Family & Companions
Bosley served as a member of the governing council of Actors' Equity Association from 1961 to 1969.
A Tony Award-winning turn on Broadway brought actor Tom Bosley to national attention, but his enduring fame derived from a string of television series and appearances from the late 1950s through the 1990s. Adept at playing average Joes with an inquisitive or irascible streak, Bosley found the perfect apotheosis of that persona playing Howard Cunningham, the perpetually exasperated but kind-hearted dad on "Happy Days" (ABC, 1974-1984). The show's staggering popularity ensured that Bosley would be the go-to for lovable father figures for decades to come. He later divided his acting roles between characters of that ilk and more curmudgeonly types like Sheriff Amos Tupper on "Murder, She Wrote" (CBS, 1984-1996) and the title sleuth in "The Father Dowling Mysteries" (NBC/ABC, 1987-1991). Meanwhile, his onscreen appearances were fewer and farther between in his later years, with an episode of "That 70s Show" (Fox, 1998-2006), the TV movie "Charlie & Me" (Hallmark Channel, 2008) and a small part in "The Back-Up Plan" (2010) marking some of his final roles. Despite his limited output in the 21st century, Bosley nonetheless remained a revered and well-remembered performer across several generations.
Born Oct. 1, 1927 in Chicago, IL, Bosley was initially passionate about baseball, dreaming of playing left field for the perennial underdog Chicago Cubs. But his actual athletic talent failed to match his ambitions. After serving a stint in the United States Navy during World War II, he attended DePaul University with the intention of gaining a law degree. He later transferred to the Radio Institute of Chicago to pursue a career as a sports announcer, but the job proved elusive. He eventually found work as an actor on radio, which led to his stage debut and first fatherly role in a 1947 production of "Golden Boy." By the mid-1950s, he had relocated to New York to seek his fortune on Broadway.
Bosley made his off-Broadway and television debuts in 1955 - the former came in "Thieves' Highway," while the latter found him playing the Knave of Hearts in a production of "Alice in Wonderland" for "Hallmark Hall of Fame" (NBC/CBS, 1951- ). Four years later, Bosley landed the role that would place him on the Broadway map, playing the earthy and much-loved New York mayor Fiorello LaGuardia in the Pulitzer Prize-winning "Fiorello!" (1959). Bosley wowed audiences nightly for two years in the role, which required him to sing in three different languages in just one number alone. The role earned him a Tony Award in 1960. He soon found himself in demand on Broadway and for the occasional film, making his big screen debut as a homely cook who intends to marry Natalie Wood in "Love with the Proper Stranger" (1963).
But television soon became Bosley's busiest medium. He earned critical acclaim as the mad Teddy Brewster, who believes himself to be Teddy Roosevelt, in a 1962 production of "Arsenic and Old Lace," co-starring Tony Randall and Mildred Natwick for "Hallmark Hall of Fame." His first job as a series regular came with the satirical news program "That Was the Week That Was" (NBC, 1964-65), which gave him a terrific showcase for his dry comic delivery. By the mid-1960s, Bosley was so busy with guest appearances on television that he was forced to cut back his stage work, making his last significant Broadway part for almost 30 years in the little-seen "The Education of H*Y*M*A*N*K*A*P*L*A*N*" (1968).
Bosley soon became a mainstay for sympathetic working class types and world-weary professionals. He essayed more than his share of family doctors, rumpled cops, and legal workers; among his standout roles of the period was that of a down-on-his-luck gambler who agrees to give up his eyes to a cruel society woman (Joan Crawford) in order to pay his debts in an episode of the "Night Gallery" (NBC, 1970-72). That same year, he played Debbie Reynolds' sports columnist husband on the sitcom "The Debbie Reynolds Show" (NBC, 1969-1970), which was followed by two equally short-lived gigs: playing Sandy Duncan's boss on "The Sandy Duncan Show" (CBS, 1972-73) and as a regular for two seasons of "The Dean Martin Show" (NBC, 1965-1974). Bosley also gave the first of many subsequent voiceover performances for an animated series with "Wait Till Your Father Gets Home" (syndicated, 1972-74), which cast him as the downtrodden patriarch of an eccentric suburban family. The show originated as an episode of the anthology series "Love, American Style" (ABC, 1969-1974), which also served as the inspiration for his next and most popular TV role.
Prior to Bosley essaying the role, actor Harold Gould played Howard Cunningham on "New Family in Town," a 1969 pilot that went unsold before finding a home as an episode of "Love, American Style" called "Love and the Happy Days." When the episode's star, Ron Howard, scored a major hit in theaters with "American Graffiti," producer Garry Marshall revived the project and resold a new version to the network as a weekly series. Though Gould was respected and talented, Bosley was the superior choice for Howard Cunningham. The actor projected a degree of warmth that belied his eye rolls and grousing over the antics of his children (Howard and Erin Moran), their friends (Anson Williams and Donny Most), his wife Marion (Marion Ross), and the effortlessly cool dropout Fonzie (Henry Winkler), who was soon an extended member of the family. As Mr. C, Bosley's role was largely relegated to providing comic exasperation or sage advice to the show's younger players, which grew with each passing year. But he played the role with honesty and a dry humor that undercut the limitations of the character. For his efforts, Bosley earned an Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actor in 1978.
In addition to his work on "Happy Days," Bosley kept busy with outside roles in features and television projects. His voice was heard weekly as the host of the radio anthology series, "The General Mills Radio Adventure Hour" in 1977, and as the narrator for a documentary series about the movies called "That's Hollywood" (syndicated, 1977-1982). Bosley also played Benjamin Franklin in two historical dramas based on the novels of John Jakes, "The Bastard" (syndicated, 1978) and "The Rebels" (syndicated, 1979), and essayed doomed labor leader Jimmy Hoffa in "The Jesse Owens Story" (CBS, 1984). He also provided voices for several animated television projects, including the title character in the American version of the Spanish series "David the Gnome" (syndicated, 1985). But Mr. C was his bread and butter for most of the early 1980s, and he even played the character in two episodes of the poorly conceived spin-off, "Joanie Loves Chachi" (ABC, 1982-83).
When "Happy Days" came to a close in 1984, Bosley's popularity afforded him the ability to immediately jump to a new program, though his tenure would not last as long. Bosley played Amos Tupper, sheriff of the small Maine town of Cabot Cove and the Watson to mystery writer-turned-sleuth Jessica Fletcher (Angela Lansbury) on "Murder, She Wrote." Though his role was to again provide comic support to the show's star, Bosley handled it with typical professionalism and even provided one of the best approximations of a Down East accent heard on television. In 1987, Bosley was offered the starring role on the TV series "The Father Dowling Mysteries," which cast him as an avuncular priest who solves crimes in Bosley's own home town of Chicago. He also turned up as Dowling's identical twin, who chose the path of con man, in several episodes of the show. During this period, Bosley was also exceptionally busy as a television pitchman for Glad trash bags, among other companies.
After the "Dowling Mysteries" ended its network run, Bosley remained active as a guest star on weekly series and as a voiceover artist for countless animated projects. He also made a triumphant return to Broadway in 1994 when he originated the role of Maurice, kindly father to Belle, in Disney's smash stage adaptation of "Beauty and the Beast." He remained a popular pitchman in television commercials for Sonic Drive-Ins and D-Con pest control products. Meanwhile, he gladly rejoined his "Happy Days" cast mates for specials and reunions from 1992 through 2005, including an amusing reprise of Mr. C in an episode of "Family Guy" (Fox, 1992-2002, 2005- ).
In 2004, Bosley stepped out of character to tell an emotionally charged personal story about the Holocaust for the documentary "Paper Clips." After guest starring spots on "That '70s Show" (Fox. 1998-2006) and "One Tree Hill" (The WB, 2003-12), Bosley had a supporting role in the period television movie, "Hidden Places" (Hallmark Channel, 2006), then starred as a loving grandfather who suffers a heart attack and tries to prepare his motherless granddaughter (Jordy Benattar) for life without him in "Charlie & Me" (Hallmark Channel, 2008). Making a return to features, he had a supporting role in the Jennifer Lopez romantic comedy, "The Back-Up Plan" (2010), which ultimately proved to be his last onscreen performance. According to his agent, Sheryl Abrams, Bosley died on Oct. 19, 2010 at his home in Palm Springs, CA after suffering a heart attack while also battling lung cancer. He was 83.
Cast (Feature Film)
Misc. Crew (Feature Film)
Cast (TV Mini-Series)
Appeared with Woodstock Summer Playhouse
Made stage debut in Chicago production of "Golden Boy"
Early TV appearance, playing the Knave of Hearts in Eva Le Gallienne's production of "Alice in Wonderland"
Made Off-Broadway debut in "Thieves' Carnival"
Won a Tony for playing the beloved New York City Mayor in the Pulitzer-Prize-winning Broadway musical, "Fiorello!"
Portrayed Teddy Brewster in the Hallmark Hall of Fame version of "Arsenic and Old Lace"
Made film debut in "Love With the Proper Stranger" as the would-be suitor of Natalie Wood
Was regular player on "That Was the Week That Was"
Played the too-understanding husband of Angela Lansbury's character in the Peter Sellers cult comedy, "The World of Henry Orient"
Played title role in Broadway production of "The Education of H*Y*M*A*N K*A*P*L*A*N"
Cast as regular on the NBC sitcom, "The Debbie Reynolds Show"
Made TV-movie debut, "A Step Out of Line" (CBS)
Voiced the father for the animated series, "Wait 'Til Your Father Gets Home" (syndicated)
Played the boss on "The Sandy Duncan Show" (CBS)
Played Howard Cunningham, father of Richie Cunningham, on "Happy Days" (ABC)
Played Benjamin Franklin in the syndicated TV-movies, "The Bastard" and "The Rebels"
Had a recurring role as Amos Tucker on "Murder, She Wrote" (CBS) starring Angela Lansbury
Played title role in the series, "The Father Dowling Mysteries" (NBC, 1989; ABC, 1990-91)
Returned to Broadway as Belle's father in "Disney's Beauty and the Beast"
Headlined a US touring company of "Show Boat"
Guest starred as a toy maker named Ben-Ami on the series finale of the Christian video series "K10C: Kids' Ten Commandments"
Starred in the Hallmark Channel television movie, "Charlie & Me"
Appeared in "The Backup Plan," starring Jennifer Lopez
Bosley served as a member of the governing council of Actors' Equity Association from 1961 to 1969.