Happy Days actor Al Molinaro dies at 96

Al Molinaro (left) and Henry Winkler as Al and Fonzie in a scene from Happy Days.
Al Molinaro (left) and Henry Winkler as Al and Fonzie in a scene from Happy Days. PHOTO: FACEBOOK

LOS ANGELES (AFP) - Al Molinaro, known for playing Big Al Delvecchio on the hit US sitcom Happy Days, died on Friday (Oct 30), reports said. He was 96.

He died in a California hospital from complications of a gall bladder infection, his son Michael told the Los Angeles Times.

Molinaro played the owner of the 1950s Arnold's Drive-In on the popular TV show Happy Days, which ran from 1974 to 1984.

It was here that the main characters would gather - including leather-jacketed bad boy Arthur The Fonz' Fonzarelli, played by Henry Winkler, and the clean-cut Richie Cunningham, depicted by Ron Howard.

Molinaro played Delvecchio in more than 100 episodes, according to the LA Times, which quoted him as saying: "When you live with a character as long as I have, you know how he would talk in almost any situation." He also starred in the Happy Days spin-off  Joanie Loves Chachi, as well as in The Odd Couple, and appeared in commercials later in life.

Molinaro co-founded a chain of diners called Big Al's in a bid to capitalise on his on-screen success, the Washington Post reported. The diners eventually went out of business.

Born in Wisconsin, he was the son of Italian immigrants.