‘Happy Days’: Why Only One Character Called Fonzie By First Name

by Clayton Edwards
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The Fonz is probably the most memorable character from “Happy Days,” and for good reason. He was tough, suave, and charismatic. Girls wanted him and guys wanted to be him. However, no one wanted to be the one who slipped up and called him Arthur. In his mind, he had left that name behind. He was The Fonz and that was the end of it. Anyone who made that slip would find themselves on the receiving end of his ire. Only one character had his permission to use his given name. That character was Richie Cunningham’s mother, Marion Cunningham.

The reason that Fonzie allowed her to call him by his first name is simple. He didn’t have parental figures in his life. His father left when he was young. Likewise, his mother left him to his own devices later in his childhood. Fonz’s grandmother raised him, for the most part. As a result, he found a deep connection with the motherly Mrs. C. She was the loving mother figure that he didn’t have. So, when she called him Arthur, he didn’t mind.

It wasn’t just Fonzie’s longing for a loving mother figure that brought him and Richie’s mother close. He was a high school dropout and a greaser. Because of this many people thought of him as a ruffian and a bad influence on the other young people around him. However, he proves that he has a good heart several times throughout the series. Mrs. C. sees through his rough exterior to the good person he is inside. Through her, others learn to accept Fonzie and see his good qualities. This earns her the right to call him by his birth name.

The Fonz and Mrs. C. Behind the Scenes of “Happy Days”

Marion Ross, the actress who played Marion Cunningham had a soft spot for Fonzie behind the scenes. The Fonz wasn’t meant to be a major character at the beginning of the show’s run. In fact, he barely had any lines. He would show up, look cool, and leave. That was the entirety of his role. Ross felt bad for the young Henry Winkler.

It was Ross who started the long-running trend of Mrs. C. being the only character to be allowed to call The Fonz by his first name. It was an accident, at first. One day on set, she called him “Arthur” and the writers and producers took notice. To them, it seemed right that a motherly character like Marion Cunningham would use the young man’s given name. This minor slip-up gave rise to a warm and caring relationship that added much to both Fonzie’s development as well as the show’s overall appeal.

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