October 20, 2010, - 2:49 pm

“Mr. C” Was Proud Jewish-American, WWII Vet: Tom Bosley, of Blessed Memory

By Debbie Schlussel

It’s sad to lose America’s TV mom, Barbara Billingsley, and dad, Tom Bosley, within days of each other.  As a kid, I loved watching “Happy Days” in prime time on ABC, mostly for “the Fonz” (Henry Winkler).  But who could forget Tom Bosley as Richie and Joanie Cunningham’s caring, involved dad, who always had good moral lessons for his kids?  As you probably heard, he died yesterday of lung cancer at age 83.

And, even though he played Catholic priests (including his starring role in the very wholesome “Father Dowling Mysteries”) and Italian-Americans, like New York’s Fiorello LaGuardia, Tom Bosley was a proud Jewish-American from Chicago.  And he was a proud World War II veteran, who served in the U.S. Navy. This past weekend was his grandson’s Bar Mitzvah, according to Henry Winkler, in the video below.

Bosley told the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent about why he participated in the  documentary, “Paper Clips,” which features American students learning about the Holocaust:

Bosley contributed not just clips to the effort but, in a film clip, is seen reading his response to a letter of help sent by the children.

“When I saw the film, I fell apart,” says Bosley, whose part in the movie is moving itself. “It was important for me as a Jew to do it; I had lost a great uncle — whom I never met — in the Holocaust.”

Sadly, his last role was in one of the most annoying movies of the year, Jennifer Lopez’s uber-bomb, “The Back-Up Plan” (read my review).  But Bosley and Linda Lavin, playing her mother’s fiance and her mother, were about the only good thing in it.

Video:  Henry Winkler remembers Tom Bosley on this morning’s “Today Show”:

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Tom Bosley, America’s TV Dad, Zichrono LiVrachah — Blessed Be His Memory.

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14 Responses

If only we had more men like Mr. C in Hollyweird today. Perhaps we would be spared some of the absolute filth that passes for television these days.

cirrus1701 on October 20, 2010 at 3:04 pm

First America’s favorite TV mom, and now our favorite TV dad. A sad week for the families of some fine Americans. Classy individuals such as those are a rarity from the entertainment industry. Certainly it is hard to find such fine role models in the mix of immorality and political agenda that is television today.

RIP to Barbara Billingsley and Tom Bosley both. Glad to see that Mr. Bosley was able to see all of his family one last time in his final days.

Brian R. on October 20, 2010 at 3:19 pm

Wasn’t Fiorello La Guardia halachically Jewish?

ibn Abu on October 20, 2010 at 4:54 pm

Although “Happy Days” debuted during my sophomore year in high school, that’s not what immediately comes to mind when I think of Tom Bosley. I mainly remember his extremely prolific voice-over work on countless commercials in the 1960s and early 1970s like this one:


His deadpan delivery was always very distinctive. Interesting trivia: In the 1968 movie “Yours Mine And Ours” he played the part of a doctor who had to cater to a family of 18 kids in which the youngest was played by three year old Tracy Nelson. There’s a now famous scene in the film where he walks by someone carrying her towards the house and utters the immortal line, “Have a heart, go leave her on someone else’s doorstep.” You can bet that 20 years later the two of them had a few good laughs over that during the filming of the Father Dowling series. You can spot both of them in the trailer:


Irving on October 20, 2010 at 7:25 pm

Mr. Bosley will be greatly missed, his beautiful character has become extinct in this fucked up world. Have a safe trip Tom.

pitman on October 20, 2010 at 8:19 pm

I didn’t know Tom Bosley was Jewish. Thanks for informing me about that, Debbie.

I learn stuff on this blog!

C ya,

TINSC (There is No Santa Claus)

There is NO Santa Claus on October 20, 2010 at 9:26 pm

There is an era dying of actors who treated acting as a profession: that it did not excuse them for behaving well in public and treating their private lives as private. I liked the fact that Henry Winkler talked about Bosley giving advice to “the boys” as they made their first home purchases. It seems small, but it’s an important thing in a person’s life.

By the way, there IS a Santa Claus. He’s a jolly, heavy-weight man, who creates millions of toys magically and flies about the Earth in a sleight pulled by eight reindeer. I don’t understand the ignorance on this subject.

gmartinz on October 20, 2010 at 10:11 pm


Debbie: “Tom Bosley, America’s TV Dad, Zichrono LiVrachah — Blessed Be His Memory.”

Amen, as well as to Barbara Billingsley.

JeffE on October 21, 2010 at 1:53 am

Baruch Hashem, for a great career and a great role in a series that I suspect was a little liberal-ish in its ’50s outlook. Zichrono LiVrachah. Say “Hi” to my dad, eh?

The "Reverend" Jacques on October 21, 2010 at 8:43 am

I haven’t really thought of them , but things back then seemed simpler and less complicated and it does bring a longing for a time of less strife. I guess people including actors had better things to do than see who could get the most publicity out of their outlandish and misguided antics. I wish them peace and happiness in their next journey. Terry.

Tmorlan on October 21, 2010 at 11:26 am

The “All American Dad” I grew up watching was Jewish? Outstanding!

Paul on October 21, 2010 at 5:57 pm

Thank you so much for posting this.

Josephine on October 22, 2010 at 7:22 pm

I grew up watching Happy Days. Tom Bosley did such a wonderful job as Mr. Cunningham and he will be missed. That was a nice family show and we could use more shows like that now.

Angela04 on October 23, 2010 at 11:04 am

I wonder if anywhere then on this web site that it will be reported that Tom Bosley was not only Jewish but a Navy vet as well. Thank you Debbie. That’s something I can really relate to.

kenny komodo on December 9, 2010 at 2:01 am

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