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Tom Bosley — Read About the Man Who Brought Mr. C to Life on ‘Happy Days’

One of the most beloved TV dads!

As Howard Cunningham in Happy Days, Tom Bosley was a model TV parent. He was patient, sometimes wise, always understanding and blissfully ordinary. Most actors would shy away from a role deemed ordinary, but Bosley cherished the part with his wide smile, crinkly eyes and distinct voice of reason.

Although the role of Mr. C was one of his most famous, and for which he won an Emmy, Bosley also was the Catholic priest, Father Dowling, in the Father Dowling Mysteries, though he was, in fact, Jewish. He also was Sheriff Amos Tupper in Murder, She Wrote, where his Midwest Chicago accent was always evident.

Happy Days cast, 1974
Happy Days cast, 1974Getty

So beloved was Bosley as Mr. C that he played the same character (Howard Cunningham) in three different series: Happy Days (1974-1984), Joanie Loves Chachi and Family Guy.

Tom Bosley early life on the stage and small screen

Born Thomas Edward Bosley on October 1, 1927 in Chicago, Illinois, the soon-to-be actor loved baseball and originally wanted to be a sports announcer, but the bright lights called on him and he became known for his stage work, making his debut in Our Town in 1947 with the Canterbury Players at the Fine Arts Theatre.

Tom Bosley, 1965
Tom Bosley, 1965Getty

He originated the role of Fiorello LaGuardia on Broadway, earning the 1960 Tony for Best Performance in a Musical. Before that win, Bosley had made his television debut as the Knave of Hearts in the adaptation of Alice in Wonderland in 1955.

He soon gained attention as a character actor on TV, appearing in various roles, making the 60s quite busy: Diagnosis Unknown, The Law and Mr. Jones, Arsenic & Old Lace and Car 54, Where Are You? kept him busy, as did show such as The Defenders, Night Gallery, The Love Boat and Bewitched.

The film career of Tom Bosley

Tom Bosley, 1970
Tom Bosley, 1970 Getty

Bosley made his film debut in 1963 as Natalie Wood’s would-be suiter in Love with the Proper Stranger. Other films followed, including The World of Henry Orient, Divorce American Style, The Triangle Factor Fire Scandal and Paper Clips, the latter a documentary of a heartfelt story about his own experience with the Holocaust.

Oh, Happy Days

It was the character of Howard Cunningham in Happy Days that made Bosley’s face and raspy voice famous across the globe. Along with Henry Winkler as The Fonz, Mr. C. was a favorite amongst teens and parents alike.

Tom Bosley (Howard), Ron Howard (Ritchie), Anson Williams (Warren, "Potsie"), Donny Most (Ralph Malph), and Henry Winkler (Arthur "Fonzie" Fonzarelli), Happy Days
Tom Bosley (Howard), Ron Howard (Ritchie), Anson Williams (Warren, “Potsie”), Donny Most (Ralph Malph), and Henry Winkler (Arthur “Fonzie” Fonzarelli), Happy DaysGetty

This almost didn’t come to be, as Bosley had initially turned down the part of Howard Cunningham. Luckily for us, he changed his mind after reading the script for the pilot a second time and finding himself moved by a particular scene between the characters of Howard Cunningham and son Richie (Ron Howard).

Along with Henry Winkler, who brought us The Fonz, Bosley is one of the only two actors to appear in all 255 episodes of the sitcom.

Beyond Happy Days

The actor in 1965
Tom Bosley, 1965Getty

Bosley used his warm voice not only in front of the cameras, but also in cartoons and narrating projects, such as the film history documentary series That’s Hollywood. He hosted The General Mills Radio Adventure Theater, a drama series for children.

Additionally, his voice could be heard in many commercials, such as Glad sandwich bags, Saturn car company and YES Entertainment Network. His final films were Santa Buddies and The Back-Up Plan — both in 2010.

The actor in 1999
Tom Bosley, 1999Getty

Bosley always managed to come across as a decent gentleman, and his sincerity shone through with each role, especially as Howard Cunningham, everybody’s Mr. C, where he had found a permanent place in pop culture.

Sadly, Bosley passed away at age 83 from a staph infection in 2010 while battling lung cancer.


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