December 4, 2015

Belated RIP

Al Molinaro
Born: June 24, 1919, Kenosha, WI
Died: October 30, 2015, Glendale, CA
Character actor best known as diner owner in 50s sitcom and as police officer Murray in The Odd Couple dies in hospital
Al Molinaro, the actor known to millions of television viewers for his roles as the diner owner Al Delvecchio in Happy Days, and Murray the cop in The Odd Couple, has died at the age of 96.
His son, Michael, said he died on Friday at Verdugo Hills hospital in Glendale, California, following complications from gallstone problems.
Molinaro retired from acting in the 1990s having made his breakthrough in a comedy improv class two decades earlier. Producer Garry Marshall heard about Molinaro and hired him for the part of police officer Murray Greshler in The Odd Couple, the TV version of Neil Simon’s play about feuding room-mates. It starred Tony Randall as photographer Felix Unger and Jack Klugman as sports writer Oscar Madison and featured Molinaro as one of their friends, a simple-minded policeman who at times seemed as much of a threat to his friends as he did to any criminals.
Michael Molinaro said his father “was good friends till the end” with everyone involved in The Odd Couple, which ran from 1970-75.
He took up his role in Happy Days in 1976, two years into the decade-long run of the 1950s sitcom that starred Ron Howard and Henry Winkler. He replaced Pat Morita as the owner of Arnold’s Drive-In, with his trademark saying “Yep-yep-yep-yep”, and remained until 1982.
In ABC’s 1992 Happy Days Reunion Special, Molinaro defended the show from criticism that it sentimentalised the 1950s. “In the industry, they used to consider us like a bubblegum show,” he said. “But I think they overlooked one thing. To the public in America, Happy Days was an important show.”
Molinaro took his character of Al into the spinoff Joanie Loves Chachi and, in 1987, he and Anson Williams, who played Potsie on Happy Days, started Big Al’s, a midwestern diner chain. He brought Al back for a brief appearance in Buddy Holly, a 1995 music video for the group Weezer that was directed by Spike Jonze.
The actor played a grandfather in The Family Man, a sitcom that aired from 1990-91, and continued to make guest appearances on other series through the early 90s. He also filmed commercials.
Molinaro had a son, Michael, from his first marriage. He and his second wife, Betty Farrell, married in 1981.
-The Guardian

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