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'Happy Days' actor Tom Bosley dies at 83

In this undated film publicity image released by CBS Films, Tom Bosley is shown in a scene from 'The Back-Up Plan.' (CBS Films, Peter Iovino)

October 19, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
Actor Tom Bosley, best known as the beloved Mr. Cunningham on the "Happy Days" television series, has died. He was 83 years old.Bosley died of heart failure at a hospital near his Palm Springs home at around 4 a.m. Tuesday. Bosley's agent, Sheryl Abrams, said he was also battling lung cancer.

Bosley appeared in every episode of "Happy Days," and in 2004 TV Guide ranked his character No. 9 on its list of the "50 Greatest TV Dads of All Time."

"Remarkable on so many levels, 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 lead by example, and made us all laugh while he was doing it," famed Hollywood director Ron Howard, who was only a teen when he played Richie Cunningham in the popular '70s show, said in a statement.

"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," Howard said.

Bosley initially turned down the offer for a costarring role in "Happy Days."

"After rereading the pilot script," he recalled in a 1986 interview, "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."

Viewers did too.

"Tom was a talented professional in front of the camera and behind the scenes. He provided a positive influence over all of the young actors on 'Happy Days,'" said Garry Marshall, creator and executive producer of "Happy Days."

"Audiences will never forget the lovable Howard Cunningham who made us laugh on Tuesday nights. He was a good friend. I will miss him. Comedy will miss him," Marshall said.

Harkening to the simpler times of the 1950s, "Happy Days" found a soft spot in America's heart. The ABC show debuted in 1974 and ran for 11 seasons, ending in 1984.

"He was my husband of 11 years and the father of the company in many ways. He was so smart, he could make up a new end to fix a scene on the spot. We made a perfect couple. I played piccolo to his tuba," said actress Marion Ross, who played Marion Cunningham on the show.

Henry Winkler and Scott Baio, who both costarred with Bosley on "Happy Days," said they remembered the actor as "a great man."

"The Winkler family sends the most positive thoughts to the Bosley family at this very sad time," Henry Winkler told Eyewitness News. "He was great to work with, great to play charades with ... just a wonderful, wonderful gentleman."

Baio said he was a good man who taught him a lot about the business.

After "Happy Days" ended, Bosley went on to a recurring role in "Murder, She Wrote" as Sheriff Amos Tucker. He also was the crime-solving priest in television's "The Father Dowling Mysteries," which ran from 1989 to 1991.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.


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