Actor Tom Bosley Dies

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Played Mr. Cunningham in ABC's 'Happy Days'

Tom Bosley, the good-natured patriarch on ABC's Happy Days for more than a decade who served as an American father figure for millions of television viewers, died early Tuesday at a hospital near his Palm Springs home. He was 83.

The family said that Bosley died of heart failure. His agent, Sheryl Abrams, said Bosley also was battling lung cancer.

A representative for Bosley tells the Hollywood Reporter that Bosley's funeral will be a strictly private family affair. In lieu of flowers, donations should be made to the American Cancer Society.

Bosley played Howard Cunningham -- or "Mr. C.," as the kids on the show called him -- on more than 250 episodes of Garry Marshall's "Happy Days," which ran on Tuesday nights from 1974-84. An idealized vision of American life set in 1950-60s Milwaukee, the comedy was No. 1 in the ratings in 1976-77.

TV Guide ranked Bosley's character No. 9 on its list of the "50 Greatest TV Dads of All Time" in 2004.

Bosley followed Happy Days with a recurring role as Sheriff Amos Tupper in Murder, She Wrote for four seasons, then played the title character on The Father Dowling Mysteries from 1989-91.

Other TV credits include regular roles in the early 1970s on The Debbie Reynolds Show and The Sandy Duncan Show. In Wait Till Your Father Gets Home, a 1972-74 animated series, he provided the voice of a conservative dad.

With his cherubic looks and aura of goodwill, Bosley often played likable characters and, when working in films, tended to be cast in such light comedies as Love With the Proper Stranger (1963); The World of Henry Orient (1964), opposite future Murder, She Wrote star Angela Lansbury; and Divorce, American Style (1967). In the latter, he was memorable as a multimarried father sorting out his own and other divorcees' kids on a holiday.

Bosley also performed in such movie fare as Yours, Mine and Ours (1968), The Secret War of Harry Frigg (1968) and Mixed Company (1974).

A starring role on Broadway as legendary New York mayor Fiorello LaGuardia proved to be a career maker for the charming actor.

In 1959, Bosley won a Tony, a Drama Critics Award and honors from the American National Theatre and Academyand the Newspaper Guild for his turn in the Pulitzer Prize-winning Fiorello! marking the first time an actor had won all four theater laurels in one season. He played the lead in the hit musical for 23 months after it opened in 1959.

As a child growing up on the north side of Chicago, Bosley sang in the Mount Carmel Church Choir, a Catholic group. It was a first for the great-grandson of a onetime chief orthodox rabbi of Chicago. After Navy service, he enrolled at DePaul University on the G.I. Bill, became interested in sports announcing and joined a radio school. While there, he decided to become an actor.

He had a role in the Jennifer Lopez film The Back-up Plan, released this year.

Survivors include his second wife, Patricia; a brother, Richard; a daughter, Amy, from his first marriage; stepdaughters Kimberly and Jamie; and seven grandchildren.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.