Tuesday, October 19, 2010
Tom Bosley (1927-2010)
Though Tom Bosley had quite an impressive career on Broadway, for countless people of many generations he always will be "Mr. C." as in Howard Cunningham in the 1970s (and beyond) monster television hit Happy Days. Bosley has died at 83.
Bosley made his Broadway debut in 1958 in the play The Power and the Glory adapted from the novel by Graham Greene. He played three different roles. His big break though came as the title character in the 1959 musical Fiorello!, where he played the famous New York City Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia and earned a Tony Award for his efforts. He continued in many shows throughout the 1960s until the West Coast stole his attention but he returned in his later years starring as Belle's father in the original Broadway production of Beauty and the Beast and as a replacement performer in the role of Herr Schultz in the great revival of Cabaret.
His television debut occurred around the same time as his Broadway one with guest spots in both comedy and drama series and in the many of the plays of the weeks still flourishing at the time.
He made his feature film debut in 1963's Love With the Proper Stranger starring Natalie Wood and Steve McQueen. The following year he appeared in The World of Henry Orient starring Peter Sellers where he played Angela Lansbury's husband.
In 1967, he appeared in Divorce, American Style, which is sort of ironic since Happy Days began as a segment on the TV show Love, American Style (and the first Howard Cunningham, Harold Gould, died last month).
In 1969, he got his first regular series role on the short-lived series The Debbie Reynolds Show. That followed with another regular part on a short-lived series named after its star, 1972's The Sandy Duncan Show. From 1972-74, his voice was the only talent he used as Harry Boyle on the animated series Wait Til Your Father Gets Home.
In 1976, he co-starred in the Disney film Gus. The same year, he appeared as one of the passengers on one of the original TV movies that eventually spawned The Love Boat. In 1974, he set sail on a cruise that was far less fun in the TV movie Death Cruise which was an oceanbound variant of Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None.
He twice played Benjamin Franklin in the TV movies The Bastard and The Rebels.
In his later years, he worked with Lansbury again in the recurring role of Sheriff Amos Tupper on Murder, She Wrote before getting to solve his own crimes from 1987-91 on The Father Dowling Mysteries.
Still, it's Happy Days which he'll be remembered for. From 1974 to 1984, this cherubic-faced actor, with a gift for timing and hilarious exasperation brought Howard Cunningham to life for 255 episodes, well past the time the show should have been put to sleep. During those many seasons, he only earned one Emmy nomination. In those final seasons, really only the professionalism of Bosley and his on-screen wife Marion Ross kept that show afloat.
His final film appearance was in this year's The Back-up Plan starring Jennifer Lopez.
RIP Mr. Bosley.