Marion Ross

Marion Ross Headshot

Actress

Birth Date: October 25, 1928

Age: 95 years old

Birth Place: Albert Lea, Minnesota

Although most television viewers knew Marion Ross from "Happy Days" (ABC, 1974-1985), the actress had already logged some twenty years on screen before landing the role of "Mrs. C" on the popular sitcom. Prior to the series, she was frequently seen as professional types - nurses, teachers, secretaries and the like - in countless television shows and feature films.

After "Happy Days" ran its course in the 1984, she returned to regular guest appearances on TV, many of which alternately paid tribute to or spoofed her status as Beloved Television Mom, as well as stints on Broadway. A frequent Emmy nominee, she took home two Q Awards for her turn as a post-WWII Jewish mom in the short-lived "Brooklyn Bridge" (CBS, 1991-93), marking Ross as one of the more talented, but underappreciated actresses working in Hollywood.

Born Oct. 25, 1928 in Albert Lea, MN, Ross was so assured of her future in acting that she changed her name from Marian to at the age of 13 because she felt that it would look better on a marquee. The following year, she left home to attend the prestigious MacPhail Center for the Performing Arts in Minnesota, supporting her ambitions by working as an au pair. Meanwhile, her family's move to San Diego brought her even closer to her dream.

A regular in productions at the La Jolla Playhouse while studying at San Diego State University, Ross was told by actor Mel Ferrer, who was the resident director at the Playhouse, that she should move to Hollywood to find work in film and television. Taking his advice, she made the move and began landing small or uncredited roles in 1953. Ross was glimpsed briefly in major films like "Sabrina" (1954), "Lust for Life" (1956) and "Around the World in Eighty Days" (1956) while appearing regularly as an Irish maid in "Life With Father" (CBS, 1953-1955).

For the next two decades, Ross worked steadily on both the big and small screen, though rarely in roles that brought her any recognition. Television viewers saw her at least two to three times a year in series ranging from "The Untouchables" (ABC, 1959-1963) and "Rawhide" (CBS, 1959-1966) to "The Outer Limits" (ABC, 1963-65) and "The Mod Squad" (ABC, 1968-1972).

Poised, eloquent and well-versed in both straight drama and light comedy, Ross tackled both well-heeled society women and mousy office workers with equal degrees of believability. Though she may not have been a household name, the consistency of the work was undoubtedly a welcome alternative to obscurity.

In 1972, Ross starred opposite Harold Gould in an episode of "Love, American Style" (ABC, 1969-1974) as Marion Cunningham, mother to two teenaged Midwestern boys in the 1950s. The episode was intended as a pilot by creator Garry Marshall for a series called "New Family in Town," but was recycled as an episode of the anthology series when ABC passed on the project. When the episode's star, Ron Howard, scored a box office hit with "American Graffiti" (1973), Marshall was able to gather together most of the original cast, including Ross, for the series, which was renamed "Happy Days."

As Marion Cunningham, Ross epitomized what viewers expected a suburban mother in the 1950s to be - graceful and loving to her husband (played in the show by Tom Bosley) and her offspring (Howard and Erin Moran), overly cautious about any sort of impropriety and obsessed with her housewife duties. Yet Ross also brought a fun and charm to the role, which gave Bosley ample opportunity to yield laughs with plenty of eye rolls and exasperated sighs. Ross also made the most of Marion's relationship with Henry Winkler's Arthur Fonzarelli, whose Brando-esque cool was tamed by her affectionate concern for his well-being.

Ross and co-star Anson Williams were the only cast members to remain with the series from its pilot status to its final episode in 1984, themselves becoming household names after it had left the air. Ross also earned Emmy nominations for her performance in 1979 and 1984.

Ross, who kept exceptionally busy as a guest star on other series during her "Happy Days" years, returned to regular work as a television guest star, though her profile had risen so greatly that she became a featured player or episode lead. Naturally, many of these were motherly roles - co-star Ron Howard cast her as the mom of a handicapped girl who dreams of piloting a plane in "Skyward" (NBC, 1980) - but also numerous society ladies and even the romantic interest to Gavin MacLeod's Captain Stubing on several episodes of "The Love Boat" (ABc, 1977-1986).

In 1991, she returned to regular series work for producer Gary David Goldberg's autobiographical "Brooklyn Bridge" (CBS, 1991-93). Ross surprised many viewers with her dramatic turn as of Sophie Berger, the strong-willed matron of a New York Jewish family living in New York in the 1950s. Though the show was short-lived, Ross earned two Emmy nominations in 1992 and 1993, as well as two Viewers for Quality Television Awards the same years.

Ross appeared on Broadway with appearances in "Edwin Booth" and a much-publicized revival of "Arsenic and Old Lace" opposite Jean Stapleton. She later returned to her roots at the La Jolla Playhouse with a production of "The Glass Menagerie" (1990) and several tours in a one-woman show about the poet Edna St. Vincent Millay. But for the most part, Ross made television her home, logging countless hours as both kind-hearted and overbearing moms and grandmothers on a wide variety of programs.

She was Drew Carey's oblivious mother on several episodes of "The Drew Carey Show" (ABC, 1995-2004), the venomous Bernice Foreman, who expires in grandson Eric Foreman's (Topher Grace) car in "That '70s Show" (Fox, 1998-2006) and the "formidable" Trixie, imperious matron of the Gilmore clan on "Gilmore Girls" (WB, 2000-07). Previously, Ross also shone as a mother who fights for the fair treatment of her Down's Syndrome-afflicted son in "The Kid Who Wouldn't Quit: The Brad Silverman Story" (ABC, 1987). But her best role of the decade came in "The Evening Star" (1996).

The long-awaited sequel to "Terms of Endearment" (1983) found little favor with most moviegoers, but Ross' turn as the tart-tongued housekeeper to Shirley Maclaine earned her a Golden Globe nomination as Best Supporting Actress.

The new millennium saw Ross as busy as ever with guest spots on series like "Touched by an Angel" (CBS, 1994-2003), which cast her in several episodes as a homeless woman with a wealth of clandestine knowledge, and "Brothers and Sisters" (ABC, 2007- ) as the less-than-loving mother to series matron Sally Field.

Ross and Bosley also reprised their "Happy Days" roles in an episode of "Family Guy" (Fox, 1999-2002, 2005- ) that saw Peter Griffin develop a church around Fonzie. She also enjoyed substantial supporting roles in the features "Music Within" (2007) and "Superhero Movie" (2008), which saw her ruthlessly parodying Rosemary Harris' angelic Aunt May from the "Spider-Man" franchise.

In 2005, "TV Guide" ranked Ross at 6th on their list of Top 10 TV Moms. That same year, she rejoined her cast mates for "Happy Days 30th Anniversary Reunion" (ABC, 2005), then followed with a strong turn as an elderly woman who reunites with her estranged, con artist grandson (Fred Whaley), who intends to obtain her estate when she dies, in "Where There's A Will" (Hallmark Channel, 2006). Back on the big screen, she had a small supporting role in the spoof, "Superhero Movie" (2008).

Credits

Dark Shadows and Beyond: The Jonathan Frid Story

Self
Show
2021

The Happy Days of Garry Marshall

Actor
Show
2020

Senior Entourage

Actor
Marion
Movie
2020

A Classic Christmas (My Music)

Host
Show
2019

The Very Very Best of the '70sStream

Guest
Reality
2019

Angels on Tap

Actor
Waitress
Movie
2018

Megyn Kelly Today

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Talk
2017

Last Stand at Little Big Horn

Actor
Show
2015

Best Friends WheneverStream

Guest Star
Grandma Rita
Series
2015

The Odd CoupleStream

Guest Star
Series
2015

Chasing LifeStream

Guest Star
Lynn Carver
Series
2014

Spongebob and Friends: Patrick SquarePants

Actor
Show
2014

Signed, Sealed, Delivered for Christmas

Actor
Marion
Movie
2014

A Perfect Christmas ListStream

Actor
Evie
Movie
2014

A Reason

Actor
Aunt Irene Hilgrim
Movie
2014

Instant MomStream

Guest Star
Series
2013

50PlusPrime

Guest
Show
2013

Sweet Surrender

Actor
Grandma
Movie
2013

Heebie Jeebies

Actor
Agnes Whitehead
Movie
2013

Home & Family

Guest
Talk
2012

Major CrimesStream

Guest Star
Series
2012

Anger ManagementStream

Guest Star
Dr. Murphy
Series
2012

Dear Dracula

Voice
Grandma
Movie
2012

Up All Night

Guest Star
Show
2011

Keeping Up With the Randalls

Actor
Grandma Dorie
Movie
2011

The Talk

Guest
Talk
2010

Hot in ClevelandStream

Guest Star
Olga
Series
2010

Scooby-Doo: Mystery IncorporatedStream

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Grandma Moonbeam
Series
2010

Scooby-Doo! Curse of the Lake Monster

Actor
Hilda Trowburg
Movie
2010

The MiddleStream

Guest Star
Ms. Dunlap
Series
2009

The Joy Behar Show

Guest
Show
2009

Unscripted

Guest
Show
2009

Nurse JackieStream

Guest Star
Renata Thurber
Series
2009
81%

Flower Girl

Actor
Rose Durham
Movie
2009

The Morning Show With Mike & Juliet

Guest
Show
2007

Smiley Face

Actor
Shirley
Movie
2007

Music WithinStream

Actor
Grandma
Movie
2007
33%

Brothers & SistersStream

Guest Star
Ida Holden
Series
2006
79%

Rachael Ray ShowStream

Guest
Talk
2006

Handy Manny

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Mrs. Lopart
Show
2006

Handy Manny

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Show
2006

Between the Lines With Barry Kibrick

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2006

The New Adventures of Old ChristineStream

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2006

Where There's a Will

Actor
Leslie Clyde Onstott
Movie
2006

Sex, Love & Secrets

Guest Star
Show
2005

Out of PracticeStream

Guest Star
Series
2005

Grey's AnatomyStream

Guest Star
Series
2005
84%

Happy Days 30th Anniversary Reunion

Guest
Show
2005

Two and a Half MenStream

Guest Star
Older Lady
Series
2003
65%

Dickie Roberts: Former Child StarStream

Actor
Herself
Movie
2003
22%

Dickie Roberts: Former Child StarStream

Self
Movie
2003
22%

Ladies and the Champ

Actor
Margaret Smith
Movie
2001

Gilmore GirlsStream

Guest Star
Lorelai "Trix" Gilmore
Series
2000

Family Law

Guest Star
Series
1999

Chicken Soup for the Soul

Self
Show
1999

SpongeBob SquarePantsStream

Guest Star
Grandma SquarePants
Series
1999

SpongeBob SquarePantsStream

Guest Voice
Gramma
Series
1999

Family Guy

Guest Voice
Marion Cunningham
Show
1999

Family GuyStream

Guest Voice
Marion Cunningham
Series
1999

The Last Best Sunday

Actor
Mrs. Larksmont
Movie
1999

The Wild ThornberrysStream

Guest Voice
Series
1998

That '70s ShowStream

Guest Star
Series
1998

Love Boat: The Next Wave

Guest Star
Show
1998

The Lake

Actor
Maggie
Movie
1998

About Sarah

Actor
Grandma Rose McCaffrey
Movie
1998

King of the HillStream

Guest Voice
Ms. Wakefield
Series
1997

The Third Twin

Actor
Lila Ferrami
Movie
1997

Early Edition

Guest Star
Series
1996

Promised Land

Guest Star
Series
1996

Hidden in Silence

Actor
Mrs. Diamant
Movie
1996

The Evening StarStream

Actor
Rosie Dunlop
Movie
1996
25%

The Drew Carey ShowStream

Guest Star
Series
1995

Hart to Hart: Secrets of the Hart

Actor
Maureen Collier
Movie
1995

Touched by an AngelStream

Guest Star
Series
1994

Burke's Law

Guest Star
Frances Farnsworth
Show
1994

A Perfect Stranger

Actor
Charlotte Brandon
Movie
1994

The John Larroquette Show

Guest Star
Series
1993

Brooklyn Bridge

Actor
Sophie Berger
Show
1991

Sister Kate

Guest Star
Show
1989

MacGyverStream

Guest Star
Series
1985

Alfred Hitchcock Presents

Actor
Show
1985

Glitter

Guest Star
Show
1984

Hotel

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Soap
1983

Joanie Loves Chachi

Guest Star
Series
1982

Midnight Offerings

Actor
Emily Moore
Movie
1981

Password PlusStream

Guest
Game Show
1979

The Survival of Dana

Actor
Madeline
Movie
1979

PearlStream

Actor
Ellie North
Miniseries
1978

Fantasy Island

Guest Star
Series
1978

The Love BoatStream

Guest Star
Series
1977

Grand Theft Auto

Actor
Vivian Hedgeworth
Movie
1977
27%

Petrocelli

Guest Star
Series
1974

Happy DaysStream

Actor
Marion Cunningham
Series
1974

Afterschool Special

Actor
Show
1972

The Weekend Nun

Actor
Mrs. Crowe
Movie
1972

Honky

Actor
Mrs. Divine
Movie
1972

Longstreet

Guest Star
Show
1971

Children of the Lotus Eater

Actor
Mrs. Pilgrim
Movie
1970

Love, American Style

Actor
Marion Cunningham
Series
1969

The Brady BunchStream

Guest Star
Series
1969
78%

Marcus Welby, M.D.Stream

Guest Star
Dr. Helen Cartwright
Series
1969

Any Second Now

Actor
Mrs. Hoyt
Movie
1969

Colossus: The Forbin Project

Actor
Angela Fields
Movie
1969

Mod Squad

Guest Star
Louise Johnson
Series
1968

MannixStream

Guest Star
Muriel Enright
Series
1967

The Felony Squad

Guest Star
Miss Wilkins
Show
1966

Mr. Novak

Actor
Show
1963

Mr. Novak

Guest Star
Show
1963

The FugitiveStream

Guest Star
Marian Eckhardt
Series
1963

The Outer LimitsStream

Actor
Agnes Benjamin
Series
1963
92%

Dr. Kildare

Guest Star
Series
1961

Route 66Stream

Guest Star
Series
1960

Dante

Guest Star
Show
1960

ThrillerStream

Actor
Series
1960

RawhideStream

Guest Star
Series
1959

Operation PetticoatStream

Actor
Lt. Colfax RN
Movie
1959
81%

Mike Hammer

Guest Star
Show
1958

Teacher's Pet

Actor
Katy Fuller
Movie
1958

Some Came RunningStream

Actor
Sister Mary Joseph (uncredited)
Movie
1958
75%

Perry MasonStream

Guest Star
Helen Harvey
Series
1957

The Thin Man

Guest Star
Drucilla
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1957

The George Sanders Mystery Theater

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1957

Lizzie

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Ruth Seaton
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1957

God Is My Partner

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Frances Denning
Movie
1957

Zane Grey TheaterStream

Actor
Series
1956

Blithe Spirit

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Edith
Show
1956

The Proud and Profane

Actor
Joan
Movie
1956

Father Knows BestStream

Guest Star
Series
1954

The Glenn Miller Story

Actor
Polly Haynes (uncredited)
Movie
1954

SabrinaStream

Actor
Spiller's girlfriend (uncredited)
Movie
1954
94%

The Loretta Young Show

Actor
Show
1953

Death Valley DaysStream

Actor
Emma Stockton
Series
1952

Today

Guest
News
1952

The George Burns and Gracie Allen ShowStream

Guest Star
Series
1950

The Lone RangerStream

Guest Star
Virginia Thorpe
Series
1949