'Happy Days' Patriarch Tom Bosley Dies at 83
By PopEater Staff Posted Oct 19th 2010 01:29PM
Tom Bosley, a character actor who will forever be known as Howard Cunningham from the hit sitcom 'Happy Days,' died on Tuesday at his home in Palm Springs, his family told TMZ. According to the report, Bosley had been battling a staph infection. He was 83.
Bosley's agent, Sheryl Abrams, told the AP that Bosley died of heart failure at 4AM Tuesday. She says he was also battling lung cancer.
Born in Chicago in 1927, Bosley gravitated to acting after serving in the Navy during World War II and found success in a stage production of 'Our Town' and later at the Woodstock Opera House in Illinois, where he befriended fellow newcomer Paul Newman.
Several small TV and film roles followed (in 'Bewitched,' 'The Mod Squad,' 'Get Smart,' etc.), but in 1974 he landed the role of a lifetime, playing the wise patriarch in 'Happy Days' alongside Ron Howard and Marion Ross, his onscreen wife. The show ran for 11 seasons and ushered in an era of nostalgia for the simpler and less turbulent 1950s.
The actor's flat Chicago accent served him well on the show, as the Cunningham's hailed from Milwaukee, two hours north. Watch a clip:
In 1984, Bosley struck gold again with 'Murder, She Wrote,' playing Sheriff Amos Tupper in the long-running mystery series, starring Angela Lansbury. He then took center stage in his own show, playing the title character in 'Father Downing Mysteries' from 1987 to 1991. He reprised the 'Happy Days' role in a 2005 episode of 'Family Guy.'
His 'Happy Days' co-stars are already reacting to the news. Ron Howard, who played onscreen son Richie Cunningham, tells PEOPLE, "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. My last conversations with Tom reflected the love of life and peace of mind that he always maintained throughout his full and rewarding life. I miss him already.
Henry Winkler tells TMZ that he remembers being blown away by Bosley when he first saw him perform on Broadway. "And then I got to act with him for 10 years and he was great. Tom Bosley was our mentor. He was a true artist ... a great husband, and a fabulous father and grandfather. He will be sorely missed, but never forgotten."
Scott Baio adds: "He was a good man who taught me a lot about the business and business itself. He was a professional guy ... I'm sad."
Though he focused mostly on television and theater (his final Broadway appearance was in 'Cabaret' in 2002-03), Bosley did find some success in film and last appeared in the 2010 comedy 'The Back-up Plan' with Jennifer Lopez.
Bosley was the son of a real estate broker father and a concert pianist mother. He opened up about his early life in a 1979 interview with PEOPLE. "We were fairly wealthy until the stock market crashed," he said. "When I was 2, my father lost all his money."
He is survived by his second wife, Patricia Carr, and a daughter, Amy.
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Ric Francis, AP
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