Back in the 1970s, there were few shows bigger than Happy Days, which ran on ABC from 1974 to 1984. Over the course of those 11 seasons, it’s a sitcom that went from being a nostalgic look back at life in the 1950s to an oftentimes silly, but mostly funny, focus on Henry Winkler‘s the Fonz and Ron Howard‘s Richie Cunningham, with some Potsie, Joanie, Chachi and the rest thrown in for good measure. But as over the top as things could get, one of the things that kept things rooted (at least to some degree) was Marion Ross and her portrayal of Richie’s mom, Marion Cunningham, better known by the Fonz as Mrs. C.
Marion recently wrote her autobiography, My Days: Happy and Otherwise, which provided the perfect opportunity for her and the CloserWeekly.com Classic TV Podcast to come together for a conversation about what an amazing journey her life has been. Born on October 25, 1928, in Watertown, Minnesota, she was inspired by her mother’s belief in her that she could become an actress. Flash forward to the 1950s, and she found herself making her big screen debut in 1953’s Ginger Rogers and William Holden film Forever Female, quickly followed by parts in The Glenn Miller Story, Sabrina, Lust for Life and Lizzie, among others. At the same time she was making small film appearances, she scored the role of an Irish maid in Life With Father, based on the stage show of the same name. Numerous guest star appearances followed, as did a role in the Eric Braeden cult classic 1970 film Colossus: The Forbin Project.
Garry Marshall (The Odd Couple, Laverne & Shirley, Mork & Mindy) cast her as Marion for what became an installment of the romantic comedy anthology series Love American Style, from which Happy Days was spun off. What’s interesting about that is that Harold Gould played Howard Cunningham in that, while Tom Bosley — who early on was not a fan of Marion’s, as she discusses — took it over for the series version.
There’s much more to be told and, conveniently, Marion Ross is doing the telling.