Tom Bosley

Active - 1963 - 2010  |   Born - Oct 1, 1927 in Chicago, Illinois, United States  |   Died - Oct 19, 2010   |   Genres - Comedy, Drama, Mystery, Children's/Family, Fantasy

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Biography by Hal Erickson

While growing up in Chicago, Tom Bosley dreamed of becoming the star left-fielder for the Cubs. As it turned out, the closest Bosley got to organized athletics was a sportscasting class at DePauw University. After additional training at the Radio Institute of Chicago and two years' practical experience in various dramatic radio programs and stock companies, he left for New York in 1950. Five years of odd jobs and summer-theater stints later, he landed his first off-Broadway role, playing Dupont-Dufort in Jean Anouilh's Thieves' Carnival. Steadier work followed at the Arena Theatre in Washington, D.C.; then in 1959, Bosley landed the starring role in the Broadway musical Fiorello!, picking up a Tony Award, an ANTA Award, and the New York Drama Critics Award in the bargain. In 1963, he made his film bow as Natalie Wood's "safe and secure" suitor Anthony Colombo in Love With the Proper Stranger. Occasionally cast as two-bit criminals or pathetic losers (he sold his eyes to blind millionairess Joan Crawford in the Spielberg-directed Night Gallery TV movie), Bosley was most often seen as a harried suburban father. After recurring roles on such TV series as That Was the Week That Was, The Debbie Reynolds Show, and The Sandy Duncan Show, Bosley was hired by Hanna-Barbera to provide the voice of flustered patriarch Howard Boyle on the animated sitcom Wait Til Your Father Gets Home (1972-1973). This served as a dry run of sorts for his most famous series-TV assignment: Howard Cunningham, aka "Mr. C," on the immensely popular Happy Days (1974-1983). The warm, familial ambience of the Happy Days set enabled Bosley to weather the tragic death of his first wife, former dancer Jean Elliot, in 1978. In addition to his Happy Days duties, Bosley was narrator of the syndicated documentary That's Hollywood (1977-1981). From 1989 to 1991, he starred on the weekly series The Father Dowling Mysteries, and thereafter was seen on an occasional basis as down-to-earth Cabot Cove sheriff Amos Tupper on Murder, She Wrote. Reportedly as kind, generous, and giving as his Happy Days character, Tom Bosley has over the last 20 years received numerous honors for his many civic and charitable activities.

Movie Highlights

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  • Originally wanted to be a sports announcer.
  • Studied with acting guru Lee Strasberg at the Actors Studio.
  • While living in New York City in the 1950s he worked as a hat checker at Lindy's restaurant and a doorman at Tavern on the Green.
  • Won a Tony playing flamboyant New York City mayor Fiorello La Guardia in 1959's Fiorello!
  • Originally turned down the role of patriarch Howard Cunningham in Happy Days but reconsidered after reading the script.
  • Claimed the Bosley character in the TV series Charlie's Angels was named after him by producer Aaron Spelling, who wanted Bosley to play the role.
  • Daughter Amy appeared in two episodes of Happy Days.
  • Played Belle's father in the original 1994 Broadway production of Beauty and the Beast.
  • Ranked No. 9 on TV GUIDE's 2004 list of "50 Greatest TV Dads of All Time."