America's favorite TV mom Marion Ross did everything for her daughter, as her mom did for her
Marion grew up a middle kid like Richie Cunningham. She named her only daughter after her mom.
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In the last episode of Happy Days to feature Leather Tuscadero, the spunky rocker gets transformed into a sophisticated lady to attend a military ball with Ralph Malph.
To help Leather achieve this transformation, Mrs. Cunningham served as "Marion, Fairy Godmother."
On Happy Days, Mrs. Cunningham actor Marion Ross became America's favorite mom, and most girls in the audience would've likely enjoyed some coaching from Mrs. C before a big event.
For Ross, playing a mom became everything, and after Happy Days, she continued the motherly tradition by taking on roles for grandmas.
It will likely not surprise you, then, to learn that growing up in a small town in Minnesota, Ross had a special bond with her own mom.
"I have a picture here of mother holding me, wrapped up in blankets at the edge of a lake," Ross told Chaska Herald in 2012 while reflecting on her childhood.
Living up in the north, Ross was so obsessed with movies that even during severe winter, she'd trek through the snow to the theater with her family. "We would walk across the ice to go to the theater," Ross told The Los Angeles Times in 2009. "Coming home it was dark and you would cross the frozen ice. I would be weeping and standing under the streetlight with the light coming down and snow would be falling in my face. I would say, 'There is no music up and under my life. What's missing?'"
What was missing, it turns out, was just asking her mom and dad to help her achieve her dream of being an actor. As soon as she did, they moved the family twice to support young Marion.
"The desire was enormous that I had," Ross recalled. "I was about 13… and by the time I was 22, I was under contract to Paramount. Now I realize how amazing that was."
This kind of support might lead you to believe Ross was an only child, but she was the second of three, like Richie Cunningham. Ross told the Herald her birth order led her to not expect much help at all.
"You have a lot of drive, a lot of initiative," Ross said of being a middle child. "You don't expect people to do a lot for you."
But Ross' mom Ellen and dad Gordon were willing to go anywhere for their middle daughter, and they got her to Hollywood by age 15. Ross remembers feeling silly because she thought it would've been a better move to go to New York, but it turns out her parents knew best!
By the time Ross was cast on Happy Days, she was 20 years into her career, and a mom herself, of two. Her own kids were close in age to Richie and Joanie on the show, too.
"I did a great job," Ross told The Los Angeles Times of her mothering abilities.
Her son is named Jim. For her daughter, Ross paid tribute to her own mom, calling her Ellen. Both kids followed their mom onto TV, Ellen as a producer on shows like Friends and Jim as an actor notably voicing cartoon characters, including once voicing "Ron Howard" for Family Guy.
For the younger Ellen, sharing her mom with Erin Moran on Happy Days ended up strengthening their bond.
"Every time Mom and I have a fight, she will go and talk with Erin and get her advice," Ellen told The Sacramento Bee in 1979. "Often she comes back home and says, 'I talked with Erin today and she said you're right. So I'm sorry.' But there are big differences between the mom I have and the one Erin has on Happy Days. My mom is not nearly so dippy. And she's a lot more strict. We have to do what we're told, and we have a curfew."
Ellen's first big passion wasn't for TV production, but for horseback riding. She said Marion would bend over backward to make sure Ellen was always prepared to ride. To her, this made her real mom even better than the TV mom the whole world adored.
"Mom was incredible," Ellen said. "She'd wake up at 5 am when I had a show. She'd help me get the horse ready, help me clean my tack. Once she even trailered my horse to the show. Now Mrs. Cunningham wouldn't have done that!"
Because Marion had a loving mother who would go anywhere to help her daughter achieve her dreams, Ross said this extreme kind mothering came naturally to her, and it only makes sense that her own kids would reap the biggest benefits of her overly nurturing nature.
"The truth is, I have been a mother of one kind or another most of my life," Ross said.