Nov 12, 2015

The Odd Couple TV Show's Beloved Supporting Cast

On this the 45th Anniversary Season of when my favorite television show of all time The Odd Couple first debuted it's time to pay tribute to the great supporting  cast.
Murray Greshler was a big hit with fans as the simple minded bumbling NYPD Officer: Murray the Cop . Murray was a long time friend of Oscar Madison & usually becomes the subject of Oscar's jokes.

Some great lines referenceing Murrays nose are "Nose' Feliciano" / "Tokyo Nose" & "Come inside Murray, your sucking up all the air in the hallway".  Even Felix chimed in asking him if the other army reserve soldiers made fun of him saying "when you look up it looks like a two car garage". Murray would become one of both Felix & Oscars best friends appearing 73 of the 114 Odd Couple episodes.

Murray wouldn't think twice about double parking his patrol car double parked outside the Park Avenue or Central Park West building where Felix & Oscar lived, for a quick hand of poker or just to hang out at Oscar's apartment.  But with that puppy dog face, Al was a loveable character especially when he used his classic line " Oscar I'm a police man...." usually followed by something that made no sense.

Who could forget when he went undercover as a woman in Central Park to catch muggers & Oscar said "And YOUR THE BAIT".  Or when he told Oscar to trick Felix into saving his life by choking on a chicken bone.

When Oscar says he used boneless chicken he replies "wont work without a bone Oscar". In his spare time Murray plays poker,  the ukulele & likes female roller derby. He was married to his wife Mimi

At one point when Murray & Mimi had marriage troubles and he moved in with Felix & Oscar driving them crazy. He tried to set the boys up with a team of Roller Derby girls but that didn’t go over to well. He once arrested his friends for gambling in a poker game at Felix & Oscar's apartment, because he needed some arrests under his belt. Murray also plays the ukulele and is a member of Felix's band "the Sofisticatos".

Whether it be about his big nose or about being dumb, Murray always got laughs & helped the flow of a scene. Murray is probably the closest of all friends to both Felix & Oscar through out the series.

Umberto Francesa Molinaro was born on June 24th 1919 in Kenosha, Wisconsin. In English his name translates to Francis Albert Molinaro which he became known as Al. He was one of ten children born to Italian immigrants, who were prominent in the Italian Community of Kenosha. His father owned a restaurant / tavern & helped fund hundreds of Italian immigrants in coming legally over to America.

After getting married he moved to California & worked as a collection agent as well as a realtor. A real estate investment that became a large retail shopping mall made him wealthy enough to peruse his dream as an actor.

In the sixties he had minor roles on Bewitched (1971 episode- Bewitched, Bothered & Baldoni. where he plays a guide in Rome), Green Acres (1969-1970 / three episodes), Get Smart (1969 as agent 44 / two episodes) That Girl (1971 as Marv in Chef's Night Out) Love American Style (1972-1974 three episodes) & in the short lived series: Name of the Game (1969 where he played the owner of a head shop).

In 1970 he met Penny Marshall at an improv class which led him to her brother Gary Marshall who was producer of the TV show the Odd Couple. Al landed the part as the classic dim witted but loveable NYPD officer; Murray Greshler, aka- Murray the Cop.

In 1976 Garry Marshall had another big hit with Happy Days & he hired Molinaro to replace Pat Morita, as Al owner of Arnold's Malt Shop (later renamed Big Al's). Al played on Happy Days for seven more seasons (1976-1982) where his classic lines were "yup yup yup" & "did I ever tell you about Rosa Colleti?"

Everyone liked Al, the Fonz & Ritchie would confide in him as well as the teens who hung at Arnolds. Al was always welcome into the Cunningham Family & was an extended member.

Quote's: Molinaro once said: "Molinaro said, "I spent twenty years here before I got anything going, and from that I got lucky. It takes a lot of luck in show business. You've just got to be lucky and in the right place at the right time."

He would also play roles in Laverne & Shirley (1976) as Father Delvecchio, a role he also played on Happy Days when he Baptized the Fonz.

He also appeared on Love Boat (1977) Fantasy Island (1979 & 1982) Freaky Friday (1976) Gridlock (1980)  Joanie Loves Chachi (1982) Punky Brewster (1985) Family Man (1990-1991 a regular role in the short lived series) Step by Step (1992) & the Weezer video Buddy Holly (1994).

Molinaro also did a series of commercials from the late eighties to the early 2000's for Mr. Big, Cortaid  & On Cor products.

Passing: He retired from the business in the nineties & passed up roles offered to him by Marshall because he didn't want to be in anything with curse words in it.

He passed away in Glendale, California at age 96 in October 2015.


Myrna Turner played by actress Penny Marshall. Myrna was Oscar’s slow nasal talking secretary with the classic slow nasal laugh “henh henh henh”. Myrna is very shy and meek, and has been to group therapy for a nervous condition. 

She was a hopeful tap dancer after her half time performance at an Alabama, Mississippi game. Felix tries to make her a tap dance star but it fails. Oscar gives her job back because “she’s the best secretary he ever had” according to his own words. Myrna Turner is single and tries computer dating, until she meets Sheldon (her real life husband Rob Reiner-"Meathead" from All in the Family" played that role), Sheldon strays but eventually returns to marry her. 

In a classic scene she introduces her siblings Werner & Verner Turner played by her real life siblings, Gary Marshall & their sister. They all talked like Myrna & laughed like her as well.

Penny Marshall was born Carole Penny Marshall on October 15, 1943. Her father had immigrated from Abruzzo, Italy & his original Italian name was Marscharelli. He was a She grew up on the Grand Concourse's northern end near Mousholu Parkway. Her father immigrated from Abruzzi Italy, and was an industrial film producer. Her mother ran a dance school & named her daughter after actress Carole Lombard.

Penny Marshall's brother was the Odd Couple's television show creator & producer Garry Marshall. In 1967 she moved to California with her brother & got cast in a hair commercial with Farrah Fawcett. Penny played the plain girl before the shampoo & Farrah of course, the pretty girl after shampoo with beautiful hair.  

She tried out for roles as Gloria on All in the Family but lost out to Sally Struthers. Her husband Rob Reiner got the role of Michale Stivic, aka- Meat head. Marshall also tried out for the part of Witchiepoo on H.R. Pufnstuff but lost out to Billie Hayes.
She first appeared in “The Danny Thomas Hour," & played bit parts in other TV shows like Love American Style, That Girl & the Bob Newhart Show. Her first big TV role came in 1972, as Myrna Turner. She remained on the show for three years, playing in 27 episodes, until its last season in 1975.

Next, she hit it big with another of her brother Gary Marshall's top television shows, a spin off of his number one rated Happy Days, called -"Laverne and Shirley" . She played the wise cracking Laverne Defazio, the loose girl with the classic big script "L" on her sweaters. She & her roomate Shirley Feenie lived in Milwaukee & worked in a Brewery. 

They first appeared on an episode of Happy Days as Fonzie & Ritchies dates. They made five Happy Days appearances. In later years Penny Marshall actually directed four episodes of the show. 

Since then she became a Hollywood director and owner of her own production company. To her credit she directed the films “A League of their Own”with Tom Hanks & Geena Davis. “Awakenings” with Robert Deniro & Robin Williams. “Big”with Tom Hanks.  "The Preacher's Wife" with Denzel Washington & Whitney Houston & "Jumping Jack Flash".

Penny Marshall & Rob Reiner were married for ten years 1971-1981 they had one daughter together.

Gloria Unger played by actress Janis Hansen. 
Gloria is Felix Unger's beautiful ex-wife, whom he always tries to get back & finally does in the final episode. Gloria originally divorced Felix on the grounds of pestiness, and even though she still has feelings for him, she can't stand living with him. 

Felix was always insanely jealous, and made her feel inadequate, by re-cooking her meals, re cleaning the house and telling her how to set the table, as well as do the laundry properly. 

Gloria's maiden name was has been said to be either Fleener or Schaefer on different episodes of the show. Since the divorce (and probably when married to Felix) she lives in New Rochelle, New York with their two children Edna & Leonard. 

Gloria was a former Playboy Bunny before marrying Felix, she worked at the Playboy club & had her pictures taken by Felix. The photos were chosed for an upcoming centerfold but Felix managed to get Hugh Hefner himself to not publish the shoot. The Photos disappeared & were never found by Felix, although we learn they were stolen by Oscar.

Janis Hansen was born June 14, 1940 in Celoron, New York, the same town Lucile Ball was born in. Janis was a real life Playboy bunny & stage actress. She is best known for her role as Gloria Unger. 

Hansen has also made guest appearances on television shows like; Gidget, Bonanza, The Big Valley, My Favorite Martian, I Dream of Jeanie, The Rookies, Streets of San Francisco, Vegas, Police Story & TJ Hooker. She was also in the 1970 movie "Airport".

She retired from acting in 1982 & has since run the Hansen Management Company in Los Angles. She coaches, manages & serves as an agent.
Blanche Madison played by actress Brett Somers.

Blanche is Oscar's ex-wife, who since the divorce lives in California. They had no children together. Blanche's maiden name is Jefferson. Oscar & Blanche were married while the boys were on Military Duty, in Connecticut. They spent their wedding night in the barracks being serenaded by Felix & Murray.  

Blanche is either getting late or no alimony payments at all from Oscar. She tries everything from singing telegrams to legal action with jail threats to get Oscars alimony payments. He usually has gambled his money away. The two Madison's are always fighting, never agreeing on anything. Totally different from the Ungers, Blanche & Oscar have no desire to get back together. Blanche made five Odd Couple appearances (1971-1973).

Oscar is always hoping Blanche remarries so he can stop paying alimony. She almost remarried "Roger the Milkman" until Felix buds in & blows that relationship as she realized she doesn't love Roger at all. They divorced on New Year’s Eve duriung a party in the apartment in which there are three sides of the story; Oscar's Blanches & of course Felix's.

Brett Somers was born Audrey Johnson on July 11, 1924 in New Brunswick, Canada. She grew up in Potland, Maine & ran away at age 17 to become an actress, setting in New York City  in Greenwich Village. She soon became a singer, theater actress & comedienne who took the name Brett from the character in Hemingway’s “The Sun Also Rises”. She appeared on Broadway, in television & in movies, most notably “The Seven Year Itch” & The Country Girl with her second husband; Jack Klugman.

Her TV credits include: Barney Miller, Mary Tyler Moore, the Love Boat, Love American Style, the Defenders, Have Gun Will Travel, Ben Casey, The Fugitive, & CHIPS. Her best known roles were on the Odd Couple & a long time run as a panelist on the game show Match Game. 

Klugman was on Match Game early on in 1973 & suggested Brett be a panelist. She got the job & would remainthere for the remainder of it's none year run. She was second to Charles Nelson Riely in the top spot.  She became known for her risque dialonge on the show & was very popular.

Brett Somers married Jack Kugman in 1953, and they had two sons together. The couple separated in 1974 but were never divorced & remained friends their entire lives. Brett passed away in 2007 from cancer at age 83, in Westport Connecticut.

Miriam Welby played by actress Eleanor Donahue (1972-1975). Miriam was the lovely, elegant love interest & safe to say girl friend of Felix Unger. Miriam lived upstairs, from Felix & Oscar  in the same building.

Miriam would play in 17 episodes, second only to Al Molinaro's Murray the Cop character in a supporting role for most appearances. Welby was a clever choosing of her last name, since at the time Marcus Welby M.D. was a popular show starring Robert Young who played Donahue's father on Father Knows Best n the 1950's.

Mary Eleanor Donahue was born April 19th, 1937 in Tacoma, Washington. She was a child actress starring in Vaudville, as a dancer. She played in many roles in the 1940's as a child in film. 

In the 1950's she landed the role as the eldest daughter of Robert Young & Jane Wyatt on Father Knows Best (1954-1960). Although innocent her role as a teenage girl in the fifties was very important. She also landed the role of Elle Walker a Pharmacist & love interest of Andy Taylor on the Andy Griffith show. After one season she was asked to be released from her three year contract.

She would make appearances on "The Flying Nun" "Star Trek" "Have Gun Will Travel" "Dr. Kildare" "The Rookies" "Police Woman" & "SWAT". After the Odd Couple role she landed the part of Jane Mulligan on the short lived series "Mulligan's Stew". 

After that it was "Barnaby Jones" "Mork & Mindy" One Day At a Time" "Fantasy Island" "Hotel" "Happy Days" "Love Boat" "Days of Our Lives" & recurring roles on "Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman" "Young & Restless" "Eek the Cat" & "Get A Life". She also had a part in the Julia Roberts, Richard Gere 1990 film; "Pretty Woman".

In 1998 she wrote a book about her life in Hollywood & provided more than 150 recipes.


 Dr. Nancy Cunnigham played by actress Joan Hotchkis. Nancy Cunnigham became the love interest of Oscar Madison after she was filling for Dr. Melnitz. Nancy appeared in 11 episodes of the second season & then was never heard from again.

Joan Hotchkis was born September 21st, 1927 in Los Angeles, California. Hotchkis appeared in television shows; "My World & Welcome To It" "Bewitched" "Charlies Angels" "Medical Center" "Marcus Welby" "Barnaby Jones" "Lou Grant" & "St. Elsewhere". 

Hotchkis did theater work as well as solo performances into the late 1990's. Her second solo work: Elements of Flesh: Or Screwing Saved My Ass (1996) was about aging & sexuality.  Joan is an active activists for the arts & has helped put together many gala events. She is a a life long member of the Actors Studio.

Edna Unger played by two actresses.Edna Unger is Felix & Gloria Ungers daughter. She loves her father even though he's a pest. Her 11th birthday gets in the way of Oscar's poker game with a bunch of drinking, smoking sportswriters. Even the clown hired for her party gets drunk & gets into Oscars poker game. In the end Uncle Oscar saves the day after a rain out party in Central Park. 

As Edna gets older all she wants to do is meet boys. At one point she dates a reform school kid, that Oscar was a "big brother" too. Later with a Doney Oatman playing the role, she becomes a baseball umpire just to meet boys. 

Finally she falls in love with singer Paul Williams and runs away from home just to follow him. As she gets older she gets closer to Uncle Oscar & thinks he's cooler than her own dad. Edna was played by two actresses, first by Pamelyn Ferdin (the reddish hair girl) and then by Doney Oatman (the blonde).

Pamelyn Ferdin (Edna #1 appeared in three episodes 1971-1972). she was a child star who appeared in countless TV shows: "The Brady Bunch" 'the Monkees" "My Three Sons" 'Star Trek" "Bewitched" "Family Affair" "Mannix" "Chips" "Lassie" 'Andy Griffith" "The Flying Nun" 'Gunsmoke" "Marcus Welby" "Vesa$" "the Streets of San Francisco" & many more. 

She was also in "Andy Williams, Bob Hope & Jerry Lewis" TV specials. She also had a regular spots as Cookie Bumstead in the show "Blondie" (1968-1969), Sally Simms on the "Paul Lynde Show" (1972-1973) & "Lassie" the series in 1973.

She was the voice of Lucy Van Pelt in the 1969 "A boy Named Charlie Brown" & "Play It Again Charlie Brown" . She was also the voice of Sally in 1971's "The Cat In the Hat" & Fern in Charolette's Web (1973).

On top of all this she appeared in Barbie commercials too. She quit acting in the early 80's, became a nurse, married a surgeon & now lives in Connecticut. Ferdin is also a big animal rights activist.

Doney Oatman (Edna #2 also in three episodes 1972-1975) had a short acting career appearing in "ABC Afterschool Specials" "Maude" "The Rockford Files" "Eight Is Enough" "The Waltons" & "Charlies Angels" in 1977.  Not much more is known of Doney Oatman beyond this point, as she kind went off into obscurity. This one photo to the left was found, that's about it.


Leonard Unger played by two different actors.
Felix & Gloria Ungers son is Leonard Unger. Leonard also "honks" like his father, when he gets upset, but unlike his father he loves frogs, & sports. Uncle Oscar coaches his football team & he looks up to him. Just like there were two different Ednas, there were two different Leonards as well. The first Leonard was played first young actor; Willie Aames and the second by a young Leif Garrett.

Willie Aames (Leonard #1 played in one episode in 1971) He was born Albert William Upton in Newport Beach, California. 

He too appeared in many other TV shows such as "Love Boat' "Adam 12" "Medical Center" "ABC After school Specials" "Little House" "Cannon" "Courtship of Eddies Father". He was the voice of Jamie Boyle, on "Wait Till Your Father Gets Home" (1972-1974) & had regular parts on "Swiss Family Robinson"(1975-1976)  "We'll Get By" & "Family" (1976-1877). 

Aames became most famous for his role on the TV show "Eight is Enough" (1977-1981) as Tommy Bradford and "Charles In Charge" as Buddy Lembeck (1984-1990). 

Aames battled  drug & alcohol addiction for some twenty years. He eventually went sober became a born again Christian &created as well as starred in the TV show "Bible man". He was married twice & has two children.


Leif Garret (Leonard #2- played in two episodes 1974-1975) Leif Per Nervik was born November 8th, 1961 in Hollywood California. 

He is the brother of Dawn Nervik who played Dodie Douglas on My Three Sons. 

Leif would play in the movie "Bob & Carol Ted  &Alice" with Natalie Wood in 1969. He also played the protagonist's son in all three Walking Tall movies & has a recurring role on the show "Family".

Garret became another teen idol with his fame in movies, TV & music when he scored with his 1976 album Leif Garrett. The single "I was Made For Dancin" became a top ten hit. He would also have a small part in the classic film; "The Outsiders" in 1983.

Leif Garret had relationships with lovely ladies such as Nicolett Sheridan, Tatum O'Neil, Kristy McNichol & Justine Bateman. 

In 1979 he crashed his car, while on Qualudes and left his friend a paraplegic. Garrett promised to look after his friend, but the family sued Garret for $25 million. He settled for $7 million & the friendship was done. The two reunited for a VH1 "Behind the Music" special & all was forgiven. Garret was arrested three more times from 1999-2010 for some kind of drug possession.


Speed was a poker obsessed friend of Oscar Madison. While the crew was arrested by friend Murray the Cop for an illegal poker game, we learn Speed's real name was Homer.

Gary Walberg was born June 10th 1921 in Buffalo New York. His acting career began in the 1950's, he would be a regular on Peyton Place (1965-1968) Odd Couple (13 appearances) Gunsmoke (10 episodes) Lassie (7 episodes) & Quincy with Jack Klugman (1976-1983).

He made notable appearances on the Twilight Zone (1959 episode- Where Is Everybody) Rawhide, the Rifleman, Perry Mason, Ben Casey, Star Trek (1966 episode Balance of Terror as Commander Hansen) & Green Acres (1969 episode Reincarnation of Ed as a Sheriff).

Also appearances on Mod Squad, Medical Center,, SWAT, Police Story , Mannix, Columbo (1971) Kojak (1974) Love American Style (4 times 1971-1973) The Tony Randall Show, Hotel & Murder She Wrote. His last appearance was on the Odd Couple (Together Again) TV Movie in 1993.

Walberg was married three times & passed away in 2012 at age 90.

Vinny was another one of  Felix & Oscar's poker buddies starting from Season One. 

 Larry Gelman was born November 3rd 1930 in Brooklyn New York. Gelman was a solid character actor with 113 credits to his name, still active into his eighties. He  is best known for being Vinny on the Odd Couple (12 episodes) Dr. Bernie Tupperman on the Bob Newhart Show (13 episodes 1972-1976) , Dr. Binder on Maude (6 episodes 1976-1978)  Officer Bernstein on Eight Is Enough (6 episodes 1977-1981) & four appearances on Barney Miller.

He began in the sixties with credits on popular shows like Batman (1968 episode NOra Clavicle & the Ladies Crime Club as a bank manager) . The Monkees (three episodes (Christmas Show 1967 / Captain Crocodile 1967 as a salesman & Ive Got A Little Song Here 1967- as a director).

Also I Dream of Jeannie, Get Smart, the Flying Nun, Nanny & the Professor, Mary Tyler Moore, Rhoda, Kojak, Quincy, Love Boat, Laverne & Shirley, Mork & Mindy, Facts of Life, One Day at a Time, Archie Bunkers Place, CHIPS, Hill Street Blues, Remington Steele, Cagney & Lacey, Mr. Belvedeere, ER & Night Court.

He also was in the  films Mr Saturday Night, Dreamscape, Wholly Moses, Topper, the Frisco Kid, Funny Girl & Weird Science. This year he turned 85.


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