The sitcom Happy Days captured our hearts and minds from 1974 to 1984. The series was so popular that even today the term “jumping a shark” is used for any TV series that has gone past its prime. The expression is a reference to Arthur Herbert Fonzarelli’s attempt to jump a shark in his leather jacket, which is widely viewed as the nail in the coffin for Happy Days. Happy Days remains in syndication to this very day, making it one of the longest running TV shows in syndication history. Where are the stars from this iconic show today? And which on-screen couple didn’t care for each other? You’re about to find out.
If you’ve seen even just one episode of Happy Days, you caught a glimpse of Ron Howard’s character Richie Cunningham. He was the red-haired, freckled teen who was always trying to find a date.
Cunningham was an incredibly likable guy who always tried to do right by his family and friends — a common theme on the show.
Before Happy Days, Howard was already pretty famous for his role on The Andy Griffith Show where he played the equally adorable Opie Taylor.
There are very few Hollywood directors who have reached the iconic status of Ron Howard.
Among some of his biggest films are Apollo 13, Cinderella Man, A Beautiful Mind, and The DaVinci Code, among many others. His daughter, Bryce Dallas Howard, has followed in her dad’s footsteps, appearing in a ton of big films herself, including Jurassic World, The Help, and The Twilight Saga: Eclipse.
Popular ‘50s tunes were very expensive and hard to get clearance on for TV shows. For that reason, Potsie actor Anson Williams would often provide the voice for music coming through the jukebox at Arnold’s.
It was a fitting option considering his part on the show… he played a hopeful musician.
By far the biggest and most iconic star of Happy Days was “The Fonz,” who was played by the endearing Henry Winkler. He was the biker-looking dude with a heart of gold. He always tried to make sure his friends and family got the best out of life.
As previously mentioned, he also jumped a shark on a pair of waterskis. The ladies loved The Fonz, and America completely fell in love with him.
We didn’t see a lot of Henry Winkler on the acting side for years after Happy Days ended. That’s because he started the production company that created “MacGyver,” “Mr. Sunshine,” and other TV shows.
Years later he would resurface in a bunch of films with comedian Adam Sandler. His roles included characters in Little Nicky, Click, and The Waterboy.
More recently he appeared in popular TV shows that include Arrested Development, Parks and Recreation, and Royal Pains. He has written an amazing 26 books.
He was the head of the household in the Cunningham family and the owner of Cunningham Hardware. Lovingly known as Mr. C, he was a middle-class guy who put his family first and kept with traditional family values. Nobody has thrown down such a good lecture to their kids since he did it on the show.
Tom Bosley has since passed away, but not before an amazing career on screen and stage.
Bosley won a Tony for the Broadway musical Fiorello! and then turned his attention to guest starring roles on shows like That ‘70s Show, Walker Texas Ranger, ER, and even the cartoon Rugrats.
We lost this amazing actor in 2010, after a long battle with lung cancer.
Marion was the matriarch of the Cunningham family and it is impossible to imagine the show without her. She was the mother of Richie and Joanie, and one of the sweetest and most good-natured characters in TV history.
We loved watching her rebel, like the time she gave up her housewife role to try her hand as a waitress. Such a modern day woman!
When the lights went down on the set of Happy Days, this lovable actress continued to appear on TV shows, mostly as a guest star. Among her work were roles on The Love Boat, MacGyver, and Night Court. She then turned her attention to Brooklyn Bridge, which provided her with two Emmy nominations. Most recently she has appeared in such amazing modern day shows as That ’70s Show, The Drew Carey Show, Two and a Half Men, Gilmore Girls, Hot in Cleveland and others.
Her cult character status has led to huge rounds of applause during every live sitcom appearance she has made.
Born in Mount Vernon, New York, Roz Kelly worked as a photographer for New York Magazine where she worked with huge celebrity names before she landed her role on Happy Days. Roz played Pinky, Fonzie’s girlfriend for several episodes, and was in place to become his long-term girlfriend on the show. However, those plans dissolved when Roz rubbed the cast and producers the wrong way. Her character was cut.
After her short stint on the show, Roz Kelly experienced some very unhappy days. In 1998 she was arrested for shooting up her neighbor’s house (who wasn’t home at the time) after their car alarm woke her up. That resulted in a felony, as well as an order to seek psychiatric counseling. Just two years later she was sentenced to 120 days in jail after she hit a man with a cane. She served her time and hopefully learned from her mistakes.
The leather jacket worn by The Fonz is nearly as iconic as the character himself. During his first appearance on the show, he actually wore a windbreaker, because the executives at ABC thought the leather jacket made him look like a hoodlum.
Director Garry Marshall finally convinced them the leather jacket was a smarter piece of clothing because it was safer for motorcycle riding.
Of course, The Fonz had a heart of gold and was no hoodlum in any sense of the word, no matter what he wore.
Charles “Chachi” Arcola was the younger cousin of Fonzie and a regular on the show. He was an aspiring musician who fell in love with Joanie and eventually married her in the season finale.
When the show was on the air he received up to 5,000 fan letters every single week.
He was a teen heartthrob during his Happy Days stint and remained one in adulthood.
Following Joanie Loves Chachi, Baio went on to star in the hugely popular TV series “Charles in Charge.”
He would later appear on the shows Stoned and All the Kids Do It, for which he was nominated for two Emmys. His guest starring roles included bits in Full House, Arrested Development and The Nanny, among others. In recent years he has given reality TV a shot with two different shows: Scott Baio is 45… and Single and the follow-up — Scott Baio is 46… and Pregnant.
Garry Marshall was approached about writing and directing a show that took place in the 1920s or 1930s. He quickly told the network that he knew nothing about flappers or anyone else from that generation. Instead, he offered to write a pilot for a show about the era he grew up in — The 1950s.
That pilot failed and instead the show known as Happy Days was born.
Anson Williams is best known for his Happy Days character Potsie. He played a dimwitted but lovable character but he nearly missed his chance.
Williams was hours late to his audition after his car stalled, and yet he still managed to get the job. It was not a bad gig for a 22-year-old who almost couldn’t make it to his audition.
You won’t see Anson Williams in front of the camera much these days. That’s because like Ron Howard, he has focused his exceptional skills to be a director.
He is known for directing episodes of Star Trek: Deep Space 9, Sabrina The Teenage Witch, Charmed, Star Trek: Voyager, 90210, and various other shows.
He was also worked on The Secret Life Of The American Teenager, where he served as the show’s director for five years.
Happy Days was going to be called “COOL,” but test audiences said it made them think about cigarettes. Not exactly what the show’s producers were going for.
Producer Carl Kleinschmitt threw an off-the-cuff comment to his colleagues: “How about calling it Happy Days? That’s what we’re going to show.”
It’s hard to imagine Henry Winkler’s role being filled by anyone else, but it was almost a reality. Monkees drummer Micky Dolenz read for the role but was ultimately turned down. It turns out that Winkler’s shorter stature made him a better pick for playing Arthur Fonzarelli.
Henry Winkler is dyslexic and when it came time to read six lines for his audition, he wasn’t prepared for the reading. Instead, he decided to make up his own words. He managed to convince the show’s casting directors that he was giving them a real feel for the character. His plan obviously worked and he played The Fonz for 11 very successful seasons.
Ron Howard wanted to become a director, and while he has achieved that goal with much acclaim, he took a detour to avoid Vietnam. He originally enrolled in film school at USC but soon realized that his low draft number could have become a problem. He realized that finding a job with a big company like Paramount would help him avoid the war. He quickly joined onto the pilot of Love, American Style, which would eventually morph into Happy Days.
Creator and producer Garry Marshall wanted to name The Fonz “Arthur Masciarelli”, after Marshall’s original surname. “The Fonz” sounded better than “the Mash” so it was changed before the pilot was filmed. That was probably one of the show’s best pre-production decisions.
Happy Days was thought by many people to be an offshoot of the George Lucas film American Graffiti. That movie featured Ron Howard in a similar role. American Graffiti debuted before Happy Days but they were both in the works at the same time. Happy Days was only revisited because of the success of the movie.
ABC actually passed on Happy Days when the show was first shown in a pilot. After American Graffiti became a huge motion picture success, executives realized it would be a huge mistake not to pick up the show, especially with Ron Howard attached to both projects.
Pinky Tuscadero was supposed to be the female version of Fonzie. However, she didn’t last long because Roz Kelly and Henry Winkler didn’t get along in real life. After a three-episode romance with the Fonz in which she also didn’t get along with the rest of the cast and producers, she was quickly written out of the show.
The original theme song for Happy Days was “Rock Around the Clock” by Bill Haley & His Comets. That original recording was only used for the first season. A specially recorded version was used for the next two seasons. The next eight seasons featured the Happy Days theme written and performed by Charles Fox and Norm Gimbel.
Pat Morita was born in California and he didn’t have the accent that he used on the show. He decided to use an exaggerated Chinese Pidgin English dialect. He was told his accent didn’t work since he was Japanese-American. He decided that his character had a Japanese father and Chinese mother. That accent also worked well for him as Mr. Miyagi in the original Karate Kid movies.
You know that nosy sister who won’t stay out of your business and often gets you into trouble? Joanie Cunningham was the epitome of that nosy sister.
Her relationship with Fonzie’s cousin Chachi turned into its own show: “Joanie Loves Chachi.”
After Happy Days ended and her spin-off with Scott Baio was canceled, she worked on a few shows including “The Love Boat,” “Murder She Wrote,” and several others. She also appeared as a contestant on “VH1’s Celebrity Fit Club.”
In 2012, reports began to make news that Erin Moran was briefly homeless following a foreclosure on her California home. She and her husband, Steve Fleischmann, reportedly moved in with his mother, in a trailer park in Indiana. It didn’t last long, as Steve’s mother grew tired of the couple coming and going at all hours of the night, and bringing friends home from the bar. The couple is reportedly living off of a settlement check from the lawsuit the cast of the show filed against CBS network in 2011. Her fellow cast members, upon hearing about her struggles, are wishing the best for her and reaching out to help.
Garry Marshall created the Happy Days All-Star Softball Team. Sometimes they would play against each other and other times they would play against other celebrity teams. They even traveled to military bases in Europe and Japan to play in games against members of the US military.
In season 5 of the show, Fonzie goes water skiing and literally jumps over a shark. While the show remained popular, it lost some of its audience and began a downward slide in ratings. Now, whenever a show has reached past its prime there is one episode that is chosen for its “jumping the shark” moment.
Chuck Cunningham was played by two actors, Gavan O’Herlihy and Randolph Roberts. However, following the second season of the show, it became apparent that he wasn’t needed. Richie Cunningham already had the Fonz in his life and the Fonz was a far more popular character, especially when facing off against Chuck.
After each one of his date’s Richie Cunningham would sing the song “Blueberry Hill.” The song was a popular hit for Fats Domino which was released in 1940. The song was recorded six times in the year it was released, including a recording by the Sammy Kaye Orchestra with vocals by Tommy Ryan.
The pilot and first two seasons of the show were shot on a single-camera. Following two seasons and 39 episode’s they moved to the three-camera setup that would become the standard for TV shows. Watch closely and you’ll notice how much the show’s direction changed from season 2 to season 3.
The Cunninghams officially lived at 565 North Clinton Drive, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. However, the exterior shots of the home were actually taken at 565 N. Cahuenga Blvd in Los Angeles, California. This makes sense considering the show was filmed at a Paramount lot in California.
As we previously mentioned, many viewers thought the show was influenced by American Graffiti when in reality it started as a segment on Love, American Style. It was also created before the hit movie even made its way to the big screen.
After seven seasons Ron Howard left Happy Day to pursue other interests. While he would return for some guest appearances on the show, Henry Winkler (The Fonz) got top billing during the opening credits. Watch closely and you’ll notice the change which starts when season 8 begins.
The famous leather jacket worn by The Fonz was placed on display at the Smithsonian for a number of years. It was located right next to the rocking chair used by Mr. Rodgers. The jacket was eventually moved from the public spotlight and replaced with Farrah Fawcett’s iconic swimsuit.
After Happy Days went off the air, The Fonz got his own animated TV show called The Fonz and the Happy Days Gang. When that show didn’t become a big hit he moved over to the animated spin-off of Laverne & Shirley titled Lavery & Shirley In The Army.
Robin Williams landed the role of the alien Mork by walking into his audition and sitting on his head instead of taking a seat like every other actor up for the role. The casting directors thought his strange act was hilarious and they hired the famed comedian on the spot.
The 1949 Triumph Trophy TR-5 motorcycle that Fonzie owned in Happy Days is an iconic piece of Americana. However, when the bike went up on sale in 2011 it failed to fetch the $60,000 to $80,000 estimated sale price. The bike wasn’t in working condition at the time of the auction.
Happy Days started as a different show in 1971 and it was called New Family In Town. That show was also produced by Garry Marshall for ABC. The pilot even had some of the same characters (Richie, Howard, Marion, and Potsie) and some of the same actors (Ron Howard, Marion Ross, and Anson Williams). Harold Gould played Mr. Cunningham on that show.
The cast was preparing to eat Thanksgiving dinner with their families in 1973 when ABC told them it was picking up the show. While the series was given the green light, there were no scripts written and only a few months were made available to prepare for the series premiere in January 1974.
ABC really wanted the actor Robby Benson to play the role of Richie Cunningham. Benson really didn’t want to do a TV series. Marshall and Benson purposely messed up his screen test so Ron Howard could land the role. Howard was always Marshall’s first choice.
At the height of the show’s popularity, Arthur Fonzarelli was so popular that he was receiving more than 55,000 fan letters every single week. Producers toyed with the idea of changing the show’s name to Fonzie’s Happy Days.
Syndication for Happy Days started when there were still first-run episodes being aired. The network changed the reruns to Happy Days Again so fans of the show would know that it was a rerun airing and not an original episode.
Garry Marshall loved to have various members of his family show up on Happy Days. Among those who appeared were his mom, two sisters, his son, two daughters, and a couple of nieces. For the record, one of his sisters is Penny Marshall AKA Laverne from Laverne & Shirley. Whenever he could, Marshall would also jump on set to play the drums for various scenes.
Scott Baio and Erin Moran dated on and off again during the show’s run. It was well known among the cast and they maintained a professional relationship while filming. That was one pretty sexy couple back in the day.
Henry Winkler and Marion Ross were really good friends for the entire series. Even years after the show ended, Winkler continued to send Ross flowers for no apparent reason. They may have one of the best real-life friendships in TV history.
When Happy Days was at the top of its success and relying heavily upon Henry Winkle’s role as The Fonz, he made a very smart move. He accepted a modest weekly salary in exchange for a hefty percentage of the show’s syndication profits. That decision made him a multimillionaire with a net worth estimated at $35 million.
The show has been off the air for more than 30 years and it still has a huge following. Syndication for Happy Days is recognized in 126 countries where millions of viewers love the show. The show doesn’t seem to reveal any signs of slowing down.
In the movie, The Cable Guy, Jim Carrey’s character says he is the long-lost Chuck Cunningham. If you hadn’t already read our list or remembered the show’s early days, that reference may have been lost on you.
The city of Milwaukee, Wisconsin was chosen as the show’s perceived location because of Tom Miller, one of the producers, grew up in Milwaukee. The location also had a midwest appeal which producers thought would resonate with much of the country. Garry Marshall wanted to know that if a location shoot was ever requested, at least one of his producer’s would know the area.
The first leather jacket worn by Fonzarelli on Happy Days was stolen from the show’s set. Producers had to scramble to have a new jacket made to match the iconic clothing. They had one made within the lining for when he participated in his famous shark jumping scene.
When Chuck Cunningham was on the show producers wanted two things to be constant. First, he was supposed to be the dumb brother. Second, he was always either holding/dribbling a basketball or eating a sandwich.
The character of Joanie Cunningham was not always a role guaranteed to Erin Moran. Another actress was given the role but only lasted 24 hours before producers decided to hire someone else for the character.
Ron Howard didn’t want to age while playing a character who was frozen in time. He agreed to play Richie Cunningham only if his character would progress through high school and college as the years went on. Producers agreed and kept their word from one season to the next.
John Travolta did an amazing job playing Danny in Grease but he only got the role because Henry Winkler turned it down. Winkler admitted that he is tone deaf and so he didn’t accept the role. To this very day he jokes that his children have not forgiven him for turning down one of the most famous movie characters of all time.
In an episode of Happy Days, The Fonz goes to get a library card with Richie and to pick up girls — of course. The week following that episode, national library enrollment was up a mind-boggling 500%.
The cast members of Happy Days are not paid for reruns of Happy Days on Nick-at-Nite. Unlike Henry Winkler, they didn’t have syndication rights built into their contracts. They’ve received no cash despite a highly lucrative syndication deal.
Sadly, Happy Days creator Garry Marshall died on July 19, 2016. Immediately after hearing the news, cast members took to social media to share their memories and their grief.
Henry Winkler tweeted: “Rest In Peace … Thank you for my professional life. Thank you for your loyalty, friendship and generosity.” He later added, “Larger than life, funnier than most, wise and the definition of friend.”
And Ron Howard also issued a statement: “He was the greatest boss I’ve ever had. His guidance influenced the entire course of my life….and I am not alone in feeling that way about the impact of Garry’s wisdom on those who were a part of his universe.”
Happy Days actress Erin Moran, who played Joanie Cunningham during the show’s run, died on April 22, 2017. She was 56. Moran was found unresponsive and paramedics were unable to revive her. An autopsy determined that she “likely succumbed to complications of stage 4 cancer.” Moran had fallen on hard times since her earlier days as a child actress, most recently battling substance abuse problems and homelessness.
When he heard the news that his former cast member Erin Moran had passed away, Scott Baio’s reaction was that she probably died due to drugs. In an interview with WABC radio show, just days after her passing, Baio said, “I’m OK, a little shocked but not completely shocked that this happened. My thing is, I feel bad because her whole life, she was troubled, could never find what made her happy and content. For me, you do drugs or drink, you’re gonna die. I’m sorry if that’s cold, but God gave you a brain, gave you the will to live and thrive and you gotta take care of yourself.”
After hearing that Erin Moran had, in fact, died of complications with stage 4 cancer, Scott Baio still held his firm stance on the dangers of drug use, attempting to sweep his incorrect assumption under the rug without really apologizing. But Erin Moran’s brother wasn’t having it. Tony Moran went on social media to say, “You and my lil sis had a very very brief fling. She dumped you. 2 reasons. 1. She told me that you were more like a lil girl and not a man. 2. She told me that you were tiny…. I’d advise you to get on your knees and pray you never run into me.”
Happy Days wasn’t just a show that came and went. It also led to a ton of spin-offs based on characters that first appeared on the popular sitcom.
The list of spin-offs includes Laverne & Shirley, Mork & Mindy, Joanie Loves Chachi, Blanksky’s Beauties, and Out of the Blue.
Robin Williams was probably the biggest winner from those spin-offs, as he became one of the greatest and well-known comedians of all-time.