‘Happy Days’ Star Tom Bosley Played Two Separate Roles on ‘Bonanza’

by John Jamison

It’s hard to picture Tom Bosley and think of anything but Howard Cunningham from “Happy Days.” But the man did have a career outside of his iconic role, believe it or not. And before he was Mr. C, Bosley made a few appearances on the classic Western series “Bonanza.”

Not only did he appear in different episodes, but Bosley also played different characters in them.

His first appearance on the show came in October 1968. The episode titled “The Last Vote” sees Hoss and Little Joe become campaign managers for two of Virginia City’s mayoral candidates. Tom Bosley plays Titus Simpson, one of the candidates. He could initially care less whether or not he wins the election because the other candidate is his friend. But Little Joe convinces him to run a serious campaign.

The full episode is available to watch on YouTube.

In October 1969, the “Happy Days” star appeared in a “Bonanza” episode titled, “A Lawman’s Lot Is Not a Happy One.” In this episode, Bosley plays a character named Hiram Peabody. Hiram comes to town while Hoss is the acting sheriff of Virginia City. The conflict and comedy unfold as Hiram Peabody tries to get arrested by Hoss so he doesn’t have to go through with his marriage.

‘Happy Days’ Star Tom Bosley Was Extremely Busy in the 1960s

The 10 years Tom Bosley spent portraying Howard Cunningham on “Happy Days” came after he was already an accomplished actor.

Throughout the 1960s, even before his “Bonanza” appearances, Bosley racked up more than 25 credits for his work in television and film.

His work in “Fiorello!” on Broadway won him a Tony Award and set him up for a decade of countless opportunities.

Some of his best-known work from this period included a starring role in the 1968 movie “The Secret War of Harry Frigg.” He plays a character named General Pennypacker. Paul Newman carries the movie in the title role of Harry Frigg.

Another notable title was the classic “Yours, Mine, and Ours” in which Bosley played the family’s doctor.

Tom Bosley didn’t become a true household name until “Happy Days” came along, but it’s fun to look back at some of the things that led him there.