‘Happy Days’ Dad Tom Bosley Dies At Age 83

by | October 19, 2010 at 1:01 PM | Celebrity Deaths, TV News

Tom Bosley (Photo:  Charles William Bush)

Tom Bosley (Photo: Charles William Bush)

Tom Bosley, who was well-known to TV fans from his turns on ‘Happy Days,’ ‘Murder, She Wrote‘ and ‘The Father Dowling Mysteries,’ died at his home in Palm Springs early Tuesday morning. He was 83.

Bosley’s agent, Sheryl Abrams, told the Associated Press the actor died of natural causes, and had been battling lung cancer.

Watch Video Clips Of Tom Bosley Performances

Bosley’s cast mates from ‘Happy Days,’ where he played Howard “Mr. C” Cunningham, were quick to tribute the actor.

“Tom’s insight, talent, strength of character and comic timing made him a vital central figure in the ‘Happy Days’ experience,” Ron Howard says of his TV dad in a statement cited by People.com. “A great father and husband, and a wonderful artist, Tom led by example, and made us all laugh while he was doing it.”

“I saw him [act] before I ever got to Hollywood, on Broadway, and he was great,” Henry Winkler told TMZ. “And then I got to act with him for 10 years and he was great.”

Tom Bosley was our mentor… a true artist… a great husband, and a fabulous father and grandfather,” Winkler added. “He will be sorely missed, but never forgotten.”

Scott Baio, aka ‘Happy Days’ Chachi, remembered Bosley as “a good man who taught me a lot about the business and business itself….. I’m sad.”

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Born Oct. 1, 1927 in Chicago, Bosley dreamed of playing left field for the Chicago Cubs. When his athletic talent failed to match his ambitions, he served in the United States Navy during World War II, then attended DePaul University with the intention of gaining a law degree.

After transferring to the Radio Institute of Chicago, Bosley found work as an actor on radio. That led to his stage debut in a 1947 production of ‘Golden Boy,’ and then his off-Broadway (in ‘Thieves’ Highway’) and television debuts (Hallmark Hall of Fame’s ‘Alice in Wonderland’).

In 1959, Bosley made his mark on the Broadway map, playing the titular New York mayor in the Pulitzer-winning ‘Fiorello!’ For that role, he earned a Tony Award.

TV, though, soon became Bosley’s bread and butter, as he landed roles on such programs as ‘That Was the Week That Was,’ ‘The Debbie Reynolds Show’ and ‘The Dean Martin Show.’

As trivia buffs know, ABC’s ‘Happy Days’ was born of a failed pilot called ‘New Family in Town,’ which ultimately got burned off as a segment of the comedy anthology series ‘Love, American Style.’ But when Ron Howard‘s career kicked off with the success of ‘American Graffiti,’ ABC revisited the series in 1974, replacing Harold Gould (‘The Sting’) with Bosley as the Cunningham family patriarch. Come 1978, Bosley earned an Emmy nomination for his efforts.

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After ‘Happy Days’ ended its run in 1984, Bosley went on to star in such series as ‘Murder, She Wrote’ (playing Sheriff Amos Tupper) and ‘The Father Dowling Mysteries’ (as the titular crime-solving clergyman).

His most recent TV appearances included ‘One Tree Hill’ and ‘That ’70s Show,’ and he also can be seen in the big-screen Jennifer Lopez comedy ‘The Back-Up Plan.’

Bosley is survived by his second wife, Patricia Carr, and a daughter, Amy.