‘Happy Days’: How Marion Ross’ Character Name Came to Be

by Joe Rutland
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Actress Marion Ross became a household name thanks to “Happy Days.” Yet how did Ross get her character’s name on the show?

“Well, my part was so minimal at first,” Ross said during an interview on the Hallmark Channel with “Happy Days” costars Anson Williams and Don Most.

“It was like ‘Oh Howard.’ ‘Oh gee, you’re not eating,'” she said. “A writer said, ‘Well, what do we call you? Oh, we’ll just call you Marion. Is that OK, Marion?'” Ross refers to Howard, who was her husband Howard Cunningham, and played by Tom Bosley.

“When we had the read-through around the table, they would say, ‘Marion, read these parts, this part, this part,'” Ross said. “So I would read these parts. I’m trying out. They would snap around and go ‘OK.’ They would start to write for me better and better.”

She would play Marion Cunningham throughout the entire “Happy Days” run on ABC. But the writers simply found an easy way to come up with her character’s name. Use her first name, add the last name, and it’s all good from there.

‘Happy Days’ Star Couldn’t Understand Why Tom Bosley Didn’t Like Her

Television can make anything appear real. Look at “Happy Days” with the pairing of Ross and Bosley as the Cunninghams. Things look good, right?

In real life, Ross had a difficult time understanding why Bosley did not like her at all.

“I didn’t get along so well with Tom Bosley, my husband,” Ross said in a 2019 interview with Australian TV show Studio 10. When asked why this was so, she said, “I don’t know. He didn’t like me and I’m not used to being not liked.

“I’ve spent my life making people like me,” Ross said. “I don’t know (why he didn’t like her). I think he wanted somebody else for that part.” She also told Studio 10 interviewer Craig Bennett that “over the years, I learned to love him so much.”

Ross and Bosley worked together for 11 seasons until “Happy Days” ended its run on ABC. Ross is now 92 years old and retired. She received two Primetime Emmy Award nominations in 1979 and 1984 for playing Mrs. C. Sadly, Bosley died on Oct. 19, 2001, at 83 years old.

Show creator Garry Marshall placed “Happy Days” in the heart of the 1950s. Even after going off the air in 1984, it has followed the classic TV formula of staying popular in reruns.

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