‘Happy Days’: How Creator Garry Marshall Took Fonzie Actor Henry Winkler Under His Wing

by Megan Molseed
(Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images)

For 11 seasons, the classic TV sitcom series Happy Days delighted audiences, turning some memorable characters – and actors – household names. Among these Happy Days stars who skyrocketed to fame while starring in the popular sitcom is longtime television and movie star, Henry Winkler. Winkler is the actor who portrays the iconic Arthur “The Fonz” – or Fonzie – Fonzarelli in the series. In fact, Winkler’s “The Fonz ” eventually grew into one of the most popular characters in television history. Even if you haven’t seen very many Happy Days episodes, you certainly recognize The Fonz as the iconic “greaser” character.

But, as we all know, Happy Days was only the start of Henry Winkler’s successful Hollywood career. Even after the hit series said goodbye to its audience, signing off the air in 1984, Winkler continued in the business. Maintaining a successful career both as an actor and a producer. A career, Winkler says, that is only possible because of the discipline Happy Days creator and executive producer Gary Marshall regularly gave the actor while his star continued to rise.

Happy Days Fonzie Player, Henry Winkler, Credits Series Creator Gary Marshall’s Firm Hand For His Successful Hollywood Career

Winkler explains that the Happy Days producers put up with very little “funny business” on the set of the hit series. In fact, Winkler remembers, Marshall expected nothing but absolute professionalism from his actors at all times. And, Winkler adds, Marshall never hesitated to correct his stars if they missed the mark along these lines.

“I once went up to Gary Marshall when he was introducing the guest cast at the end of the taping on a Friday night,” the Fonzie actor explains.

“And I said ‘we have to hurry, Gary,'” Winkler recalls. “‘Because I’m going to Little Rock to make an appearance,'” However, Gary Marshall was having none of this, Winkler remembers. And he made that clear to his Fonzie actor while on the Happy Days set.

“When he was finished with the guest cast, he came up to me and he put me against the wall,” Henry Winkler remembers. “He said don’t ever interrupt me again when I’m introducing your guest cast.”

This Winkler explains, is a message he will never forget; mainly because it was then that he learned that star power was not a pass for rude behavior. Winkler remembers how Marshall told him that the Happy Days guest cast is just as important as the series “stars”.

“There was not an inch of bad behavior that was tolerated on the set,” the actor explains. “Everybody was concentrated on making the best show possible for the longest amount of time.”