A native of Louisville, Kentucky, she was the younger sister of actress Amanda Randolph. The daughter of a Methodist minister, she spent some of her early years in Cleveland, Ohio, where she began singing on radio station WTAM. An African American, she worked in entertainment from the 1930s well into the 1970s, appearing in hundreds of radio shows, motion pictures, short subjects, and television shows. Randolph is best known as the maid Birdie Lee Coggins from The Great Gildersleeve radio comedy and subsequent films and television series, and as Madame Queen on the Amos 'n' Andy radio show and television show from 1951 to 1953. Her best known film role was that of Annie in It's a Wonderful Life. Randolph was chosen to portray Bill Cosby's mother in his 1969 television series, The Bill Cosby Show. She appeared in several featured roles on Sanford and Son and The Jeffersons in the 1970s.
Her most notable work in films, however, is her uncredited voiceover part as the maid character in William Hanna and Joseph Barbera's Tom and Jerry cartoon short subjects for Metro Goldwyn Mayer during the 1940s and early 1950s. Many of these would have another actress redubbing the character in American TV broadcasts and in the DVD collections.
In 1956, Randolph and her choir, along with fellow Amos 'n' Andy television show cast members Tim Moore, Alvin Childress and Spencer Williams set off on a tour of the US as "The TV Stars of Amos 'n' Andy"; CBS claimed it was an infringement of its rights to the show and its characters. The tour soon came to an end.
Randolph made a guest appearance on a 1972 episode of the sitcom Sanford and Son as Aunt Hazel, an inlaw of the Fred Sanford (Redd Foxx) character who humorously gets a cake thrown in her face, after which Fred replies "Hazel, you never looked sweeter!". She also had a role in the television miniseries, Roots and did more film work in The Onion Field and Magic.
Randolph died of cancer in Los Angeles, California on September 12, 1980 at the age of 81. She was buried in Forest Lawn Memorial Park (Hollywood Hills). For unknown reasons her grave says she was born on 1914. Her sister, Amanda, is buried beside her.
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 Witbeck, Charles (11 August 1969). "Lillian Randolph, Veteran Actress". Toledo Blade. Retrieved 20 September, 2010. Check date values in:
- ↑ BCL (1 October 1945). "Riding the Airwaves". Retrieved 19 September 2010.
- ↑ "Lillian Randolph, a film and television jewel". African-American Registry. Retrieved 27 September 2010.
- ↑ Clayton, Edward T. (October 1961). The Tragedy of Amos 'n' Andy. Ebony. Retrieved 27 September 2010.
- ↑ Anderson, Penny P. (5 May 1972). "Soap Operas In Line For Awards". St. Petersburg Times. Retrieved 20 September 2010.
- ↑ "Deaths Elsewhere". Toledo Blade. 15 September 1980. Retrieved 20 September 2010.
- ↑ "People and Places". Star-News. 16 September 1980. Retrieved 20 September 2010.
- Lillian Randolph at the Internet Movie Database
- Lillian Randolph at Find a Grave (her gravestone says she was born in 1914, not 1898)
- Lillian Randolph Movies & TV New York Times