Happy Days star Gavan O'Herlihy dies aged 70


Happy Days star Gavan O’Herlihy has died aged 70.

The news was confirmed by Gavan’s brother Cormac, who told The Hollywood Reporter that he had passed away on September 15 in Bath, England, but did not reveal a cause of death.

Gavan’s co-star in the American sitcom which kickstarted his career, Ron Howard, paid tribute to the ‘talented and spirited’ Irish actor in a Twitter post after the news of his passing broke online.

Sad news: Happy Days star Gavan O'Herlihy has died aged 70

Sad news: Happy Days star Gavan O’Herlihy has died aged 70

He wrote: ‘RIP Gavan. I knew him as the 1st of 2 Chucks on #HappyDays & then as Airk in #Willow where I had the pleasure of directing him. A talented actor with a big free spirit.’

Gavan appeared in the first seven episodes of Happy Days in 1974 as Chuck Cunningham, the eldest of the Cunningham siblings. 

Gavan’s character Chuck famously disappeared from the show without explanation and was later replaced by another actor, before being written out all together. 

Confirmed: The news was confirmed by Gavan's brother Cormac, who told The Hollywood Reporter that he had passed away on September 15 in Bath, England, but did not reveal a cause of death

Confirmed: The news was confirmed by Gavan’s brother Cormac, who told The Hollywood Reporter that he had passed away on September 15 in Bath, England, but did not reveal a cause of death

The character gave rise to the term ‘Chuck Cunningham Syndrome’, referring to characters who disappear from TV shows without explanation and are later retconned to have never existed. 

Previously discussing his decision to quit the show, Gavan said: ‘I pulled out of it, I didn’t want to do it. They had me at college, I was going to grunt and bounce a basketball once every couple of weeks for probably three or four years. 

‘And at 20 years old, that’s not the gig you want to be doing. But that was my big break; that got me established around town as a kid who got hot in a hurry.’

Happy Days told the story of his brother Richie Cunningham and their family.

Tribute: Gavan's co-star in the American sitcom which kickstarted his career, Ron Howard, paid tribute to the 'talented and spirited' Irish actor in a Twitter post after the news of his passing broke online

Tribute: Gavan’s co-star in the American sitcom which kickstarted his career, Ron Howard, paid tribute to the ‘talented and spirited’ Irish actor in a Twitter post after the news of his passing broke online

Co-stars: Gavan pictured with Ron in Happy Days in 1973

Co-stars: Gavan pictured with Ron in Happy Days in 1973

His father Howard owned a hardware store while his mother Marion was a homemaker and his brother Chuck was a highschool basketball star.

He also had a younger sister called Joanie.

Gavan’s break on the silver screen came when he starred in Robert Altman’s A Wedding as character Wilson Briggs in 1989.

Five years later he played Jack Petachi in Irvin Kershner’s James Bond film Never Say Never Again.

He was also known for appearances in Death Wish, Willow and Superman III.

Gavan was reunited with his Happy Days co-star Ron while shooting Willow in 1988, which he was directing.

The actor – who was one of four children – was born in Dublin on July 29, 1951 and was raised in Malibu and Dublin. 

In 2013, he told the Independant: ‘To give a child another perspective from L.A. is a great thing. There the sun is powerful, the sea is powerful, the money is powerful. 

‘But Dublin in those days held its own power. It was dirty and poor and smelly, and for a young man from California, it had its own magical pull.’

Film history: He was also known for appearances in Death Wish (pictured), Willow and Superman III

Film history: He was also known for appearances in Death Wish (pictured), Willow and Superman III

After relocating to England in the early eighties, Gavan made appearances in We’ll Meet Again, Coded Hostile, Sharpe, Jonthan Creek and Midsommar Murders.

In 2009, he returned to the big screen as Sheriff Vaines in the follow up to Neil Marshall’s cult horror film, The Descent 2.

His last turn on the big screen was as John Anderson in Queen of the Redwood Mountains, a film inspired by the authors of the Beat Generation. 

After his stint on Happy Days, O’Herlihy appeared on such shows as Marcus Welby, M.D., The Bionic Woman, Matt Houston and Star Trek: Voyager and in the acclaimed 1976 miniseries Rich Man, Poor Man.

He relocated to England to star on the 1982 ITV series We’ll Meet Again, showed up as a guy who bullies Clark Kent bully in Superman III (1983) and worked with his dad on ABC’s Twin Peaks in 1990-91.

Gavan is survived by his wife, Juliette; and his children, Rogan, Lonan, David and Daniel.

Bye bye! The character gave rise to the term 'Chuck Cunningham Syndrome', referring to characters who disappear from TV shows without explanation (pictured 1974)

Bye bye! The character gave rise to the term ‘Chuck Cunningham Syndrome’, referring to characters who disappear from TV shows without explanation (pictured 1974)

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