‘Happy Days’ Star Marion Ross Explained Why Garry Marshall Was ‘So Important’ To Her

by Josh Lanier

Garry Marshall was a team builder. The Happy Days creator would have been just as happy to run a baseball team as he was having a number one television show because he loved to nurture talent. That’s what Marion Ross, who played Marion Cunningham on the show, remembers most.

“Garry Marshall was so important to me,” Ross told Media Path Podcast recently. “… He just took care of all of us. Isn’t that something? He took us all to Europe. He was a wonderful man with a wonderful family.”

Marion Ross remembers all of the teams Garry Marshall had behind the scenes of the show. He had his writers, production staff, actors, and the crew. He also had another batch of veteran comedy writers he’d bring in on Thursday nights ahead of the final read-through to punch up the jokes. Each one of these groups he treated differently, Ross said, based on what Marshall thought would be the most beneficial for them to hear.

Marshall thrived on finding the pieces that fit together. The audience could see it on screen, but Ross said the cast realized it on the softball field. Happy Days had a traveling team that played against local ABC affiliates across the country. That was how Marshall promoted the show. And it was his way to strengthen the bond between cast members who had to play family members and best friends.

“(Softball) was the thing that made us such a family,” Marion Ross wrote after Marshall’s death in 2016. “You know, a television show has at best a life of about six or seven years. When we started coming up toward that goal [on “Happy Days”], Garry would say, “I don’t see why we just can’t keep going.” I think he really just didn’t want to give up the softball team.”

Henry Winkler: Garry Marshall Had A Team First Approach

By the second season of Happy Days, Henry Winkler’s Arthur “Fonzie” Fonzarelli was the break-out star. It was the first major role for Winkler, who admits to struggling with that blast of fame. Luckily, Marshall was there to remind him that a television show was more a team sport than a collection of stars.

“He taught me how to be on a set,” Henry Winkler said in the interview. “He had time for everyone. One night, I was rushing to make my first personal appearance. I was going to get $1,000 to show up in Little Rock, Arkansas and sign autographs at the mall. I went up to him during the Friday night filming with members of the guest cast and I said, ‘Can we hurry it up because I have to fly?’ And he waited and then he put down the microphone, and he held me against the wall.”

“And he said, ‘They [the guest cast] have every right to be introduced— just like you in the beginning. What he showed me was respect for the total of the ensemble behind and in front of the camera,” the Happy Days star added.