Al Molinaro - Biography

Albert was born on June 24, 1919 to Raffaele Molinaro and Teresa Marrone. His father was born in Calabria, Italy and immigrated to the US when he was 15 years old and worked as a water boy with a railroad crew going west from New York. He ended up in Kenosha Wisconsin where he met and married Albert's mother Teresa on December 22, 1901. His father named Albert after his favorite Italian Prince, Umberto II who was born 15 years earlier. A school teacher later suggested that "Albert" might be more suitable. His mother chose his middle name Fransico after Santo Francisco since he was born on Saint Francis Day. The midwife who's English was only slightly better than Albert's parents spelled his middle name with a feminine "A" at the end which was never corrected. His legal named remained Umberto Francisca Molinaro. He was the ninth child of what would later become a family of ten children, eight boys and 2 girls. At 19 years of age Albert became a union leader at the Vincent-McCall furniture spring factory after working there for only 4 months. He later became the special assistant to the Kenosha City Manager when he was 20. At this time Albert's best friend from Kenosha, Mills Tenuta, who had moved to Southern California to work in an aircraft plant, began harassing him to come out to Hollywood. He was sure that Albert could be a movie star. Albert left a promising career with the city after only a year to head to Hollywood to become an actor. Albert had many jobs while pursuing his acting career. His first job was at Reginald Denny's Hobby shop in Hollywood. He spent 2 years as a live action animator at George Pal's studios. If Technicolor hadn't gone on a sympathy strike with the Studio Carpenters union he might have spent his career as an animator. He managed the M&G Grand Variety Store for a year and then became a bill collector for the "Collection Agency of America" in downtown LA. He quickly learned the art of bill collecting and was able to become a salesman who procured collection accounts for another agency which he later purchased. This gave him flexible hours and a steady income so he could focus again on his dreams of Hollywood. Even after his acting career took off he kept his Bill Collection business until he retired. Albert married Jacqueline Martin in 1948. They moved into a home in Granada Hills, CA and adopted their son Michael Molinaro. Albert and Jacqueline were divorced in 1980. Albert then married Betty Sedillos in 1981 and they lived in Glendale CA until his death in 2015. Albert had two step children, Jim Sedillos & Victoria Sedillos and a total of 6 grandchildren and 2 great-grand children. Albert's movie debut happened when he was 25 years old. After appearing as the lead in a Chekhov play called "The Bear" at the old Sartu Theater that used to be on the corner of Hollywood Blvd. and La Brea Ave. A movie producer saw the performance and cast him in a picture that had three separate stories, one of the stories was Chekhov's play "The Bear" but changed from a Russian setting to a Spanish locale. The movie was titled "Love Me Madly". Albert was not told that some of the scenes they shot without him were R rated in today's standards but X rated for 1954's standards. He was surprised and upset during the movies premiere and vowed to never again be in a film that his mother couldn't watch. During the early 1950's Albert began producing live television shows for local televisions stations channel 5 KTLA, channel 9 KHJ & channel 11 KTTV. He Co-created "Insomnia" a late night live show and a "Ski Show" in which Warren Miller allowed him to use some of his skiing footage. He created "Star Finder" a pre-teen amateur show, "Square Dance Party" and "The Tiny Late Show" which was his own late night one man show that filled the few minutes of time between the end of the late night movie and the station signing off for the night.

All the time Albert was working to pay his bills he was also acting in small plays in theaters all over Hollywood. After 25 years of theater acting he was convinced to play a small part in a play directed by his friend, Leo Matranga, at the Hollywood Horseshoe Theater. After the show, a commercial agent named Don Schwartz offered to represent him. Albert swore off acting and never called Don. One year later, Don called Albert telling him that he already set up an appointment for him and convinced him to audition for a national commercial. Albert got the commercial for the Volvo 140. You can see his commercial debut on youtube "Volvo 140 advertising". It's 3 min. & 30 seconds into the video (they have strung many vintage Volvo ads together). Take a look at his first commercial and you will see the face that went on to land over 100 commercials. 42 of them were nationals. He also landed a 10 year deal with "Encore" frozen dinners becoming their spokesperson. A friend from George Pal's Studios named Glenn Grossman cast Albert whenever he could in the industrial films that he would make from time to time. It was while working on one of Glenn's films that Albert met another working actor named Harvey Lembeck. When Harvey wasn't acting he ran an actor's workshop. Harvey convinced Albert that he could help him with his comedy timing. Gary Marshall's sister Penny was also a member of Harvey's workshop. One night Penny asked her brother to come down and see Albert. Gary was in the process of producing a movie starring Jacquiline Bissett called "The Grasshopper" and wanted Al to play the part of a truck driver. Albert did not play the part because the shooting dates conflicted with a Pepto-Bismol commercial he was scheduled to shoot in Phoenix. A year later, when Albert learned from his writer friend, John Rappaport, that Garry Marshall was casting for The Odd Couple TV show, John convinced him that he would be perfect to play one of the poker players. Albert first refused to call Gary but John badgered him enough to finally make him call. Albert made numerous phone calls but got no response so he decided to dress up like a delivery man and deliver a 2'x3' card with many pictures of himself glued to it stating that "Al Molinaro is a Poker Player. ...Assorted Poker Faces ... More faces available upon demand. Just Call (his Phone #) Dear Gary, If you don't call me for an audition, I'll put a curse on you to make you sterile for life. Sincerely, Al Molinaro. The delivery outfit did not get him past the guard at the Paramount gate but it did get the card delivered and Albert got an audition and landed the part of Murray the Cop. Later, Gary stated that, "Although we thought Albert was wrong for the part, we decided to take a chance on Al because of all the men who we auditioned, he was the funniest. Albert spent 5 years on The Odd Couple and when it finished, due to the fact that Jack Klugman wanted to do drama, he was offered the roll of the Malt Shop Owner on Gary's new show "Happy Days". Albert turned down the role feeling he did not want to work with a "bunch of kids". After the first season of Happy Days, Pat Morita, who was cast in the role of the malt shop owner, was offered his own show so Gary once again asked Albert to work on the show. Albert asked Gary that if he didn't like working on the show, could he quit whenever he wanted. Gary said he couldn't put that in writing but that they would shake on it. Albert enjoyed 10 years on "Happy Days" from 1974 to 1984 and 1 more year on "Joanie Loves Chachi. He guest starred on many television shows during and after the filming of the Odd Couple and Happy Days. He also worked on a short lived sitcom called "The Family Man" from 1990-1991 but decided to stop taking roles by the mid 90's. He completed his 10 year contract with Encore Frozen Foods and as his last job he surprisingly accepted an offer to be in a music video with Wheezer.

Albert was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in the mid 90's and lived with the illness for 20 years. Early diagnosis and careful medication allowed Albert to enjoy life until he had a small heart attack in May of 2015. He was a wonderfully kind man. He taught himself to play the piano, clarinet and ukulele and even had a few real gigs in Reno playing the clarinet in his youth. His family believes that his improvisational skills allowed him to mask his Alzheimer's disease from most people until just before he died. He continued to personally answer his fan mail until his health did not allow it. In June he celebrated his 96th birthday but he was declining quickly. He developed a gall stones and due to his age and the recent heart attack, surgery was not recommended. Albert died on October 30th 2015.