s death was first reported by TMZ after the entertainment outlet spoke with her son, Randolph Richard Charles, who announced she had passed away peacefully Saturday night at her New York City home. She was undergoing hospice care at the time and was unable to walk.
Her role as Trixie Norton, the wife of the character Ed Norton played by Art Carney, Randolph often found herself in arm-crossing situations as her husband guffawed his way into the hearts of viewers. Together with her best friend Alice, the pair looked on as Ed Norton and his buddies befell mobster cash, got drunk on grapefruit juice, and took the wrong train on the way to the International Order of Friendly Raccoons.
Despite only shooting 39 episodes, the sitcom has remained an iconic homage to the golden age of live television, a time when millions of Americans gathered around the new comforts of TV in the post-WWII age of American ascension. Debuting in 1955, “Honeymooners” ran for just a single season on CBS though outperformed expectations, rising to the number two spot in the evening ratings.
Randolph landed the role of Trixie after being spotted by Jackie Gleason, who played neighbor Ralph Kramden, in a gum-chewing commercial. At the peak of the show’s popularity, she remained the lowest-paid star of the main cast, earning $500 a week, equivalent to about $5,900 today. While Gleason had a contract worth millions, he also paid five-figure sums for the show’s production costs.
Speaking earlier with the New York Times, Randolph said she and her fellow cast members were under no illusions that “Honeymooners” was unlikely to make television history. There were no multi-day rehearsals, and the staff gathered just a few hours before the episode to do a dry run-through.
“We never saw Jackie until 11 a.m. on Saturday, the morning of the show,” she recalled. “At lunchtime, there was just one run-through with Jackie. He said that comedy didn’t work if it was overrehearsed.”
Randolph, born Joyce Sirola, was born in 1924 to Mary and Carl Sirola. Her father, a Finnish immigrant, worked as a butcher to support the family. She moved to New York in 1943 to pursue acting, making it to the Broadway stage in 1945 before increasingly garnering television roles.
She married business executive Richard Charles in 1977, who passed 20 years later. She is survived by her son Randy. He says his mother will be cremated. He asks that donations be sent to the Entertainment Community Fund instead of flowers.