Joe Bova, who played Prince Dauntless opposite Carol Burnett's Princess Winnifred in both the original Broadway production of Once Upon a Mattress and the 1964 television version of the musical, died of emphysema on Sunday, March 12 at The Actors' Fund Retirement Home in Englewood, N.J. He was 81.

Born on May 25, 1925 in Cleveland, Ohio, Bova began performing at an early age with the Curtain Pullers, the youth acting troupe of the Cleveland Play House. He also appeared in shows at Cain Park in Cleveland Heights and did some radio acting for WTAM and WGAR in the 1930s. He graduated from Glenville High School and studied acting at Northwestern University before and after serving in the Army during World War II. In the late 1940s, he was hired as program director at the NBC affiliate station WNBK in Cleveland and soon became the host of the children's show Uncle Joe, which ran for six years. At the Cleveland Play House, he appeared in such plays as Stalag 17 and Best Foot Forward.

Following his Broadway debut in Once Upon a Mattress, Bova appeared in The Rape of the Belt (1960) with Philip Bosco, Peggy Wood, Constance Cummings, et al.; Hot Spot (1963), which starred Judy Holliday; The Chinese and Doctor Fish (1970), for which Bova received a Tony Award nomination for Best Featured Actor in a Play, even though the show only ran 15 performances; An American Millionaire (1974), with Bob Dishy, Austin Pendleton, Paul Sorvino, et al.; a 1977 production of George Bernard Shaw's Saint Joan that starred Lynn Redgrave; and the long-running musical 42nd Street (1980).

Bova also appeared in several productions of the New York Shakespeare Festival in Central Park, and he periodically returned to Cleveland for acting jobs and visits with family. He is survived by his wife, two daughters, a stepson, a brother, and a sister.