Tributes paid to Happy Days actor Tom Bosley

Media caption,
Tom Bosley played Richie Cunningham's dad in the show Happy Days - Clips courtesy of Paramount Home Entertainment

Veteran US actor Tom Bosley, most famous for playing all-American father Howard Cunningham in the 1970s TV series Happy Days, has died aged 83.

The star, who had been suffering from lung cancer, passed away at his home just outside Palm Springs, his family said in a statement.

Henry Winkler, who played The Fonz in Happy Days, paid tribute to the actor.

"He was our television father on the sound stage, but a father figure in real life," he said.

"He was a loving husband, a doting father and a fantastic grandfather. He will be so missed but never forgotten by the Winkler Family or the world."

Film director Ron Howard, who played Bosley's son in the show, said: "Tom's insight, talent, strength of character and comic timing made him a vital central figure in the Happy Days experience.

"A great father and husband, and a wonderful artist, Tom led by example, and made us all laugh while he was doing it.

"My last conversations with Tom reflected the love of life and peace of mind that he always maintained throughout his full and rewarding life. I miss him already."

Marion Ross, who played his wife Marion Cunningham on the show for 11 years, said: "He was so smart he could fix the end of a joke or a scene on the spot.

"We made a perfect couple. I played piccolo to his tuba."

'Wonderfully interesting'

Scott Baio, best known for playing Chachi Arcola in the popular sitcom, said Bosley took "tremendous pride" in playing the part of Richie Cunnigham's father.

"He loved it and I think it was one of the true loves of his life was doing that character. He was a wonderful, suffering, sort of jovial, happy guy and he took to it like a fish takes to water."

After Happy Days, Bosley had a string of roles in TV shows, most notably as a crime-solving priest in The Father Dowling Mysteries.

Angela Lansbury played Bosley's unfaithful wife in the 1964 Peter Sellers film The World of Henry Orient.

Then, from 1984 to 1988, Bosley played a recurring role in Lansbury's long-running TV series, Murder, She Wrote.

"He was a wonderfully interesting actor, and very much a part of the early success of Murder, She Wrote," Lansbury said.

"Working with him in the early days of the show gave me tremendous confidence."

Happy Days began in 1974 and ran for 11 series, becoming a worldwide hit.

In an interview in 2000, Bosley said he thought the key to the show's success had been because "kids were watching their parents grow up, and parents were watching themselves grow up".

Image caption,
Bosley initially turned down the Happy Days role

The actor initially turned down the Happy Days role, but after re-reading the pilot script he had a change of heart.

"I changed my mind because of a scene between Howard Cunningham and Richie. The father/son situation was written so movingly, I fell in love with the project," he once said.

In 2004, Bosley's Howard Cunningham character was listed at number nine in a list of the 50 Greatest TV Dads of All Time by TV Guide.

Before his TV career took off, Bosley had started out on Broadway and his Fiorello! performance eventually earned him the best actor in a musical Tony award.

For two years, Bosley stopped the show every night when he sang in several languages.

The production was also awarded with the Pulitzer Prize.

It was not until 1994 when Bosley returned to Broadway when he originated the role of Belle's father in Disney's production of Beauty and the Beast.

Bosley married dancer Jean Eliot in 1962 and the couple had one child, Amy.

Two years after his wife's death in 1978, Bosley married actress-producer Patricia Carr, who had three daughters from a previous marriage.

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