Thomas Edward Bosley was an American actor, television personality and entertainer, best known for portraying the iconic father Howard Cunningham on the long-running ABC sitcom, "Happy Days." He also had well-known roles as a recurring sheriff on the CBS series, "Murder She Wrote," which landed him the titular character on the ABC TV series "Father Dowling Mysteries."
Despite being well-known for playing a Catholic priest and Protestant patriarchs, Bosley was born in Chicago, Illinois on October 1, 1927, the son of Jewish parents, Benjamin and Dora Bosley. He served in the United States Navy during World War Two, and while attending DePaul University, a Catholic university in Chicago in 1947, he made his stage debut in "Our Town" with the Canterbury Players at the Fine Arts Theatre. He performed at the Woodstock Opera House in Woodstock, Illinois, in 1949 and 1950 alongside Paul Newman, later playing the Knave of Hearts in the telecast of Eva Le Gallienne's production of "Alice in Wonderland" in 1955 for the Hallmark Hall of Fame. His breakthrough stage role was as New York mayor Fiorello H. La Guardia in the long-running Broadway musical "Fiorello!" in 1959 for which he won a Tony Award.
Despite his beginnings on stage, Bosley began graduating to movies and television. He starred in "Love with the Proper Stranger" with Natalie Wood in 1963, later appearing in "The World of Henry Orient," "Divorce, American Style," "Yours, Mine and Ours," "The Bang Bang Kid," "The Secret War of Harry Frigg," "Gus," "The Triangle Factory Fire Scandal," "Mixed Company," "The Night That Panicked America," "Paper Clips," and a 1973 remake of "Miracle on 34th Street" with Jim Backus, often as amiable friendly characters. His TV appearances include "The Law and Mr. Jones," "Car 54, Where Are You?," "Bonanza," "The Virginian," "Bewitched," "The Streets of San Francisco," "Kolchak - The Night Stalker," "Night Gallery" and "The Love Boat." In 1974, he appeared on an episode of "Love American Style" which spun off to becoming the TV series, "Happy Days," one of the most successful shows of the 70s and 80s. On the show, he played Howard Cunningham, his most famous role in his career and an iconic father for fans of the generation. After the series ended, he portrayed Sheriff Amos Tupper on "Murder, She Wrote" and the eponymous Father Frank Dowling on "Father Dowling Mysteries." In 1994, he originated the role of Maurice in the Broadway version of Disney's "Beauty and the Beast." Bosley also toured as Cap'n Andy in Harold Prince's 1994 revival of 'Show Boat."
During the 1970s and 1980s, Bosley was the commercial spokesman for Glad Sandwich and Garbage Bags. He also made radio commercials for the new Saturn Car Company. Known for his unique gravelly voice, Bosley also did voice-over work narrating documentaries and voicing characters in such animated features as "Wait Till Your Father Gets Home," "The Stingiest Man in Town," "The World of David the Gnome" and "The Tangerine Bear." He also starred in the 2008 Hallmark Channel television movie "Charlie & Me" and "Santa Buddies" in 2010.
Sadly, after battling lung cancer for several years, Bosley died from complications of a staph infection on October 19, 2010, at a hospital in Rancho Mirage, California, near his home in Palm Springs, California. He was 18 days after his 83rd birthday. His remains were interred at Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Hollywood Hills Cemetery. On April 19, 2011, his estate and four of his "Happy Days" co-stars, Erin Moran, Don Most, Marion Ross and Anson Williams, filed a $10 million breach-of-contract lawsuit against CBS, which owned the show, over lack of payment for the use of their faces on "Happy Days" DVDs and memoribilia. Under their contracts, they were supposed to be paid five percent from the net proceeds of merchandising if their sole image were used, and half that amount if they were in a group. CBS reported the back pay owed the actors $8,500 and $9,000 each, but the cast believed they were owed millions. Their case was not settled until July 2012 when the actors settled their lawsuit with CBS. Each received a payment of $65,000 and a promise by CBS to continue honoring the terms of their contracts.