Tuesday, October 19, 2010


I noticed on all the TV tributes to the actor Tom Bosley, they concentrate mostly on his role as the always reasonable father—"Mr. C"—in HAPPY DAYS, which is understandable as it's his most famous role.

A few also mentioned his role on MURDER SHE WROTE, another famous TV series. But no one mentioned he later starred in the title role on FATHER DOWLING MYSTERIES. A show that ran for a few seasons and was where I met him when I was playing another hitman (I had a run in TV hitmen for a while) on one episode.

That's where I discovered that he had started on the stage. He and Mary Wickes, who played the housekeeper on FATHER DOLWING MYSTERIES. I was sitting in one of those high canvas "director's chairs" waiting for a new camera set up, when he and Wickes walked over and plopped down next to me.

He introduced himself to me as if I didn't know who he was. I let Wickes know how fond I was of her work and had been since I was a boy, probably a mistake to point out to a woman how old she had become since I was no kid at the time (I was already in my forties, though I played early thirties, as they say).

She first made her mark in the Broadway production of THE MAN WHO CAME TO DINNER and played the same role, as the unforgettable nurse who stole the film as far as I was concerned when I saw it on TV as an actual kid.

And now both of them, particularly him, were treating me like I was a kid. He told me how much he liked what I was doing with my character and very generously and sweetly predicted great things for me as a TV and film actor. But what impressed me most was the conversation they got into with another older stage actor who played the police lieutenant  on the show, Dick O'Neill.

They started recalling not just the casts and stage managers and others in Broadway shows they had been in or knew others who had, and the hangouts where the actors went before and after those shows, but the critics for all the New York newspapers back then and what they had said, and what they'd gotten wrong or right.

It was like Broadway 101. I felt like I was not only being treated to a free seminar on what stage acting was all about many decades ago, but on what it was like to be an actor back then, with a spirit that was so embracing I truly did feel like the luckiest kid in Hollywood for the few weeks I worked on that show.

I'd met and would meet many more actors with long histories, some stars some not, and none were as open and friendly and warm and accepting and humble and relaxed to work with as Tom Bosley. The simplicity of his characters, or the ones he was most famous for (he won a Tony when he was young for playing Fiorella LaGuardia who was not a simple character) could not hide the genuine niceness of this man.

I feel fortunate that for a short period I got to know him a little and will miss not just him, but everything he seemed to represent, especially that easygoing acceptance of his own ordinariness, and that of his characters, which was actually an extraordinary achievement.

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