Hollywood's favorite grandma Frances Bay continued acting after losing her right leg

TV icons from Fonzie to Inspector Gadget called her grandma. She started her career late and continued stealing scenes until she died at 92.

Read to Me

On Happy Days, the role of Fonzie's grandma was played by two actors.

The first appearance of Grandma Nussbaum was by Lillian Bronson, but for the next three, legendary Hollywood grandma Frances Bay stepped into the role to stay.

You might remember that when it comes time for Fonzie to move in with grandma in the ninth season episode "Grandma Nussbaum," it's with Bay that Henry Winkler resides.

Comedy ensues when Fonzie tries to decide if his grandma would be better off in assisted living, instead of relying on her cool-guy grandson.

For Frances Bay, playing Fonzie's grandma was just one of many grandma roles audiences came to love her in.

In movies, her portrayal of Adam Sandler's character's grandma in Happy Gilmore might have been her most famous, but on TV she also played grandmas on many shows, everything from cartoons like Inspector Gadget to cult favorites like Twin Peaks.

Of her stereotype as a grandma, Bay felt indifferent. She actually preferred roles where she got to be a little mean!

"I get a lot of sweet old ladies," Bay told The Canadian Press in 1997. "But I have also been… witches. I would rather do things with some bite in it."

Bay got her start in acting late. Her first onscreen role ever came in 1976 on Kojak, when she was 57.

She delayed her acting career out of deference to her husband’s career, not pursuing acting until their children were raised. At that point, she had become timid about her talent, but not so timid that she wasn’t ready to pursue her dreams.

"I thought, 'enough of this being timid about what you want to do,'" she told The Vancouver Sun in 2001.

Acting was a fire inside her the old lady just couldn't put out. Even though she never saw herself as a star.

"I always wanted to be an actress," Bay told The Los Angeles Times in 1986. "And it wasn’t ego. I felt so little about myself considered myself such a sparrow. Not just my size: I thought I was so plain … I did plays not to show off but because if I did that — I didn't realize it at the time — I would be somebody other than this person I didn't really approve of. I guess that's true of a lot of actors."

By the end of her career, she appeared in more than 50 movies and TV roles, seemingly every casting director's favorite eccentric old lady.

But in 2002, her acting career was almost stopped short when she was struck by a car. She had to have her right leg amputated from the knee down.

It was a major setback, but after waiting years to be an actor, Bay wasn't ready to give up.

After the accident, she continued playing grandmas on the big screen and took on TV roles on hit shows, including a recurring role on The Middle. She appeared on that show until she passed away in 2011.

A year before her accident, Bay told The Vancouver Sun that nothing would keep her from being onscreen.

"The nice thing about being in this business — there are a lot of disappointing times, too — but just look at me," she said. "I can work until I can no longer stand up. If you want it. And I still want it." 

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bagandwallyfan52 19 days ago
Cheerio Meredith who played
Emma Brand Watson on The
Andy Griffith Show was a
Very interesting and wonderful
Person. The character of
Emma Brand kept Barney
Five in line.Also Emma Brand
Watson did not care for Ellie
Walkers pharmacy rules and
Regulations.Aunt Bee and
Emma knew that shoe salesman
From NYC WAS REALLY a
Shoe salesman even though
Andy Barney Floyd and the
Other men thought that
He was a Talent Scout
.
I read that ENID MARKEY
Who played Mrs. Mendelbright on TAGS
Barney FIFEs landlady
And played Gandma Pyle
On GP USMC was the first
Actress to play Jane in
1918 Silent TARZAN movies.
bagandwallyfan52 20 days ago
There were 3 Actors in all who
Played Chuck Cunningham.
By the way.Chuck Cunningham
Was NOT the first character
With the first name Chuck.
There was another character
With.the name Chuck who
Disappeared with no explanation
From a sitcom in 1968 .
Does anyone know who this
Chuck is and what TV show
This character was on??
Also there were 2 characters on
Happy Days with first names
And last names that rhyme
And on season one ONLY of
Happy Days does anyone
Know who the 3 heavyset
Characters or heavyset actors
Were?
bagandwallyfan52 23 days ago
In the TV Universe Fonzie (Henry
Winkler) is one of the Best
Characters and best actor of
All time. Also Does anyone know
The name of the actor who
Played Howard Cunningham's
Employee BUZZ on the 1974
Christmas episode of Happy Days called Guess Who's Coming To Christmas and
Was the only episode with
A conversation with Fonzie and
Chuck Cunningham (Randolph
Roberts) and this episode was
This last appearance of Chuck
Cunningham 2 Randolph Roberts.
The last appearance of
Chuck Cunningham 1
Gavan O Herlihy was in
The season one episode
Give The Band A Hand.
bagandwallyfan52 27 days ago
I would like to see an article
On BAG played by Neil J Schwartz on Happy Days
And Wally Plumstead played
By Skip Young on The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet
And Paul Lynde who played
Uncle Arthur on Bewitched.
I would like to see articles
On these Happy Days Actors:
Moose:Barry Greenberg
Eugene Belvin: Denis Mandel
Melvin Belvin: Scott Bernstein
LET'S HAVE A Drumroll
For BAG (Neil J. Schwartz
Who played the Drums in
Seasons one and.two of
Happy Days.
Just curious your screen name Bag and Wally fan. Do you mean Wally on Leave it to Beaver? Most of your comments seem Happy Days related. just curious.
I'm also a fan of Wally(Tony
Dow)but the Wally that I'm
Referring to is Wally Plumstead (played by
Skip Young on The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet from 1957-1966).Bag
Zombroski (Neil J. Schwartz) and Wally Plumstead (Skip Young)
Were both practical
Jokers on their shows.
Bag liked to play practical
Jokes on Richie Potsie and
Ralph and Wally Plumstead
Liked to play practical jokes on David and Rick
Nelson.Wally had a girlfriend named Ginger.
Bag Zombroski played the
Drums in Richie's band on Happy Days on seasons 1
And 2 and Bag belonged
To a club called a club
Called the Demons which
Was a social club for
Pranksters. A cute girl
Named Daphne (Hillary
Horan)played the drums
in Richie s Band after
Bag Zombroski (Neil J.
Schwartz left Happy Days
In 1977 season 4 The Books
Of Records.
Also a lot of persons agree
That it didn't make sense
The way Chuck Cunningham (Randolph
Roberts) disappeared from Happy Days with no explanation.
Moose(Barry Greenberg)
Eugene Belvin (Denis Mandel) Melvin Belvin (Scott Bernstein) and
Spike(Danny Butch)
And Wendy (Misty Rowe)
Also vanished from Happy
Days from Happy Days
With no explanation.
Eddie Haskell (Ken Osmond) and Lumpy
Rutherford (Frank Bank)
Were also practical jokers
On Leave It To Beaver
Like Wally Plumstead and
Bag Zombroski. Another
Great practical joker was
Uncle Arthur (Paul Lynde)
On Bewitched.
Thank you. I don't really follow Ozzie and Harriet. It is very clear you are a major fan of Happy Days. The Chuck Cunningham's role on the show and later not appearing is well documented on various sites if you wish to research it. Whether it makes sense or not is opinion. It sounds more likely that fans were not pleased that he was removed, rather than his actual removal. But it's not mysterious. If your interested just Google Chuck Cunningham you should get numerous sites. The other characters you mentioned simply were only cast for so many episodes.
bagandwallyfan52 27 days ago
I would like to see an article
On actress BILLIE BIRD who
Played Marion Cunningham s
Mother Kelp and Alice Nunn
Who played Al's mother on
Happy.Days and Hillary Horan
Who played Daphne on Happy
Days.

P

Kel

M
Alice Nunn also played
Large Marge in the 1985
Movie called Pee Weeks
Big Adventure.
bagandwallyfan52 27 days ago
Lillian Bronson and Frances Bey
Both did an excellent job playing
Grandma Nussbaum.
If Officer Kirk or Ben Weaver
Or Homer Bedloe had a
Grandmother like her I'm
Sure that they would have
Been better persons.
bagandwallyfan52 28 days ago
Fonzie Forever!
Load previous comments
The Top Ten characters on
Happy was wonderful
Except these Happy Days
Characters were LEFT OUT
MOOSE (Barry Greenberg)
MELVIN BELVIN (Scott Bernstein
Wendy(Misty Rowe)
And Trudy(Tita Bell).
Have you thought about using the "CONTACT METV" Link ( the orange/yellow bubble at the top of the page). At least you can let them know what stories,articles you would like to see. No guarantee they'll do articles but worth a try anyways. Probably better your chances.
I would also like for METV
To write an article about
Actor and singer Tommy
Leonetti(1929-1979) who
Played Cpl. Nick Cuccinelli
On GOMER Pyle USMC
From 1964-1965.
Later on season 2 of GP USMC Roy Stuart played Cpl. Boyle .
An article about eccentric
Professor Pepperwinkle
(Phillips Tead) and Inspector Henderson
(Robert Shayne) both from
The Adventures of Superman would be great.
Superman used to be seen
On METV now on Heroes And Icons Channelm
I would also like to see
Reruns of ELLERY QUEEN
Starring Jim Hutton on METV.
Runeshaper 1 month ago
Such a GREAT story! She definitely was an AWESOME TV grandma and was very talented (-:
dangler1907 1 month ago
Too often, we don't reflect on the the knowledge and experiences of the elderly, to give us a perspective on our lives today. Indigenous people are much more realistic and generous that way. Their elders have value.
AbbyandSadiesMom 1 month ago
Loved her in the Seinfeld episode! Classic! R.I.P. sweet lady.
ncadams27 1 month ago
Who could forget her three appearances on Seinfeld playing the lady Jerry robbed of her marble rye.
Sway ncadams27 1 month ago
Mrs. Choate on the condo board at Del Bocca Vista
"You can't turn down $20 for a $6 rye."
"Watch me!"
CoreyC WordsmithWorks 1 month ago
Have you ever eaten a bakery rye bread? It's worth stealing.
LoveMETV22 CoreyC 1 month ago
Lol, Especially from "Schnitzer's" - the Bakery on Seinfeld or
maybe a sandwich on rye at "Monk's Cafe"- the restaurant the Seinfeld gang would meet at or
a bowl of soup from "The Original Soup Man"- from the Soup Nazi Episode.
There were a few other New York food locations portrayed in the show even though the series was filmed in Los Angeles.
That was a hilarious episode on Seinfeld. You tube has a clip of it.
LoveMETV22 1 month ago
Liked her in Happy Gilmore and the episode of the Golden Girls, but do enjoy seeing her in her other film and television appearances.
Load previous comments
Mr. Schwmp is in the First
Scene in the restaurant
Drinking coffee sitting in
The back of the restaurant.
Maybe Mr. Schwamp left
Mayberry later and moved
To Los Angeles.
Mr. Schwamp gets around!! He might be in the first
Episode of Mayberry RFD.
Well he's not credited in either show (TAGS or GP). If you research RFD and find anything make sure to post it. To this point it's a mystery. Happy Researching.
On Mayberry RFD Sam Jones(Ken Berry) had a
Toast to the groom Andy Taylor who was to marry
Helen Crump in this episode and I believe that
Mr. Schwamp is at the toast.Later right after Andy
Marries Helen I believe
That Mr. Schwamp is at the
Church when Barney Five
Walking down the aile of
The church with Andy and
Helen.Barney even went
With Andy and Helen on
Their honeymoon singing
A song with Andy Taylor.
So have you researched IMDb or Wikipedia, you may be able to find the character or the information you're looking for. You seem knowledgeable about the episode details you mention. It shouldn't be to hard to find your answers.
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