Born in Minnesota in 1928, actress Marion Ross made her film debut in 1953's Forever Female. She later became famous for playing Mrs. C on the sitcom Happy Days, which aired from 1974-84. Afterward, Ross worked on such series as Brooklyn Bridge and The Drew Carey Show. More recently, she appeared on Nurse Jackie and The Middle.
Childhood and Education
Beloved television actress Marion Ross was born on October 25, 1928, in Albert Lea, Minnesota, and dreamed of becoming an actress at an early age. When Ross was just 13 years old, she changed the spelling of her name from "Marian" to "Marion" because she thought it would look better on a marquee. She started taking drama lessons as a high school student at Minneapolis' MacPhail Center for the Arts.
As a teenager, Ross and her family moved to San Diego, California, where she enrolled at San Diego State College. There, she continued to pursue her passion for performing. Ross's talent became apparent early on—she earned the title of "most outstanding actress" during her first year.
After graduating from college in 1950, Ross worked at the La Jolla Playhouse. She made her film debut in Forever Female (1953) with Ginger Rogers and William Holden. Other film work followed, including Sabrina (1954) with Audrey Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart. She later appeared in the popular comedy Operation Petticoat (1959) with Carey Grant and Tony Curtis.
In addition to film, Ross worked steadily on the small screen as well. She made guest appearances on such shows as The Lone Ranger and Perry Mason. In the early 1960s, Ross landed her first television series. She appeared on the short-lived The Gertrude Berg Show.
In the mid-'70s, Ross took on the role for which she is now best known: starring as Marion Cunningham on the sitcom Happy Days, set in the 1950s and '60s. Her character quickly became one of the beloved TV moms of all time. Her character, also known as Mrs. C, supported and guided her two youngest children Richie, played by Ron Howard, and Joanie, played by Erin Moran, through the perils of the teen years. She also doted on her husband Howard (Tom Bosley). Mrs. C looked after Richie's friends, too, including Arthur "The Fonz" Fonzarelli, played by Henry Winkler.
This nostalgic sitcom proved to be a big hit with TV viewers, and ran from 1974-84. Several years after Happy Days went off the air, the show remained popular in syndication. Ross received two Emmy Award nominations for her work on the series.
After Happy Days ended, Ross went on to appear in a number of different TV shows. She played a grandmother on the early 1990s sitcom Brooklyn Bridge. Later in the decade, Ross landed a recurring role as Drew Carey's mother on The Drew Carey Show. She also appeared on several episodes of That '70s Show as well.
On the big screen, Ross appeared in the drama The Evening Star (1996) with Shirley MacLaine and Bill Paxton. This film was the sequel to the 1983 hit tear-jerker Terms of Endearment. A pop culture icon, Ross also appeared in celebrity ads promoting milk with fellow famous TV moms Shirley Jones of The Partridge Family and Florence Henderson of The Brady Bunch in 1998.
Now in her 80s, Ross continues to perform on the small screen, acting in a variety of series and TV movies. She has enjoyed recurring roles on such shows as Gilmore Girls and Brothers and Sisters. Her trademark red hair and warm smile have been seen on everything from medical drama Grey Anatomy to the family sitcoms The Middle and Hot In Cleveland. She also has provided the voice of Grandma SquarePants on the popular cartoon, SpongeBob SquarePants.
Ross has two children from her marriage to Freeman Meskimen, Jim Meskimen and Ellen Plummer. The couple divorced in the late '60s. Both of her children have followed in their mother's footsteps. Her son is an actor and her daughter has worked as a producer and a writer on such shows as Friends.
Ross also lived with actor Michael Paul for more than twenty years, until his death in 2011.
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