Celebrity Then And Now
Publication: Albany Daily News. Posted by Lexi Schwartz
Celebrity Then And Now
Posted by Lexi Schwartz
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Years before “That 70’s Show”, there was yet another long running program that was based 20 years before its time. “Happy Days” was adapted from a segment on “Love, American Style” with Ron Howard, Marion Ross and Anson Williams, adapted by television legend Garry Marshall and based in Wisconsin. “Happy Days” lasted for more than 250 episodes giving us memorable characters like Arthur “The Fonz” Fonzarelli (played by Henry Winkler) and the phrase “Jumping the Shark.”
With a name like “Happy Days” and a really optimistic theme song, you got the impression that everything was A-Ok on the set. Compared to a lot of the shows out there (especially the ones on our list), the secrets surrounding “Happy Days” are a lot more pleasant, thankfully. One of the secrets that only the actors and producers knew about for the longest time was their athletic ability.
According to Anson Williams (who played Potsie), cast members were brought to a softball field when they auditioned. They had to show producers that they could play since there were some softball scenes on the show. Interestingly enough, Henry Winkler didn’t even know how to play softball, so he had to be taught. Thankfully he had already landed the part by the time that producers found that out about him.
You might also remember that the show featured an alien character named Mork from Ork, a role that helped Robin Williams get his career started. That role was not supposed to go to Williams, and nobody knew it for decades. Anson Williams said that “they (hired) some guy for Mork - bad actor, bad part.” The actor ended up quitting just before filming started, and Garry Marshall asked the cast members “Does anyone know a funny Martian?” Al Molinaro said that he knew just the guy, and suggest Robin Williams. Williams would get the part and then star on the spin-off series “Mork and Mindy”.
“Happy Days” took a big hit when Ron Howard stopped playing Richie Cunningham full-time for the final four seasons of the series. Howard had directed his first film, “Grand Theft Auto” while still on “Happy Days” and decided that he wanted to keep directing movies instead of acting. After all, Howard had been acting since he was a child. Howard especially didn’t want to play a teenager and went into directing full-time, giving the producers a notice that he was quitting.
They panicked and tried to adapt the show to appeal to younger audiences in the 1980’s, and the show was noticeably different. At the time, people weren’t too sure why Howard was leaving since entertainment news isn’t as round-the-clock as it is these days. Howard didn’t even seem to be too heartbroken with giving up his role, which could have been because of why he got it in the first place. In an interview, Howard said that joining the cast was his way of avoiding being drafted into the Vietnam War.
Going back to “The Fonz”, Henry Winkler’s character wasn’t originally supposed to be wearing his signature leather jacket. Instead, producers had him wear a white windbreaker for the first episode of the series despite Winkler’s protest. They said that the leather jacket made him look like a “hoodlum,” but eventually compromised and said that Winkler could wear the jacket on scenes where he was riding his motorcycle. Audiences immediately associated Fonzie with the leather jacket, so producers stuck with it for the rest of the series while Winkler got the last laugh.
Speaking of Winkler, he did not actually know the lines when auditioning because he couldn’t read due to his battle with dyslexia. Winkler just made up the lines instead of using the ones he was given, telling producers that he was putting his own spin on the character. It wasn’t revealed until after he got the part that he never actually read the script. So as you can see, things weren’t really “dark” on “Happy Days”, but it did produce some interesting factoids that fans didn’t know about.