‘Happy Days’: How Marion Ross Used Cunningham Family to Prepare for Her Own Teens

by Joe Rutland
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“Happy Days” star Marion Ross discovers a way to turn her performance as a mother into actually helping her in a real-life situation.

Ross, who plays Marion Cunningham on the ABC sitcom that ran for 11 seasons, talked about it in a 2011 interview with Next Kid Thing.

“It was very handy for me because I would practice at work and play ‘house’ with Richie [Ron Howard] and Joanie [Erin Moran], and my own children at home were about 3 years younger,” Ross says of her “Happy Days” costars. 

“So, my kids wouldn’t have had their ‘situations’ yet, and I could study it a bit, which help me a lot,” she says.  “I was always a step ahead of my kids.” 

‘Happy Days’ Star Learns How to Deal With Crisis Situations Through Show

The actress who plays “Mrs. C” on the sitcom says she loved how the show’s writers would deal with crisis situations on the show.

“I was a single mother, divorced, so I’m sure I would’ve been more nervous and panicky, but the writers always treated it as a journey—as a very ordinary thing,” she says.

Ross recalls a “Happy Days” episode where Richie drinks for the first time. She says “it wasn’t the end of the world; these are natural things that happen along the line. The first kiss, all of that; it helped me prepare for what was next with my own kids.”

Of course, Ross played mother to Richie and Joanie primarily throughout the series’ run. In the first season of “Happy Days,” there was another brother, Chuck, who was a part of the family. Chuck didn’t come back after that first-season run, though. She would, sometimes, almost become a mother-like figure to one Arthur Fonzarelli, or The Fonz, played by Henry Winkler.

Ross, who is now 92 years old, is the oldest living member of the show’s original cast.

Ross Had Her Moments Acting With TV Husband Tom Bosley On Show

Now Ross worked as hard as anyone else on “Happy Days” and earned her spot. She played opposite veteran actor Tom Bosley, who appears as her husband, Howard Cunningham.

Still, there were moments where she didn’t always get along with Bosley.

“I didn’t get along so well with Tom Bosley, my husband,” Ross says 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,” she says. “I don’t know (why he didn’t like her). I think he wanted somebody else for that part.”

Nevertheless, they played off one another quite well and made “Happy Days” definitely worth watching. Bosley died on Oct. 19, 2001, at 83 years old.

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