Thomas Edward Bosley (October 1, 1927 – October 19, 2010) was an American actor, voice artist, television personality and entertainer. Bosley is best known for portraying Howard Cunningham on the long-running ABC sitcom Happy Days, and the titular character on the NBC/ABC series Father Dowling Mysteries. He also was featured in a recurring role on Murder, She Wrote. He originated the title role of the Pulitzer Prize–winning Broadway musical Fiorello!, earning the 1960 Tony Award for Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical.
Bosley was born in Chicago, the son of Dora (née Heyman) and Benjamin Bosley. Although well known for playing a Catholic priest and Protestant patriarchs, Bosley was actually Jewish.
During World War II, Bosley served in the United States Navy. 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. Bosley performed at the Woodstock Opera House in Woodstock, Illinois, in 1949 and 1950 alongside Paul Newman.
Early roles and stage roles
Bosley played the Knave of Hearts in a Hallmark Hall of Fame telecast of Eva Le Gallienne's production of Alice in Wonderland in 1955. But his breakthrough stage role was New York mayor Fiorello H. La Guardia in the long-running Broadway musical Fiorello! (1959), for which he won a Tony Award.
In 1994, he originated the role of Maurice in the Broadway version of Disney's Beauty and the Beast. Bosley toured as Cap'n Andy in Harold Prince's 1994 revival of Show Boat.
His first motion picture role was in 1963, as the would-be suitor of Natalie Wood in Love with the Proper Stranger. Other films include The World of Henry Orient, Divorce American Style, Yours, Mine and Ours, Gus and the made-for-television The Triangle Factory Fire Scandal. Bosley shared a heartfelt story about his own experience with the Holocaust in the documentary film Paper Clips.
Bosley portrayed George W. Norris in the television anthology Profiles in Courage. Among his early television appearances was in 1960 on the CBS summer replacement series, Diagnosis: Unknown, with Patrick O'Neal. In 1962, he portrayed Assistant District Attorney Ryan in the episode "The Man Who Wanted to Die" on James Whitmore's ABC legal drama The Law and Mr. Jones. About this time, he was a guest star on the NBC police sitcom, Car 54, Where Are You? He also appeared on episodes of Bonanza, Bewitched, The Silent Force, The Streets of San Francisco, Night Gallery, A Touch of Grace, and The Love Boat. In 1969, Bosley appeared in a comical episode of The Virginian.
Happy Days and other film and television roles
Bosley's best known role was the character Howard Cunningham in the long-running sitcom Happy Days. He portrayed Sheriff Amos Tupper on Murder and the eponymous Father Frank Dowling on Father Dowling Mysteries. Among myriad television appearances, one notable early performance was in the "Eyes" segment of the 1969 pilot episode of Rod Serling's Night Gallery, directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Joan Crawford. In 1978, he played the role of Benjamin Franklin in the television mini-series The Bastard, and replayed the role the following year in the sequel The Rebels.
His film appearances included roles in Love with the Proper Stranger (1963), The World of Henry Orient (1964), Divorce American Style (1967), Bang Bang Kid (1967), The Secret War of Harry Frigg (1968), Yours, Mine and Ours (1968), To Find a Man (1972), Mixed Company (1974), The Night That Panicked America (1975), Gus (1976), The Triangle Factory Fire Scandal (1979), O'Hara's Wife (1982), Million Dollar Mystery (1987) and Wicked Stepmother (1989).
Bosley starred in the 2008 Hallmark Channel television movie Charlie & Me. In 2010, he appeared in The Back-up Plan and Santa Buddies, which were his final films. In 1984, he guest-hosted the "Macy's Fourth of July Fireworks Spectacular" with local newscaster Pat Harper.
Bosley was known for his unique gravelly voice, leading to a number of voice acting roles. He narrated the syndicated television documentary That's Hollywood (1976-82). He hosted The General Mills Radio Adventure Theater, a 1977 radio drama series for children. He voiced many cartoon characters, including Harry Boyle in the animated series Wait Till Your Father Gets Home. Bosley was the voice of B.A.H. Humbug in the 1978 Rankin & Bass holiday special The Stingiest Man in Town. He provided the voice of the title character in the 1980s cartoon The World of David the Gnome and the shop owner Mr. Winkle in the Children's Christmas special The Tangerine Bear.
During the 1970s and 1980s, Bosley did several commercials for Glad Sandwich and Garbage Bags. He made radio commercials for the new Saturn Car Company a "different kind of car company," in 1990. Later in life he was the television spokesman for SMC (Specialty Merchandise Corporation), a national wholesaler and dropshipper.
Bosley died from complications of a staphylococcus infection on October 19, 2010, at a hospital in Rancho Mirage, California, near his home in Palm Springs, California. He was 83 years old.
His agent, Sheryl Abrams, said Bosley had been battling lung cancer. His remains are interred at Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Hollywood Hills Cemetery.
Happy Days lawsuit
On April 19, 2011, Bosley's 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 owns the show, claiming they had not been paid for merchandising revenues owed under their contracts. The cast members claimed they had not received revenues from show-related items, including comic books, T-shirts, scrapbooks, trading cards, games, lunch boxes, dolls, toy cars, magnets, greeting cards and DVDs where their images appear on the box covers. 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 said it owed the actors $8,500 and $9,000 each, most of it from slot machine revenues, but the group said they were owed millions. The lawsuit was initiated after Ross was informed by a friend playing slots at a casino of a "Happy Days" machine on which players win the jackpot when five Marion Rosses are rolled.
In October 2011, a judge rejected the group's fraud claim, which meant they could not receive millions of dollars in potential damages. On June 5, 2012, a judge denied a motion filed by CBS to have the case thrown out, which meant it would go to trial on July 17 if the matter was not settled by then. In July 2012, 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.