‘Happy Days’: Fonzie Cried for the First Time on Show as a Tribute to Physically Abused Children

by Joe Rutland

Don’t let anyone ever say a TV show can’t affect people. “Happy Days” proved that wrong thanks to show creator Garry Marshall.

Marshall, who died on July 19, 2016 at 81 years old, said the ABC sitcom tried a number of different shows for the hearing impaired and hearing challenged. But he talks about the show that stood out for him in an interview with the Archive of American Television.

“There was a group in Massachusetts who had children, abused children who were special cases,” Marshall, who created “Happy Days” after seeing the success of the movie “American Graffiti,” said. He said the people associated with the group didn’t know what to do with these children.

Marshall said these children were “totally catatonic after time and they would never show any emotion whatsoever.”

‘Happy Days’ Creator Develops Episode That Shows Another Side Of ‘The Fonz’

Doctors overseeing the children told “Happy Days” producers there was a common denominator among these children.

“There must’ve been 50 of them,” Marshall said. “They all liked Fonzie and they said the reason they like him was because he never cried.”

Marshall said doctors told him that those children spent most of their life crying.

“Somebody smacked ’em so they would cry,” he said. “So they said it would be great if he (Fonzie, played by Henry Winkler) could cry and we did an episode special for that.”

Marshall was referring to the episode called “Richie Almost Dies” from the show’s fifth season. Richie Cunningham, played by Ron Howard, is involved in a motorcycle accident. He’s struggling to survive and Fonzie visits his friend in the hospital.

Watch Winkler, a Yale School of Drama graduate, take Fonzie to another level in this scene from “Happy Days.” Marshall is one of the co-writers for this episode, directed by Jerry Paris.

Marshall Shares The Moment Where He Realized Winkler’s Character Was Big

Marshall began to realize that Winkler’s character was gaining attention from fans far and wide.

He said one day, the studio lot guard where “Happy Days” was filmed said to Marshall, “You know this guy you got, Fonzie, he’s pretty good.”

How good? Fonzie started showing up on clothes, pajamas, bed sheets, you name it.

“You always know a character or something’s a hit if it’s on the other pages besides the TV pages in the newspaper,” Marshall said in the interview with the Archive of American Television.