Tom Bosley, RIP: His Father Dowling Mysteries gave Denver film industry some very happy days

tom bosley as father dowling.jpg
Tom Bosley.
Tom Bosley, who died at age 83, is best remembered as the all-knowing dad on Happy Days.

But veterans of the local TV and film industry got to know and love him thanks to a post-Happy Days project -- Father Dowling Mysteries, which were largely filmed in Denver -- and yours truly has a very important connection to a key location.

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Tom Bosley with co-stars Tracy Nelson, James Stephens and Mary Wickes.
The '80s and '90s offered plenty of employment opportunities for film pros in Colorado thanks in part to a series of TV movies in which actor Raymond Burr revived his iconic Perry Mason character for a new generation; the flicks were shot in Denver over a five-year period. And many of the same crews worked on Father Dowling Mysteries, a 1989-91 series in which Bosley played Father Frank Dowling, who solved murders when he wasn't saying prayers -- and Denver portrayed Chicago.

The cast also included Tracy Nelson, James Stephens and Mary Wickes as a veteran nun. Wickes looked so good in a habit that she was subsequently cast in a similar role in two Sister Act movies.

Dowling remains a proud credit for local companies such as Lighting Services Inc., which also worked on a couple of Perry Mason movies. But fewer folks recall that Church of the Annunciation, at 3621 Humboldt Street, served as Father Dowling's home parish.

That includes me -- and I should have known. My wife is now the principal at Annunciation's namesake school, stepping in for Sister Jean Panisko, who served in that role for an astonishing 29 years. Little does my beloved know that each day, she's walking in the footsteps of the man who'll forever be known as Mr. C. I can guarantee she'd be proud.

More from our Calhoun/Wake-Up Call archive: "Gary Coleman's short -- very -- time as a Denver celebrity."


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