‘Happy Days’: Why This Character Was the Only One Who Could Call Fonzie ‘Arthur’
Few characters spoke it and those who did always regretted it.
Not only did one character on the series set in 1950s Milwaukee use his real name often; they were sanctioned to do so by The Fonz himself.
Marion Ross at first felt sorry for Henry Winkler
When Happy Days began show co-star Marion Ross, who played Richie Cunningham’s mother Marion, felt great pity for Winkler. His character was a thoroughly minor one and barely had any lines.
“As we began shooting the first episodes of Happy Days,” Ross wrote in her memoir My Days: Happy and Otherwise, “if I ever felt as if my role was small, I would just look at poor Henry. He hardly had any lines.
“They would just have him strut into the bathroom at Arnold’s Drive-In, take a look at himself in the mirror, see that his hair was perfect, put his comb away, and walk out,” she wrote. “That was about it.”
The advent of Fonziemania
At some point, the tide turned and Winkler went from being a lesser actor on the show to its biggest star, as Ross recalled.
“[The fans] would line up for hours before being escorted into Stage Nineteen and would just go crazy when, before we began taping. [Executive producer Garry Marshall] would welcome them and introduce the cast members.”
She compared the audience’s response to Winkler with something like the emotional fans of The Beatles in the musical group’s heyday.
“We were all received with love and warmth, but it was a completely different thing when it came to Henry,” she said. “It was like Beatlemania, with all these young girls screaming and going wild.
“Fonziemania had swept the nation.”
Winkler explained why Mrs. C got to call Fonzie ‘Arthur’
Fonzie’s friendship with Richie allowed him access to something he didn’t have: a family. Winkler himself explained that this was the heart of the writers’ reasoning for having Marion Cunningham call Fonzie by his birth name of Arthur.
“She was the mother the Fonz never had,” Winkler told Ross’ co-author David Laurell. “I know that she gives the credit to the writers for deciding that Mrs. C would be the only one to ever call Fonzie by his given name, Arthur.”
The actor felt that Ross was being overly modest and set the record straight.
“Here’s the truth behind that: One day on the set, when we had just started doing the show, Marion made a mistake and called me Arthur,” Winkler said. “So Garry’s ears perked up and the writers’ ears perked up, and right there and then it was decided that Mrs. C would always be the only one to call Fonzie by his real name.”