Who was Al Molinaro?
Al Molinaro was an American actor, probably best remembered for his portrayal of Al Delvecchio in the TV series “Happy Days” (1974-1984), in addition to several other notable roles that he secured during his active career.
Al Molinaro Wiki: Age, Childhood, and Education
Umberto Francisco Molinaro was born on 24 June 1919, in Kenosha, Wisconsin, USA. Of Italian ancestry, he was the son of Raffaele Molinaro, a hotel owner and a leader of the Kenosha Italian community, who would financially support Italians to immigrate to the USA, and Teresa Molinaro.
He grew up in a big family, as he was the second youngest of ten children. One of his brothers, George, was a member of the Wisconsin State Assembly for 30 years, while another brother, Joseph was Kenosha County’s longest-serving district attorney, and ultimately retired as a municipal judge.
He struggled academically while in high school, but discovered he had a talent for public speaking and a love for acting. At 21, he left home for Hollywood, traveling by bus to Los Angeles.
Years passed before he got his chance to become an actor. At first, he worked several odd jobs in California, remaining close to the film industry, before launching his own collection agency.
This agency provided him enough money to develop other ideas, and he ultimately sold it and began investing in southern California real estate speculation.
This proved to be the turning point in his life as one of the properties was bought by a conglomerate that later built the shopping mall on the ground, earning him a hefty sum. The deal made him financially independent, providing him a chance to pursue his true love, acting.
He started attending acting lessons, and ultimately made his acting debut in the TV series “The Name of the Game” (1969), in the minor role of a Head Shop Owner.
The same year, he appeared in the TV series “Get Smart”, and “Green Acres”, among others. He met Penny Marshall while the two attended the same improv class, who then introduced him to her brother, Garry Marshall, a producer, who offered Al the role of Officer Murray Greshler in the TV comedy series “The Odd Couple”. He featured in 73 episodes of the Primetime Emmy Award-winning series, sharing the screen with Tony Randall, Jack Klugman and Penny Marshall.
Then from 1972 to 1974, he appeared as Harry in the TV romantic-comedy series “Love, American Style”.
Rise to Prominence
Garry Marshall invited Al to play Al Delvecchio in the TV sitcom “Happy Days”, which he produced in 1974. Molinaro accepted and his character, a soda shop owner, became famous for his catchphrase ‘yeah-yeah-yeah-yeah’. Though Molinaro didn’t win any award for his work on the critically acclaimed series, Al was widely praised for his work, and became a star during the show’s eleven-year run.
He also portrayed Al Delvecchio in the spin-off entitled “Joanie Loves Chachi”, which told the story of Joanie Cunningham and Chachi Arcola, portrayed by Scott Baio and Erin Moran, and their musical pursuits in Chicago. However, the series was canceled after only two seasons.
While working on “Happy Days”, Molinaro had several other popular roles – he appeared in the award-nominated fantasy comedy film “Freaky Friday” (1976), starring Barbara Harris, Jodie Foster, and John Astin and in the television comedy movie “Gridlock” (1980), among others.
The great Al Molinaro was born 100 years ago today! He's a beloved member of the WPIX Archives family. What are your favorite Al Molinaro memories?
In 1990, he was selected for the role of Joe Alberghetti in the TV comedy series “The Family Man”, created by William Bickley and Michael Warren, and starring Gregory Harrison, John Buchanan and Scott Weinger. Unfortunately, the series was canceled after 22 episodes due to a drop in the ratings.
In 1992, Al appeared in the “Happy Days” reunion special aired on ABC, and after this, he retired from acting, only appearing as Al Delvecchio in Weezer’s music video for the song “Buddy Holly” (1994), saying, “Okay kids, Arnold’s is proud to present Kenosha, Wisconsin’s own Weezer!”.
Although he officially retired from acting, he appeared in a bunch of commercials for On-Cor frozen foods, Cortaid hydrocortisone cream, and Mr. Big paper products.
Al featured in the documentary “Happy Days: 30th Anniversary Reunion” in 2005.
When he died in 2015, Al Molinaro’s net worth was estimated to be $10 million, earned through his successful acting career, and his business endeavors. While an actor, he appeared in more than 25 film and TV titles.
Personal Life, Marriage, Wife, Children
Al met Jacquelin Martin in California when he left home. The two married in 1948, and had a son, Michael, before ultimately divorcing in 1980.
The following year, Al married Betty Lou Farrell, with whom he stayed married until he died in 2015.
— Star Tribune (@StarTribune) October 31, 2015
Cause of Death
In the mid- ’90s, Al was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Medication and health care kept his illness at bay and his mind preserved, however, in May 2015, he suffered a minor heart attack. His health further deteriorated as he developed gallstones.
The sad news struck all the “Happy Days” fans on 30 October 2015 when it was announced that Al Molinaro died at a hospital in Glendale, California, USA. The cause of death was complications from an infected gallbladder.
He was cremated at Grand View Memorial Park and Crematory in Glendale, California.
Appearance and Vital Statistics
The prominent actor had black hair which grayed out as he aged, and he had brown eyes. He was 5ft 6ins (1.68m), and he weighed 165lbs (75kgs).
Hobbies, Interests, and Trivia
Al Molinaro was the one who launched actor and comedian Robin Williams to stardom. When John Byner declined the role in the episode “My Favorite Orkan” of “Happy Days”, Al suggested that Robin Williams should take the role. The part of Mork became one of his first popular roles in his prolific career.
He worked at Reginald Denny’s Hobby shop in Hollywood, and was a live-action animator at George Pal’s studios for two years.
Al honed his acting skills in small theaters in Hollywood for more than 20 years before his faithful meeting with Penny Marshall.
He played piano, ukulele and clarinet, showcasing his skills at a few solo gigs in Reno.