‘Happy Days’ Star Marion Ross ‘Was Treated Like a Mother’ Among the Cast

by Suzanne Halliburton

Marion Cunningham, aka Mrs. C, was America’s favorite Midwestern mother on Happy Days. And she concedes she played much the same role on the show with her much younger co-stars.

Marion Ross, who now is 93, was 45 when Happy Days came on the airways back in January 1974. The kids on the show were high school-aged, with Fonzie (Henry Winkler) in his 20s. Ross didn’t turn off her maternal instincts behind the scenes, with Ron Howard (Richie), Anson Williams (Potsie), Donnie Most (Ralph) or Erin Moran (Joanie).

Ross talked about the topic when she discussed her career and life on Happy Days in the Media Path podcast hosted by Fritz Coleman and Louise Palanker.

“I was treated like a mother,” Ross said. “They would come and sit beside me and tell me their problems, secrets, things like that. I wanted to be a mother, I didn’t want to be some hot item.”

And Ross also talked about the relationship she had with Moran, who died in April 2017. She suffered from throat cancer and didn’t know she had it until the disease already was in stage four. Ross said she hoped she helped Moran when she was on Happy Days.

“I think I did, she was a darling girl,” Ross said. “She had a terrible home life and she paid a big price.”

You can check out the podcast below:

Happy Days Star Said ‘Fame Was Tough’ On Moran

Moran was 13 when she joined the Happy Days cast. She played Richie’s perky, sometimes annoying, kid sister. In reality, Moran was from a family of six children. Her mother, seeing that her daughter could sing and act, signed up Erin with a talent agency. Erin started her career at 5. 

Ross talked about Moran’s issues in a 2002 interview with the Archive of American Television. Erin needed her real-life parents and the ones she had on Happy Days.

“Fame is tough,” Ross said. “And I think it was tough on Erin. … I think what happened in her case was her family sort of disintegrated around her, whereas Ron Howard’s parents were like rocks and stayed the same. They were fine people and didn’t get sucked into show business in any way, so he always had a father up there quietly watching and this wonderful mother to advise him and not jump into the scene.

“Whereas, Erin’s parents seem to be a little bit swept away with all of this. So Erin was like the boss of the family. She was the breadwinner and had to hold everything together. These kids are sent to school, then back to the set, then back to school, so by the time Erin would come back to the set we were in the midst of a big joke or we’d worked out something that she would have to see quickly what is was she’d have to fit into. It was double responsibility for her.”