Marion Ross was born on October 25, 1928 in a small Minnesota community called Watertown. She spent her early years growing up in the town of Waconia.. After leaving Waconia, the family moved to Willmar, Mn and later to Albert Lea, MN. At the young age of 13, she changed the spelling of her name from "Marian" to "Marion" because she thought it would look better on a marquee. During the long cold winter nights in Albert Lea, she dreamed of becoming an actress and moving to California where there was something swell to do every day. After Marion completed her sophomore year in high school, she moved to Minneapolis and took a job as an au pair so she could take drama lessons at the MacPhail Center for the Arts. After a year in Minneapolis, where she attended Southwest High School, her family moved to San Diego, California, and Marion enrolled in San Diego State College.
As a freshman, Ross was named the school's most outstanding actress. She kept busy in many college plays until her graduation in 1950. Then she performed in summer theater in La Jolla, California. The director was quite impressed by her talent, and urged her to give Hollywood a shot. With the assistance of an old college professor, Ross worked her way into a contract for Paramount.
In 1953, Ross made her big-screen debut in "Forever Female," where she appeared with Ginger Rogers. A steady stream of film work followed, including parts in "The Glenn Miller Story" (1954), "Sabrina" (1954), and "Operation Petticoat" (1959). But she was not destined for big-screen success; television would prove to be her medium.
Ross' fame on the small screen began in 1953 when she played the Irish maid on the series "Life With Father" for two years. Her list of credits spans the history of classic TV, from "The Burns and Allen Show" to "Love Boat" and "Night Court." Marion Ross' prolific television career includes an exhaustive 400-plus appearances on different shows, in addition to her long-running role as Mrs. Cunningham on "Happy Days."
"People have different opinions about this, but I'll use it to my advantage," says the actress best known as Marion Cunningham, Ritchie and Joanie's mom on Happy Days (1974-84). "If I call the plumber and he says, 'I can't come right away,' I'll say, 'Did you ever watch Happy Days? I'm Mrs. C, you know.' And not only does he get over here right away, but he brings his entire family."
Ross loves getting attention and having fans ask for autographs. "That's why I am an actress," she admits. "And Happy Days seems to have a whole new generation of fans because of the reruns. As I told Henry Winkler, 'It was Halloween, [and I opened] the door and there was a whole bunch of little Fonzies out there.'
Ross has acted on Broadway and in films, but she adores doing TV. In recent years, she played recurring roles as Drew Carey's mom on The Drew Carey Show and nasty Grandma Forman on That '70s Show.
Ross lives in Los Angeles with actor Paul Michael, her beau of 15 years. "That's why I don't mind playing this assortment of old ladies. Because I have such a wonderful romance in my life." She has two grown kids in show business: actor Jim Meskimen's credits include How the Grinch Stole Christmas; Ellen Plummer is a writer/producer on Friends.
Ross' fame also led to a nonacting job she savors. She's official spokeswoman for the town of Marion, Illinois. "They have me come to their town. They pay me money. And there on the water tower is my name, Marion. The bank has my name too: the Bank of Marion. I said, 'You shouldn't have gone to all this trouble!' It's too cute."
Actress Marion Ross, star of the television show "Happy Days," center, reacts after the unveiling of her new star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in the Hollywood section of Los Angeles, Thursday, July 12, 2001. Honorary Hollywood Mayor Johnny Grant, left, and Leron Gubler, right look on as, left to right, "Happy Days' producer Garry Marshall and co-stars Tom Bosley, Erin Moran, Henry Winkler and Anson Williams, background look on. (AP Photo/E.J. Flynn)