Al Molinaro, character actor known for role on “Happy Days,” dies at 96

31 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Al Molinaro, Diner Owner on ‘Happy Days,’ Dies at 96.

Al Molinaro, the hawk-nosed character actor who played the clumsy but benevolent owner of Arnold’s Drive-In on “Happy Days” and helped the TV sitcom earn lasting acclaim, died Friday at a Glendale hospital.Molinaro, best known for his role as Al Delvecchio – the owner of Arnold’s Diner on the ABC series – died after suffering several gall stones which he chose not to remove due to his age, Deadline reports. Before “Happy Days,” which ran from 1974 to 1984, Molinaro portrayed the bumbling but personable police officer Murray on “The Odd Couple,” providing a comic foil for stars Tony Randall and Jack Klugman. “He was one of those really funny, likable secondary comedy characters that the ‘70s were really known for,” said Robert J. He left his job as assistant city manager in Kenosha and gradually cobbled together emceeing and other entertainment work, while supporting his family running a collection agency.

While many of his siblings took on prominent roles in their home state of Wisconsin — one brother was a judge, another a state assemblyman — Molinaro chose a different path. Delvecchio served up burgers and fries while starting off anecdotes with a trademark “Yep, yep, yep, yep, yep.” He showed up in the same role in ‘82 and ‘83 on a spinoff, “Joanie Loves Chacchi.” Before “Happy Days,” Molinaro played Murray the Cop on “The Odd Couple.” His character played poker with Tony Randall’s Felix Unger and Jack Klugman’s Oscar Madison in 73 episodes between 1970 and 1975, according to IMDb. Set in midcentury Milwaukee, “Happy Days” followed the fortunes of a group of teenagers, chief among them Richie Cunningham (played by Ron Howard) and Arthur Fonzarelli (Henry Winkler), familiarly known as the Fonz.

Molinaro’s credits include other period mainstays like “Laverne & Shirley,” “The Love Boat,” “Bewitched,” and “Green Acres.” He also performed in “The Family Man” in 1990 and 1991 and a total of 42 national TV ads, pitching products like Mr. His character, who ran the beanery — originally known as Arnold’s and later called Al’s — where the group congregated, was known for the catchphrase “Yup-yup-yup-yup,” uttered in a world-weary phonetic blur. Marshall was at an improvisation show to watch his sister, Penny, perform her stand-up comedy routine when Molinaro’s “raw but very funny” ad-libbed portrayal of a priest caught his attention. “I hold up Al’s story as an example when I tell people that it’s never too late to follow your dream,” Marshall wrote in “Wake Me When It’s Funny: How to Break into Show Business and Stay” (1997). Always a few beats behind, he had a habit of answering rhetorical questions, flashing a cross-eyed look in response to real ones and inching his way on set so that for a moment the camera caught only his sizable schnoz. Molinaro left the cast in 1982 – two years before the show’s finale – but continued as “Big Al” in another Marshall production, the short-lived “Happy Days” spinoff “Joanie Loves Chachi” starring Scott Baio and Erin Moran.

His character was the impetus for many scripted nose jokes, but he didn’t mind, his son said, and later appreciated the boost his most prominent feature gave to his career as a character actor. He made his retirement in Glendale, Calif., he told the Kenosha News in 2004. “I spent 20 years here before I got anything going and from that I got lucky,” Molinaro said. “It takes a lot of luck in show business too. You’ve just got to be lucky and in the right place at the right time.” Molinaro struck a chord during Big Al’s times dealing with Arthur “Fonzie” Fonzarelli, Richie Cunningham and their friends at Jefferson High students’ favorite hangout.

Delvecchio’s 1950s malt shop, with its wood paneling, orange booths, jukebox jams and neon “A” sign, served as the backdrop for the teenage crushes and small quarrels that propelled the plot. Molinaro said in a phone interview on Friday. “He did not merely play a cop walking the beat on ‘The Odd Couple.’ He used to walk the streets of New York City and loved it.” The son of Rafaele and Teresa Molinaro, immigrants from Italy, Albert Francis Molinaro was born on June 24, 1919, in Kenosha, Wis. In high school, from which he took an extra year to graduate, he was barred from extracurricular activities like drama that might have compromised his studies. “It was my fault, not the teachers’,” Mr. A 1982 Times profile of the show highlighted Molinaro’s endearing role: “The emphasis was always on heart in the episodes in which Molinaro was the star.” He later did work in commercials — most notably as the spokesman for a line of frozen dinners — and had a cameo in a music video for the rock band Weezer.

He studied acting, landing guest roles in the ’60s and ’70s on sitcoms like “Get Smart,” “Green Acres,” “That Girl” and “Bewitched.” Then, through Penny Marshall, a friend from acting class, Mr. In 1990, Molinaro told the Chicago Tribune that Marshall, who went on to direct hit films including “Pretty Woman,” tried unsuccessfully to recruit him for big-screen work. “I can’t work in movies with Garry because I’m so square that I won’t be in a movie that has four-letter words in it,” Mr. Williams a star, began as “My Favorite Orkan,” an episode in Season 5 of “Happy Days.” In it, Richie and the Fonz do cosmic battle with Mork, an alien who turns up in Milwaukee itching for a fight. The episode had “the worst script in the history of ‘Happy Days,’ ” Anson Williams, who played Potsie on the show, later recalled in a television interview. Molinaro came out of retirement to appear in “The Family Man,” a sitcom shown on CBS in the 1990-91 season, playing a bumbling man who helps his newly widowed son-in-law (Gregory Harrison) raise four children.

Garry had a part for me in the first movie he made” — the 1982 comedy “Young Doctors in Love” — “but I started reading the scene … and I stopped.

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