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American character actor Al Molinaro was loved by television audiences for his recurring roles on The Odd Couple and Happy Days.
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Born in Kenosha, Wisconsin, on June 24, 1919, Italian-American actor Al Molinaro was beloved by television audiences in the 1970s and '80s. He played the supporting roles of the policeman Murray the Cop on The Odd Couple and drive-in owner Al Delvecchio on Happy Days, and later made guest appearances in many other television series and commercials. He retired from acting in the 1990s.
"It takes a lot of luck in show business. You've just got to be lucky and in the right place at the right time."
Albert Francis Molinaro was born into a large Italian-American family in Kenosha, Wisconsin, on June 24, 1919. He had an early interest in music, and as a teenager he played the clarinet and went on the road with a local group. After high school, he worked various odd jobs. He moved to California in the early 1950s and worked at other jobs before he pursued an acting career.
Molinaro's first break was a brief stint as "Agent 44" on the spy spoof Get Smart in 1969, followed by an appearance on Green Acres. A friendship with Penny Marshall, whom he met in an acting class, gave him an introduction to her brother, the producer Garry Marshall. Marshall was casting the new television sitcom The Odd Couple, based on Neil Simon's hit play of the same name, and Molinaro was chosen to play the role of Murray the Cop, a buddy to Tony Randall's Felix and Jack Klugman's Oscar.
During and after his five years on The Odd Couple (1970-'75), Molinaro also made guest appearances on other television series, including Bewitched, That Girl, Love American Style and The Love Boat.
Molinaro received a long-running role in another Garry Marshall project, the hugely popular sitcom Happy Days, in 1976. Molinaro joined the cast in the show's fourth season, playing Al Delvecchio, the owner of Arnold's Drive-In. (He was the successor to Pat Morita, who had played Arnold.) He appeared on Happy Days through 1982, when he left to play Al on the spin-off sitcom Joanie Loves Chachi. He returned to Happy Days for its final season in 1983-84, as well as a reunion show in 1992.
After Happy Days went off the air, Molinaro and his cast-mate Anson Williams opened a chain of diners called Big Al's. In 1994 Molinaro reprised the role of Al for the band Weezer's "Buddy Holly" video, which was filmed on a set designed to look like Arnold's Drive-In and used some original Happy Days footage.
Molinaro continued to act on television in the late 1980s and early '90s, taking supporting roles on the sitcoms The Family Man and Step By Step. From 1987 to 2003, he appeared in television commercials for On-Cor frozen foods; however, he was otherwise retired from acting after 1993.
Molinaro and his second wife, Betty Farrell, have a son named Michael. Molinaro has resided in Glenside, California, for most of his retirement.
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