On October 25, Marion Ross celebrated her 95th birthday and 70 years of acting, which includes her role as one of the world’s most adored mothers.
For 11 seasons during the 1970s, the nonagenarian played the Cunningham matriarch on Happy Days, the hit TV series that followed the adventures of her teenaged children and their motley crew of friends in the 1950s.
But before her beloved role as “Mrs. C,” Ross’ life as a single mom to two children was rife with poverty in some “very, very hard” and unhappy days.
Keep reading to learn more about one of America’s favorite moms!
Marion Ross, who celebrated her 95th birthday October 25, started her screen debut 70 years ago with a small role in the 1953 film Forever Female, starring Ginger Rogers and William Holden. Through the 1950s, Ross had a steady stream of work, appearing in films alongside Hollywood legends like James Stewart, Audrey Hepburn, Humphrey Bogart, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Doris Day.
She went on to regularly acting in classic TV shows like The Lone Ranger, The Donna Reed Show, The Brady Bunch, The Fugitive, Father Knows Best and more.
While her career was heating up, she was also dealing with her husband, actor Freeman Meskimen, an “unmotivated, moody drinker” whom she eloped with at 21.
After learning her husband of 18 years was having an affair, she took their two kids, Jim and Ellen, and braced herself for some “very, very hard” days as a single mom, surviving on unemployment.
Struggling to pay the bills after her 1968 divorce, her career was also suffering.
“When I was 40, I got divorced. Nobody had a job [for me], and I had two small children,” the star of Sabrina shared with Closer Weekly. “I rented out one of the bedrooms in my house to pick up some money…I’d think, ‘I made $35 today.’ It was hard.”
She recalled a moment when Jim asked why they didn’t have a hair dryer and she responded: “We can’t afford it.”
At an audition for the 1970 disaster film Airport, where she appears in an uncredited role, Ross met a casting director who changed her life.
She was casting “a little pilot called Love and the Happy Days,” Ross shared. “She said, ‘You could play the mother.’ I got the part!”
In 1974, when she was 46, her career exploded with her Emmy Award-winning role of homemaker Marion Cunningham on Happy Days, which starred Ron Howard, Henry Winkler, Scott Baio and her TV husband Tom Bosley, who played hardware store owner Mr. Cunningham.
Once Happy Days ended in 1984, Ross’ career stayed steady with more TV appearances, including recurring roles on The Drew Carrey Show, That ‘70s Show, the Gilmore Girls, and Brothers and Sisters. From 2001 to 2011, she loaned her voice to Grandma SquarePants on SpongeBob SquarePants.
In 1996, she received a Golden Globe nod for her supporting role in The Evening Star with Shirley MacLaine and Juliette Lewis, the long-awaited sequel to the Oscar-winning film, Terms of Endearment.
In 1988, at 60, Ross married the love of her life, Broadway star Paul Michael. The two were together until his death in 2011.
After several guest appearances on TV series like Nurse Jackie and Grey’s Anatomy, Ross, who authored the book My Days: Happy and Otherwise, announced in 2021 that she was officially retiring from acting.
Celebrating her 95th birthday, Ross was seen dining with friends al fresco at Marmalade Café, a popular restaurant in Calabasas, California. The veteran TV star, who was using a walker to get around, had her auburn hair styled short and was wearing black and white checkered pants paired with a black turtleneck sweater.
Happy birthday Mrs. C! We are so thankful she shared her talents with the world and hope she has the happiest day!
What are your favorite TV moments with Marion Ross? Please share this story with your friends and let’s send this fantastic actor a huge birthday shoutout!
If you loved this story as much as we loved writing it, be sure to check out the story on Anson Williams, who played Potsie, and see what he’s been doing since he left Happy Days!