Actress Marion Ross holds a special place in the hearts of TV viewers as beloved mom Marion Cunningham on the classic ’70s-era sitcom “Happy Days.”
Throughout the show’s 11-season run (1974-84), Ross was the loving, maternal anchor mooring her “Happy Days” family in 1950s Milwaukee: exasperated husband Howard (Tom Bosley), gee-whiz son Richie (Ron Howard) and his bratty kid sister Joanie (Erin Moran).
As the series progressed, tough guy Arthur “The Fonz” Fonzarelli (Henry Winkler) was welcomed into the family fold and started calling Marion “Mrs. C.” — the nickname that became Ross’ calling card for an entire generation.
In honor of Mother’s Day, Ross, 91, spoke to The Post about her life on “Happy Days.”
Did you bring your personal experience as a mom to the role of Mrs. Cunningham?
You have a bunch of writers so you leave them alone. But they got to know me so well and they began writing to my rhythm and had me in their heads. That part was written so tenderly and they treated me beautifully and lovingly. And because Tom Bosley could play the tuba to my clarinet, we made a good match that way.
Did your role as Mrs. C. rub off on your relationship with Ron Howard and Erin Moran?
I was very aware of how to treat them, and we enjoyed pretending we were a real family. It worked. But little Erin was not good, even early on. She didn’t have good parenting in her life. [Moran who fell on hard times, died in 2016 at the age of 56 from throat cancer.]
How did “Happy Days” impact your personal life?
I had my children at home and I was running back and forth. I was divorced, and my life was very complicated. At least when “Happy Days” came along, we had 10 years of structure, so that was good. I remember coming home in the middle of the day one time and my little daughter was home. I said, “What are you doing home?” and she said [starts sniffling], “I was sick so they sent me home from school.” There was nobody there to look after her. But I’m so proud of them. My daughter [Ellen Kreamer] was a producer on “Friends” and has a new cowboy show for ABC [“Prospect”]. And my son, Jim Meskimen, is acting all the time in commercials and shows and it’s wonderful.
You retired in 2018. Is there anything that would get you back on TV?
I don’t care. I truly don’t care. Isn’t that nice? I was so driven at a young age when I was 13 or 14 in Minnesota, and I did what I wanted to do. One of the last shows I did was a sitcom and I said to them, “What is that line? I forgot it, children. What was it again?” I’m 91-and-a-half but I’m still very spry and very cute. I look forward to Mother’s Day and my whole life is really lovely.
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