Al Molinaro

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Al Molinaro
Al Molinaro Murray the cop Odd Couple 1974.JPG
Molinaro as police officer Murray Greshler in The Odd Couple in 1974.
Umberto Francesco Molinaro

(1919-06-24)June 24, 1919
DiedOctober 30, 2015(2015-10-30) (aged 96)
Other namesAlbert Francis Molinaro
Years active1954–2003
Jacquelin Martin
(m. 1948;div. 1980)

Betty Farrell(m. 1981)

Albert Francis "Al" Molinaro (born Umberto Francesco Molinaro; June 24, 1919 – October 30, 2015) was an American actor. [1] He was known for his television sitcom roles as Al Delvecchio on Happy Days and Officer Murray Greshler on The Odd Couple . He also appeared in many television commercials, including On-Cor frozen dinners.

A sitcom, clipping for situational comedy, is a genre of comedy centered on a fixed set of characters who carry over from episode to episode. Sitcoms can be contrasted with sketch comedy, where a troupe may use new characters in each sketch, and stand-up comedy, where a comedian tells jokes and stories to an audience. Sitcoms originated in radio, but today are found mostly on television as one of its dominant narrative forms. This form can also include mockumentaries.

Alfred "Al" Delvecchio is a character on the U.S. sitcom Happy Days. He was played by Al Molinaro. Molinaro joined the cast in Season 4 after Pat Morita, who played Arnold, left after the end of the third season. Subsequently Molinaro also played Al's twin brother priest Father Anthony Delvecchio. Al said that he also had a brother who worked at the sanitation department.

<i>Happy Days</i> 1974-1984 television comedy set in the 1950s

Happy Days was an American television sitcom that aired first-run from January 15, 1974 to September 24, 1984 on ABC, with a total of 255 half-hour episodes spanning eleven seasons. Created by Garry Marshall, the series was one of the most successful of the 1970s, an idealized vision of life in the mid-1950s to mid-1960s Midwestern United States, and starred Ron Howard as teenager Richie Cunningham, Henry Winkler as his friend Arthur "Fonzie"/"The Fonz" Fonzarelli, and Tom Bosley and Marion Ross as Richie's parents, Howard and Marion Cunningham. Happy Days became one of the biggest hits in television history and heavily influenced the television style of its time.


Early life

Molinaro as Father Anthony Delvecchio the twin brother of Al Delvechhio on Happy Days, performing Fonzie's baptism in 1977 Happy Days Fonzie's Baptism 1977.jpg
Molinaro as Father Anthony Delvecchio the twin brother of Al Delvechhio on Happy Days, performing Fonzie's baptism in 1977

Molinaro was born and raised in the Columbus Park neighborhood of Kenosha, Wisconsin, the second-youngest of ten children of Italian immigrants, Raffaele and Teresa Molinaro, from Calabria. [2] [3]

Kenosha, Wisconsin City in Wisconsin, United States

Kenosha is a city in and the county seat of Kenosha County, Wisconsin, United States. Kenosha is on the southwestern shore of Lake Michigan. With an estimated population of 99,889 as of July 1, 2013, it is the fourth-largest city in Wisconsin and the fourth-largest city on Lake Michigan. The city is part of the United States Census Bureau's Chicago Combined Statistical Area (CSA).

Calabria Region of Italy

Calabria, known in antiquity as Bruttium, is a region in Southern Italy.

Molinaro's father was a prominent tavern/restaurant/hotel owner, and a leader of the Kenosha Italian community who financially sponsored hundreds of Italians to immigrate to the United States. Molinaro's brother Joseph was Kenosha County's longest-serving district attorney and retired as a municipal judge, and his brother George served 30 years in the Wisconsin State Assembly, including one session as Speaker. [3] [4] [5]

Kenosha County, Wisconsin County in the United States

Kenosha County is a county in the southeastern corner of the U.S. state of Wisconsin. Its population in 2017 was estimated to be 168,065, making it the eighth most populous county in Wisconsin. The county is named after the county seat, Kenosha, the fourth largest city in Wisconsin.

George Molinaro was an American Democratic politician from Wisconsin.

Wisconsin State Assembly lower house of Wisconsin

The Wisconsin State Assembly is the lower house of the Wisconsin Legislature. Together with the smaller Wisconsin Senate, the two constitute the legislative branch of the U.S. state of Wisconsin.

At school Al discovered a talent for public speaking, although he struggled at high school, staying on an extra year to graduate. In 1940 he left home, taking a bus to seek fame and fortune as an actor in Los Angeles. In 1948, Molinaro married Jacquelin Martin, with whom he had a son, Michael. The couple divorced. [1]

From real estate to acting career

Molinaro moved to California permanently working in odd jobs on the edge of the television industry, finally saving enough money to start his own collection agency. He eventually sold his business and became interested in southern California real estate speculation. His investments paid off when one of his properties was purchased by a conglomerate which used the land to build one of the largest retail shopping malls which provided an income to launch a career in acting. As a result, Molinaro was already financially independent when he decided to pursue his longtime dream of being an actor. [2]

In the 1960s and 1970s, Molinaro studied acting and was offered guest roles and bit parts on television sitcoms, including Bewitched , Get Smart , Green Acres and That Girl . [2] He took an improvisation class, in which Penny Marshall was one of the other students. In 1970, Marshall introduced him to her brother, producer Garry Marshall, who offered Molinaro the role of police officer Murray Greshler on the television sitcom The Odd Couple , which starred Jack Klugman and Tony Randall, based on Neil Simon's play; during which time he lived in a hotel in midtown New York City. "The first time I went to New York City", said his son Michael, "it was because he had moved there to do a number of commercials. 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." [6] The show aired for five years until 1975. [1]

<i>Bewitched</i> American sitcom (1964-1972)

Bewitched is an American television sitcom fantasy series, originally broadcast for eight seasons on ABC from September 17, 1964 to March 25, 1972. It is about a witch who marries an ordinary mortal man, and vows to lead the life of a typical suburban housewife. The show enjoyed great popularity, finishing as the number two-rated show in America during its debut season, staying in the top ten for its first three seasons, and just missing this mark with an eleventh place ranking for both seasons four and five. The show continues to be seen throughout the world in syndication and on recorded media.

<i>Get Smart</i> American comedy television series 1965-1970

Get Smart is an American action spy comedy film television series that satirizes the secret agent genre that was popular in the United States in the late 1960s. The program was created by Mel Brooks and Buck Henry, and had its television premiere on NBC on September 18, 1965. The show stars Don Adams as agent Maxwell "Max" Smart, or Agent 86, Barbara Feldon as Agent 99, and Edward Platt as Thaddeus, the Chief. Henry said that they created the show at the request of Daniel Melnick to capitalize on "the two biggest things in the entertainment world today": James Bond and Inspector Clouseau. Brooks said: "It's an insane combination of James Bond and Mel Brooks comedy."

<i>Green Acres</i> American sitcom

Green Acres is an American sitcom starring Eddie Albert and Eva Gabor as a couple who move from New York City to a country farm. Produced by Filmways as a sister show to Petticoat Junction, the series was first broadcast on CBS, from September 15, 1965, to April 27, 1971. All episodes were filmed in color.

In 1976, Molinaro was hired by Garry Marshall to replace Pat Morita on another sitcom he produced, Happy Days . [1] Molinaro's character was the owner of Arnold's malt shop, Al Delvecchio, who was known for the sighing catchphrase "Yeah-yeah-yeah-yeah...". [2] Happy Days was set in Milwaukee, in Al's home state of Wisconsin. It ran for eleven seasons, from 1974-84.

In 1981, Molinaro remarried, to Betty Farrell. [1] He left Happy Days in 1982, when tapped by Garry Marshall to play the Al Delvecchio role on the short-lived Happy Days spin-off Joanie Loves Chachi . [1] [7]

Molinaro starred in a failed TV pilot called The Ugily Family (1982) as the patriarch of an unattractive clan who is constantly correcting mispronunciations of his surname as "ugly”. [8]

Later career

In 1987, Molinaro and fellow Happy Days cast member Anson Williams opened a chain of diners called Big Al's. [9] The business went defunct. [1] He revealed in 1990 that he declined acting roles in movies offered to him by Garry Marshall. Molinaro said at the time,

"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. . . . That puts me pretty much totally out of films these days. . . . You get to a point where you don’t want to do just anything for the career. You gotta live with yourself". [1]

Starting in 1990, Molinaro played grandfather Joe Alberghetti on the CBS sitcom The Family Man , which was canceled after one season. [10] The show was produced by Miller-Boyett Productions, which also produced Happy Days.

Molinaro was proud of his role on Happy Days and defended its anachronistic look as authentic and a genuine show that did not sentimentalize the past. Its success was down to syndication of the series into a franchise that was marketed around the world in many countries. Molinaro was a frequent guest on the Don and Mike Show , a nationally syndicated radio show that aired from 1985 to 2008. [11]

Molinaro reprised his role as Al Delvecchio from Happy Days in Weezer's 1994 music video of the song "Buddy Holly", which was set in Arnold's diner. [1] He introduced the band by saying, "Okay kids, Arnold's is proud to present Kenosha, Wisconsin's own Weezer!" [3] His somewhat laid-back laconic sideways glance at the humour led him to remark,

In the industry, they used to consider us like a bubble-gum show. But I think they overlooked one thing. To the public in America Happy Days was an important show, and I think it still is. [11]

In 1992, he appeared in the Happy Days Reunion Special on ABC. [10] He did not participate in Happy Days: 30th Anniversary Reunion, which the network aired in 2005.[ citation needed ]

He retired from acting in television and films in the early 1990s, but continued to appear in TV commercials until the early 2000s. He appeared in 42 commercials for On-Cor frozen foods between 1987 and 2003. [12] He also starred in television advertisements for Cortaid hydrocortisone cream and Mr. Big paper products. [1]

In reflecting on his acting career in 2004, Molinaro said, "I spent 20 years here before I got anything going...You’ve just got to be lucky and in the right place at the right time.". [1] [3] The same year, Molinaro announced plans to write a book about his childhood in Kenosha and his acting experiences.[ citation needed ]


Molinaro died of complications from an infected gallbladder at a hospital in Glendale, California on October 30, 2015 at the age of 96. [1] [2] He was cremated.


1954Love Me Madly
1975It's a Bird... It's a Plane... It's Superman!Gangster
1976 Freaky Friday Drapery Man
1969 Get Smart Agent 44"Ironhand"
& "Ice Station Siegfried"
19701975 The Odd Couple Officer Murray Greshler73 episodes
1971 Bewitched Tour Guide"Bewitched, Bothered and Baldoni"
19761982 Happy Days Al Delvecchio146 episodes
1977 The Love Boat Antonio Borga"Dear Beverly / The Strike / Special Delivery"
1979, 1982 Fantasy Island Lou Fielding
& Max Grant
"Bowling/Command Performance"
& "Dancing Lady/The Final Round"
19821983 Joanie Loves Chachi Al Delvecchio17 episodes
1982The Ugily FamilySal UgilyA 30-minute failed TV pilot
1985 Punky Brewster Imprisoned Santa Claus"Christmas Shoplifting"
19901991 The Family Man Joe Alberghetti22 episodes
1992 Step by Step Joe Passarelli"The Boss"

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  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 Bernstein, Adam (October 30, 2015). "Al Molinaro, character actor on 'Happy Days' and 'Odd Couple', dies at 96". The Washington Post. Retrieved October 30, 2015.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 Fox, Margalit (October 30, 2015). "Al Molinaro, Diner Owner on 'Happy Days,' Dies at 96". The New York Times. Retrieved October 30, 2015.
  3. 1 2 3 4 Potente, Joe (October 30, 2015). "Al Molinaro, actor from Kenosha, dead at 96". Kenosha News . Archived from the original on October 31, 2015. Retrieved October 31, 2015.
  4. American legislative leaders in the Midwest, 1911-1994, Nancy Weatherly Sharp and James Roger Sharp, Greenwood Publishing Group: 1997, Biographical Sketch of George Molinaro, pg. 178
  5. "Legislative leader Molinaro dies", Wisconsin State Journal, October 1, 1978, section 3, pg. 7
  6. Information provided by Michael Molinaro (son) to Margalit Fox, New York Times, October 30, 2015; accessed February 26, 2016.
  7. Brant, Marley (October 1, 2006). Happier Days: Paramount Television's Classic Sitcoms, 1974-1984. Random House Digital, Inc. pp. 43–. ISBN   9780823089338 . Retrieved July 13, 2012.
  8. Bernstein, Adam (October 30, 2015). "Al Molinaro, character actor on 'Happy Days' and 'The Odd Couple', dies at 96". The Washington Post. ISSN   0190-8286 . Retrieved February 25, 2016.
  9. "A Cast Replays Its Happy Days". People Magazine. September 3, 1992. Retrieved October 31, 2015.
  10. 1 2 Elber, Lynn (October 31, 2015). "Al Molinaro, drive-in owner in "Happy Days", dies at 96". Idaho State Journal . Associated Press. Retrieved October 31, 2015.[ permanent dead link ]
  11. 1 2 Obituary, The Daily Telegraph, November 2, 2015, pg. 29
  12. Sherlock, Barbara (April 10, 2003). "Frozen-food wizard developed On-Cor line". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved October 31, 2015.