Marion Ross Poster


Jump to: Overview (3)  | Mini Bio (1)  | Family (3)  | Trade Mark (2)  | Trivia (61)  | Personal Quotes (2)

Overview (3)

Born in Albert Lea, Minnesota, USA
Birth NameMarian Ellen Ross
Height 5' 5" (1.65 m)

Mini Bio (1)

The lovely, cheery, continuously upbeat All-American mom from the classic Happy Days (1974) TV sitcom had fervent desires of becoming an actress while growing up in her obscure Minnesota town. Born Marian Ross (with an "a") on October 25, 1928, she grew up in her native state and, at one time, worked as a teenage au pair in order to earn money for drama lessons at the MacPhail Center in Minneapolis. The family eventually relocated to San Diego (she was in her late teens) and Marion attended and graduated from Point Loma High School.

Changing her stage moniker to Marion (with an "o") Ross because it read classier to her, the young hopeful enrolled at San Diego State College and appeared in the theater department's various productions. Graduating in 1950, Marion worked in summer theater in and around the San Diego area, including the Old Globe Theatre.

Marion managed to land a Paramount Studio contract with the assist of an old college professor and found a few unbilled parts to play as various actress, tourist and girlfriend types in a variety of films such as The Glenn Miller Story (1954), Secret of the Incas (1954), Sabrina (1954) and Pushover (1954). At the same time, she won a regular role as the Irish maid "Nora" in the Victorian-TV comedy Life with Father (1953) which ran a couple of seasons and was headed by Leon Ames and Lurene Tuttle. This program happened to be the first live color series for network Hollywood TV.

Not your conventional leading lady type, Marion landed slightly larger parts in such movies as The Proud and Profane (1956), Lizzie (1957), Teacher's Pet (1958) and Operation Petticoat (1959), but any and all attempts to move further up the Hollywood film ladder proved a long-lasting frustration.

Marking her Broadway debut in 1958 with a role in "Edwin Booth" starring José Ferrer, Marion nevertheless continued to focus on TV work. Throughout the 1960s, she appeared in a fairly steady amount of shows, both comedies and dramas, including Father Knows Best (1954), Rawhide (1959), Route 66 (1960), The Outer Limits (1963), The Felony Squad (1966) and The Brady Bunch (1969).

By the end of the decade, however, Marion was still disillusioned, but now she was divorced from her husband of 18 years, Freeman Meskimen, and struggling to raise two children. Middle-aged stardom came to her (in her 46th year) with the nostalgic sitcom series Happy Days (1974), which arrived on a wave of 50s popularity triggered by the huge box-office reception to the film American Graffiti (1973). The show starred "Graffiti" lead Ron Howard and co-starred Henry Winkler as "The Fonz". Marion was ideally paired with Tom Bosley, who expertly played her beleaguered hubby. The series became a certifiable hit and Marion's ever-pleasant "Marion Cunningham" the new, slightly blended version of Lucille Ball's ditzy and Barbara Billingsley's pristine perfect moms. Two Emmy nominations came Marion's way during the show's long tenure (ten seasons).

Following the demise of such an exalting hit, many actors often find themselves either resting on their laurels or witnessing a sad decline in their career. Not Marion. She continued to pursue her career assertively and challengingly and the critics kept taking notice. She earned terrific reviews for her recurring The Love Boat (1977) role in 1986, and enjoyed standard guest turns on Night Court (1984), MacGyver (1985), Burke's Law (1963) and (the revived) "Superman".

One of Marion's finest hours on TV occurred with her role as the obstinate, iron-willed Jewish matriarch in the Brooklyn Bridge (1991) series, which neatly deflected any broad, daffy stereotype she might have incurred from her Happy Days (1974) role. Irritating yet ingratiating at the same time, Marion's fine interpretation garnered the veteran actress two more Emmy nominations. Sadly, a lack of viewership triggered an abrupt cancellation and deep disappointment in Marion.

While never making a strong dent in films, an excellent supporting turn for Marion came in the form of her moving portrayal of Shirley MacLaine's loyal housekeeper and confidante in The Evening Star (1996), the long-awaited sequel to the Oscar-winning Terms of Endearment (1983). Critics predicted an Academy Award nomination for the actress but, surprisingly, it did not pan out.

Other films over the years have included Colossus: The Forbin Project (1970); Grand Theft Auto (1977), which starred Happy Days (1974) son Ron Howard (who also made his directorial debut); and, more recently, Music Within (2007) and the silly spoof Superhero Movie (2008).

During her post-"Happy Days" years, Marion reinvigorated her career on the stage. As a result, she earned renewed acclaim and respect for her roles in "Arsenic and Old Lace" (which brought her back to Broadway), "Steel Magnolias", "Long Day's Journey Into Night", "The Glass Menagerie", "Pippin" and "Barefoot in the Park", among others. She also toured with her one-woman show as poet Edna St. Vincent Millay entitled "A Lovely Light".

On TV, Marion found recurring flinty-like roles on That '70s Show (1998) (as Grandma Forman), Touched by an Angel (1994) (a fifth Emmy nomination), The Drew Carey Show (1995), Gilmore Girls (2000) (as Gloria Gilmore), and Brothers & Sisters (2006), as well as guest parts on "Nurse Jackie," "Grey's Anatomy," "Anger Management," "Two and a Half Men," "Hot in Cleveland," "Chasing Life" and "The Odd Couple." Primarily involved in voice work into the millennium, she as provided voices for such animated shows as "Family Guy," "King of the Hill," "Scooby-Doo!" and "Guardians of the Galaxy," while also voicing the recurring roles of Grandma SquarePants in SpongeBob SquarePants (1999) and Mrs. Lopart in Handy Manny (2006).

Into her nonagenarian years and still active, Marion was more recently featured in the old-fashioned comedy/fantasy Angels on Tap (2018). The ever-vital octogenarian continues to reside at her country-style home she calls the "Happy Days Farm" in California's San Fernando Valley.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Gary Brumburgh / gr-home@pacbell.net

Family (3)

Spouse Freeman Morse (22 December 1950 - 28 October 1968)  (divorced)  (2 children)
Children Jim Meskimen
Ellen Kreamer
Relatives Gordon Ross (sibling)
Taylor Meskimen (grandchild)

Trade Mark (2)

Red hair and blue eyes
Soft, mellow voice

Trivia (61)

She and her late companion, Paul Michael, co-starred in Southern California stage productions of "Over the River and Through the Woods", "Love Letters" and "The Last Romance".
She appeared on Broadway in 1987 with Jean Stapleton in a revival of "Arsenic and Old Lace".
At age 13, she changed the spelling of her name from "Marian" to "Marion" because she thought it would look better on a marquee.
She lives in the San Fernando Valley, California in a country-style home which she calls "Happy Days farm".
Mother of actor Jim Meskimen and actress Ellen Kreamer.
Mother-in-law of Tamra Meskimen.
She is the Associate Artist for the Old Globe Theater in San Diego, California.
Older sister, Alicia, and younger brother, Gordon.
Best remembered by the public for her role as "Marion Cunningham" on the television series Happy Days (1974).
Raised in Albert Lea, Minnesota, the Albert Lea Civic Theatre was renamed the Marion Ross Performing Arts Center on June 7, 2008 in honor of the veteran actress. Her life partner Paul Michael sang "The Impossible Dream" during the dedication ceremony and Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty signed a proclamation declaring June 7th "Marion Ross Day".
In 1972, Marion was hired to play Marion Cunningham in an episode of the comedy series Love, American Style (1969) called "Love and the Happy Days". On the show, she was the mother of a teenager named Richie (played by Ron Howard) and the wife of Howard Cunningham (played by Harold Gould. Two years later, when the segment was developed into a television series called Happy Days (1974), Marion was invited back to play her part and so was Howard, while Gould was replaced by Tom Bosley.
She credits her late friend, character actress Sandra Gould, with helping her get the role in Happy Days (1974). She was invited to a dinner hosted by Gould and a casting person from "Happy Days" also was in attendance. Not long after the dinner Marion got a call from the studio.
Received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6420 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California in 2001.
She has played the same character (Marion Cunningham) in four different series: Love, American Style (1969), Happy Days (1974), Joanie Loves Chachi (1982) and Family Guy (1999).
Guest starred on the last 2 episodes of Touched by an Angel (1994).
Costarred with Clayton Moore, on the Lone Ranger TV series, and with John Hart, Moore's temporary replacement, as the Lone Ranger in an episode of Happy Days.
Although she herself never appeared in "Dark Shadows," many of her old friend actors did appear on the series during their early acting careers in New York. In a show of nostalgic support, Marion would occasionally attend the Dark Shadows Fan Festivals in their memory.
In 2018, she officially announced her retirement from acting.
Had appeared in almost every episode of Happy Days (1974), with the exception of only 2 episodes, in the 1981-82 season.
When she was starring on Happy Days (1974), she and co-star Tom Bosley, who played her on-screen husband, didn't get along, at first, yet, at the series progressed, the two had bonded with each other. Bosley remained friends with Ross, until his passing in 2010.
Acting mentor and friends of: Henry Winkler, Erin Moran, Don Most, Anson Williams and Scott Baio.
Met a struggling actor, Gavin MacLeod, on the stage play of 'Operation Petticoat,' years later, she would work with him on The Love Boat (1977), in the recurring role of MacLeod's wife.
She worked with her ex-Happy Days (1974) co-star, Henry Winkler, on both series on both episodes: MacGyver: Harry's Will (1990) (though he didn't make an appearance, he served as producer, there), and Out of Practice: Model Behavior (2006), several years later.
Shared the same birthday (in the same year) as Jeanne Cooper.
After her role on Angels on Tap (2018), she officially retired from acting at age 89, yet, she had filmed Senior Entourage (2021), prior to her retirement.
She has 7 hobbies: gardening, reading (primarily autobiographies or history books), spending time with family, watching movies, listening to radio, praying and singing.
When she was a senior at Point Loma High School, she would frequently come to their school plays, whilst making friends at the Old Globe Theater, at the same time.
Had attended and graduated from San Diego State University.
Ross's family had moved to San Diego, California, in 1945, at age 17, because her father was working in the Navy at the Panama Canal, at the end of the World War II. This was after her family had sold everything, from their house in Albert Lea, Minnesota.
She graduated from Point Loma High School, in San Diego, California, in 1946, at age 17.
Her father, Gordon Alexander Ross, was raised in S. Dakota, who was an electrical engineer and her mother Ellen (née Hamilton) Ross, was a housewife, who was born in Saskatchewan, Canada.
Every Winter season, Ross had to walk across the lake on the ice to go to school.
She was born in Watertown, Minnesota. Her birthplace is 30 miles west of Minneapolis, Minnesota. After her birth, she moved to Waconia, with her family, and later to Albert Lea, Minnesota, nearly 100 miles, south of Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Unlike Ross herself, her father was a Republican and a conservative, and her mother was liberal.
Her brother and youngest sibling, Gordon Ross, passed away on August 16, 1995. He was 65.
Her daughter Ellen Kreamer won an Emmy in 2002, for Outstanding Comedy Series, the show was Friends (1994). Ellen was asked to get both name plaques, especially the one for Ross.
Despite being good friends with Tom Bosley, and seeing it was for family only, she couldn't attend his funeral.
Her father had always been scared by Marion's theatrical temper tantrums; when she was a little girl.
Before she was a successful actress, she was a Lux Girl, at Paramount Pictures in the early 1950s.
Began her acting career as a contract player for Paramount in 1950.
Had founded and attended Southwest High School, after her family moved to Minneapolis, from her native, Albert Lea, 100 miles from the south. She attended that school, only in her sophomore year.
Before she was a successful actress, she was working for $35 a week at Bullock's, twisting and turning scarfinets.
When she starred on Happy Days (1974), she approached and asked producer Garry Marshall about expanding hers, along with Tom Bosley's characters on the show. Marshall once said to Ross: 'It's not about you. It's about the boys.'.
In order for Marion Ross to land the role of Blithe Spirit (1956), she had to read for the part of both Noël Coward and Lauren Bacall (who was married to Humphrey Bogart at the time). Ross was at Bacall's house memorizing lines and loved every moment of it.
Began her show Happy Days (1974) when she was 45.
When Marion Ross was a teenager, she began going to the library, reading magazines or books of popular people, along with the theater arts magazine.
Before she was a successful actress, she used to work for the family, that summer in order to take care of the children, while taking drama lessons at the MacPhail Center for Music. Ross was in the 10th grade, this was before she would attend Southwest High School in Minneapolis, Minnesota, later.
In the same situation as fellow actor Dick Van Patten, between 1953 to 2018, Ross had guest-starred in over 100 shows of episodic television, throughout the course of her acting career.
Ross only did 2 Broadway plays, throughout the course of her acting career.
On Happy Days (1974) her character was a housewife, in real-life, in her early career, she was working in a department store.
When she was under contract at Paramout Pictures, she (amongst other unfamiliar stars at the time) used to walk in the dining room with every big portrait of other moviestars, being located at the end of every room.
Was one of the 3 Happy Days (1974) cast members whose hair was red.
Marion Cunningham, her character from Happy Days (1974) was also synonymous to her personality, in real-life, because having to live in the 1950s, Ross herself was a charming woman, only to be a struggling actress, working with established stars in Hollywood.
Off- the Happy Days (1974) set, Ross didn't really have a joke, on many occasion, she could change the tempo or come up with fast ideas and thoughts, in order for them to be funny, those she learned from Garry Marshall.
Had previously worked with ex-Happy Days (1974) co-star, Tom Bosley, on 1 movie and on episodes of three shows: Let's Call It Quits (1974), Joanie Loves Chachi (1982) (2 episodes), The Love Boat (1977) (2 episodes) and Family Guy (1999) (1 episode).
Frequently loves doing interviews.
Best known for having taken unfamiliar actor Henry Winkler, under her wing, when Winkler was 27 years old, at the time, they worked together on Happy Days (1974). Their friendship has lasted for 45 years or more.
Her ex-Happy Days (1974) co-star, Anson Williams, whose real-life uncle, Henry Heimlich had investigated her purse snatching and said she has the prettiest complexion.
Had attended the memorial service of lifelong friend Gavin MacLeod on June 26, 2021. Ross had guest-starred alongside MacLeod on The Love Boat (1977).
Was born only seven weeks before Dick Van Patten. Van Patten guest-starred with Ross on Happy Days (1974).

Personal Quotes (2)

People have different opinions about this, but I'll use it to my advantage. If I call the plumber and he says, "I can't come right away", I'll say, "Did you ever watch Happy Days (1974)? I'm Mrs. C, you know". And not only does he get over here right away, but he brings his entire family.
In those days, you would walk into the dining room at Paramount and there were all of these big portraits of all these big movie stars on the wall. Around the corner was Cecil B. DeMille. The dining room was filled with big movie stars. It's all gone now.

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