Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Tom Bosley Dead at 83

Tony Award winning actor Tom Bosley, probably most widely known for playing Richie Cunningham's dad on Happy Days, has died today at the age of 83.  He died at a hospital near his home in Palm Springs, California, after a long battle with lung cancer.  The cause of death was heart failure.  The Chicago born Bosley got his start as an actor in 1947 in a college production of Thorton Wilder's Our Town and, after moving to New York, made his television debut in a 1955 production of Alice in Wonderland.  Bosley made his Broadway debut in 1958 in The Power and the Glory, but his big break came the following year in the hit musical Fiorello!, in which he played the mayor of New York City, for which he earned the Best Actor in a Musical Tony in 1960.  His Broadway career spanned over 40 years, including stints as the original Maurice (Belle's father) in Beauty and the Beast in 1994 and as Herr Schultz in the 1998 revival of Cabaret, as well as touring the country in the 1995 revival of Show Boat as Cap'n Andy.

I grew up having a different connection to Tom Bosley, though -- one entirely unrelated to his long stage career or his association with Happy Days.  I grew up watching him as Amos Tupper, the sheriff of Cabot Cove, Maine, in the long running TV series Murder, She Wrote from 1984 to 1996.  That show, which showcased theater legend Angela Lansbury, also showcased Bosley's abilities as a character actor who could make the most out of any part.  Bosley was the leading man in another of my favorite TV shows from when I was growing up -- The Father Dowling Mysteries, which aired from 1987 to 1991.  Though this does no justice to the Maine accent (to the extent that one exists), if there was any doubt about whether Mr. Bosley will be missed by those in my household, the answer is a strong "A-yup".

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