For more than a decade, viewers could turn on their TVs and find Howard Cunningham in his armchair, reading the newspaper and providing a fatherly voice of reason to young Richie Cunningham and his friends on Happy Days.
Tom Bosley made the role of “Mr C” famous during the long-running sitcom, earning a place as one of the most memorable fathers in TV history.
Bosley died on Tuesday at the age of 83 after suffering heart failure at a hospital near his Palm Springs home. Bosley’s agent, Sheryl Abrams, said he was also battling lung cancer.
His death brought fond remembrances of the nostalgic ABC show, which ran from 1974 to 1984.
“Kids were watching their parents grow up, and parents were watching themselves grow up. And that was the key to success of that show,” Bosley said in a 2000 interview.
Bosley initially turned down the offer for a costarring role in Happy Days.
“After rereading the pilot script,” he recalled in a 1986 interview, “I changed my mind because of a scene between Howard Cunningham and Richie. The father/son situation was written so movingly, I fell in love with the project.”
Happy Days slowly built to hit status, becoming television’s top-rated series by its third season.
“Tom’s insight, talent, strength of character and comic timing made him a vital central figure in the Happy Days experience. A great father and husband, and a wonderful artist, Tom led by example, and made us all laugh while he was doing it,” said a statement from Ron Howard, who played Richie Cunningham.
Bosley also played the crime-solving priest in television’s The Father Dowling Mysteries, which ran from 1989 to 1991.
Although Happy Days brought him his widest fame, Bosley had made his mark on Broadway 15 years before when he turned in a Tony Award-winning performance in the title role in Fiorello!
His Broadway triumph depicted the life of New York’s colorful reformist mayor of the 1930s and 1940s, Fiorello La Guardia. For two years, Bosley stopped the show every night when he sang in several languages, depicting La Guardia during the years the future mayor worked at New York’s Ellis Island, aiding arriving immigrants.
Born in Chicago in 1927, Bosley served in the Navy before returning to his hometown to study at DePaul University. Intrigued with acting, he enrolled at the Radio Institute of Chicago and began appearing in radio dramas.
Bosley married dancer Jean Eliot in 1962 and the couple had one child, Amy. Two years after his wife’s death in 1978, Bosley married actress-producer Patricia Carr, who had three daughters from a previous marriage.
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