Al Molinaro, the loveable character actor with the hangdog face who was known to millions of TV viewers for playing malt shop owner Al Delvecchio in Happy Days, has died aged 96.

He died of complications from gallstone problems at Verdugo Hills Hospital in Glendale, California, his son Michael Molinaro said.

Molinaro, a native of Kenosha, Wisconsin, came to acting late in life.

He had a brief teenage stint as a clarinet player with a band, then worked at a variety of jobs after leaving high school.

The Odd Couple, the TV version of Neil Simon's play about feuding roommates, featured Molinaro as simpleminded policeman Murray, who at times seemed as much a threat to his friends as he did to any criminals.

His next long-running role was that of Al Delvecchio in Happy Days, the 1974-1984 nostalgic sitcom about 1950s life that starred Ron Howard and Henry Winkler.

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