Albert Francis "Al" Molinaro (born Umberto Francesca Molinaro; June 24, 1919 – October 30, 2015)[1] was an American actor. He was best known for portraying Al Delvecchio in Happy Days and its spin-off Joanie Loves Chachi, as well as NYPD Officer Murray Greshler on another hit Garry Marshall produced ABC-TV sitcom, The Odd Couple. He also appeared in many television commercials, including On-Cor frozen dinners.

Al Molinara as Al Delvecchio on "Happy Days"

Early life[edit | edit source]

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]

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]

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[edit | edit source]

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 TV 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 TV 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]

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]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 "Al Molinaro, character actor on 'Happy Days' and 'Odd Couple', dies at 96", October 30, 2015. Retrieved on October 30, 2015. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named NY Times death
  3. 3.0 3.1 "Al Molinaro, actor from Kenosha, dead at 96", October 30, 2015. Retrieved on 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 pp. 43–. Random House Digital, Inc.. Retrieved on July 13, 2012. ISBN 9780823089338.

External links[edit | edit source]

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