Happy Days fans will remember that that there was a third Cunningham sibling named Chuck. Chuck was the older brother of Richie (Ron Howard) and Joanie (Erin Moran). He can be described as a basketball-dribbling, sandwich-eating jock. Chuck" didn't have many speaking parts. By the middle of the first season, he was written out of the script and sent off to college, never returning to the screen again.
Two actors played Chuck Cunningham during the course of the show. The original Chuck was Gavan O'Herlihy. According IMDb, Gavan played Chuck in seven episodes, from January to March, 19, 1974.
Gavan was born on April 29, 1954, in Dublin Ireland,. He is the son of Irish actor Dan O'Herlihy and his wife Elsa Bennett, a native of Sandymount, Ireland. Gavan split his childhood between Dublin and Los Angeles. He was a skilled tennis player in his youth and became the Irish National Tennis Champion. While attending Trinity College in Dublin. Gavin took up acting and relocated to Los Angles when he was cast as Chuck in 1973.
|Gavan O'Herlihy in 1974.|
* In 2009, Gavan returned to motion pictures as Sheriff Vaines in Descent 2, the sequel to Neil Marshall cult horror film. He plays the leading role of writer John Anderson in Queen of the Redwood Mountains, a Nic Saunders film set to be released this year.
After the exit of Gavan O'Herlihy, Randolph Roberts became the second actor to portray Chuck Cunningham. He was brought in briefly until the producers decided to abandon the character, reportedly because he was never a major character and they noticed that Fonzie (Henry Winkler) had become a big brother to Richie.
Randolph was born on October 5, 1947 in Fresno, California as William Randolph Roberts. He only appeared as the eldest Cunningham sibling in two 1974 episodes - "Richie Moves Out" (Season 2, Episode 1, Air Date: September 10, 1974) and "Guess Who's Coming to Christmas" (Season 2, Episode 11, Air Date: December 17, 1974 ).
In the episode "Richie Moves Out," Richie goes to live at Chuck's apartment, but the arrangement doesn't work out very well. In the episode "Guess Who's Coming to Christmas," the Cunninghams are all prepared for Christmas, until Richie learns that Fonzie will be spending the holiday alone. Randolph Roberts played Chuck in that episode. However, the character never appeared again, although he was mentioned in a few other episodes, the last one being "Fish and the Fins." (Season 2, Episode 20, Air Date: March 11, 1975). After that, Chuck was written entirely off the show, as if he never existed. In later episodes, the Cunningham family was depicted aa having two siblings, with Richie being the eldest. No explanation was given for Chuck's absence. This led to the term "Chuck Cunningham Syndrome,"
According to several websites, Happy Days creator, Gary Marshall, joked that Chuck won a basketball scholarship to Outer Mongolia. On the website ShowBiz CheatSheet, Marshall is quoted as saying, "You gotta pay attention to what's happening. It soon became obvious that Fonzie was the older brother and that was the relationship that was working." Marshall's plan to get rid of Chuck was apparently to do nothing. "So, I just said let's just have Chuck disappear and let's see how much mail we get. We didn't get much."
Below is a 1974 Happy Days publicity photo with Randolph Roberts (standing with Marion Ross) as Chuck Cunningham.from the episode "Guess Who's Coming to Christmas."
An intriguing question is whether whether Happy Days would have gotten rid of the Chuck Cunningham character so hastily if Gavan O'Herlihy had remained in the role? We'll never know the answer to that question for sure. However, if Gavan had remained on Happy Days for the duration of the show, he wouldn't have had the stellar career that he's had. Happy Days ran until 1984.
* There was actually a third Chuck Cunningham. played by Ric Carrott. Carrrott originated the role of Chuck in the pilot for Happy Days, which aired as a segment of Love American Style entitled "Love and the Happy Days" (Season 3, Episode 22, Air Date: February 25, 1972). The segment was about a 1950s family that gets its first television. Son Richie (Ron Howard) and his friend Potsie (Anson Williams) assume that the TV can be used to attract girls. Marion Ross also appeared in the episode as Marion Cunningham.
Ric Carrott auditioned for the part of Chuck Cunningham in the series, but it was given to Gavan O'Herlihy.
* Gavan O'Herlihy appeared as Maje Jabin in "Caretaker," the 1995 pilot episode of Star Trek: Voyager
* Gavan's father, actor Dan O'Herlihy, passed away in California on February 17, 2005.
SOURCES: OnMilwaukee, "What happened to Richie's brother" Chuck" from 'Happy Days?,'" by Molly Snyder, December 10, 2017 (article originally ran in 2013; chimes freedom website (www.chimesfreedom.com), "The Long Lost Chuck Cunningham," January 11, 2014; ShowBiz CheatSheat, "'Happy Days': Why Chuck was Written Out of the Show Completely, by Nicole Weaver, January 6, 2021; Wikipedia; IMDb (Internet Movie Database)
EDITOR'S UPDATE (Saturday November 12, 2021): Gavan O'Herlihy, the original Chuck Cunningham, has died at the age of 70. According to Variety, Gavan's brother, Cormac O'Herlihy, stated that the actor passed away in Bath, England on September 15, 2021. The cause of death was not disclosed, but Gavan's brother confirmed that it was not COVID-19.