Tom Bosley Biography

Actor, Theater Actor, Television Actor, Film Actor (1927–2010)
Tom Bosley was an award-winning American actor best known for playing Howard Cunningham in the 1970s hit TV sitcom Happy Days.


Tom Bosley was an American actor born on October 1, 1927 in Chicago, Illinois. He won a Tony Award for his role in the Broadway musical Fiorello! (1957). He starred in several TV shows and films, but gained the most fame for his role as Howard Cunningham in the 1970s hit TV sitcom Happy Days. After the series ended in 1983, he appeared in TV shows such as Murder, She Wrote (1984), The Father Dowling Mysteries (1987) and many others throughout the 1990s-00s. Bosley died on October 19, 2010 from heart failure.

Early Life

Actor Thomas Edward Bosley was born in Chicago, Illinois, on October 1, 1927, the son of Benjamin Bosley, a real estate broker, and Dora Bosley, a former concert pianist. "We were fairly wealthy until the stock market crashed," he once told People magazine. "When I was 2, my father lost all his money." His parents divorced nine years later, but Bosely lived a fairly idyllic childhood, in which he dreamed of becoming the "star left-fielder for the Cubs." He eventually gave up this dream, however, when he realized that he was "short, heavy, and not good at any sports."

In 1945, at the age of 17, Bosley joined the U.S. Navy. After a stint in the service, he enrolled at DePaul University with the intention of studying pre-law. In his first year, however, he still felt called to the world of sports. Knowing that he would never be a star player, Bosley hoped he could at least work in the stadium. Midway through his college career, he transferred to the Radio Institute of Chicago with the goal of becoming a sports announcer.

Acting Roles and "Happy Days"

When work as an announcer didn't pan out, Bosley became a radio actor. His time as a voiceover acting left him with the theatre bug, and in 1947 he made his stage debut in a 1947 production of Our Town. In 1950, after two years of acting on the radio and in stock theater with the likes of actors such as Paul Newman and Geraldine Page, Bosley moved to New York City.

In New York, Bosley studied at the Actors Studio under Lee Strasberg. Although he had minor success as an actor in the early '50s, making his off-Broadway debut in Thieves Highway in 1955, Bosley struggled to earn a living wage as a performer. Instead, he supported himself as a temporary office worker, a doorman at Central Park's Tavern on the Green and a hat checker at Lindy's Deli.

His determination paid off in 1959 when, after years on the stage, he was cast as the lead in the Broadway musical Fiorello!. Bosley starred as famed New York City mayor Fiorello H. La Guardia. His performance landed him a Tony Award as well as awards from the New York Drama Critics and the Newspaper Guild. Film and TV roles followed, including a role in 1963's Love with the Proper Stranger, starring Natalie Wood; appearances on sitcoms such as The Debbie Reynolds Show; and even voiceover work for the cartoon Wait 'Til Your Father Gets Home (1972-1973). But Bosley is perhaps best known for his role in the 1970s classic sitcom, Happy Days (1974 - 1983), playing loveable father Howard Cunningham.

In addition to his performance on Happy Days, Bosley narrated the syndicated documentary That's Hollywood from 1977 to 1981. After Happy Days ended in 1983, Bosley starred in the weekly series The Father Dowling Mysteries, and made occasional appearances on Murder, She Wrote.

Personal Life and Death

Bosley married dancer Jean Eliot in 1962. The couple had one child, before Eliot's untimely death in 1978. In 1980, Bosley married actress Patricia Carr. They remained married until Bosley's death from heart failure on October 19, 2010. He was 83 years old.

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