From 1974 to 1984 veteran actress Marion Ross played the beloved character Marion Cunningham on the ABC sitcom Happy Days.
Ross is now 94 years old, and she’s still remembered fondly for playing one of the most lovable television characters of all time.
Facts Verse Presents: Happy Days Mom Marion Ross is 94, See Her Today.
Marion Ross’s Early Years
Ross was born on the 25th of October, 1928, in Watertown, Minnesota. She was the daughter of Gordon and Ellen Ross, who had moved to the States after leaving behind their hometown of Saskatchewan, Canada, shortly after the turn of the century.
When she was 13, Marion adopted the spelling of her name that she would come to be famous for. Previously she had been named Marian with an A. Later, she would admit that she made the change-up thinking that the new spelling would look better on a marquee.
After finishing up her sophomore year in high school, Ross moved to Minneapolis, where she studied drama at the MacPhail Center for Music while attending Southwest High School.
About a year later, she relocated once again to San Diego, California, where she ended up graduating from Point Loma High School. After that, she earned her undergraduate degree from San Diego State University.
Early Roles And Rise To Fame
Ross made her big screen debut in the 1953 film Forever Female. That role saw her sharing the screen with William Holden and Ginger Roots. From there, she found continued cinema success appearing in flicks like 1954s The Glenn Miller Story, 1956s Lust for Life, 1958s Teacher’s Pet, 1959s Operation Petticoat, 1971s Honky, and 1977s Grand Theft Auto.
While she would prove to be a familiar face in cinema for decades, Ross is arguably best known for her television career. She first appeared on the small screen in 1953, playing an Irish maid in the series Life With Father. After enjoying that role for two years, she appeared in The Lone Ranger, playing Ginny Thorpe. From there, she appeared in shows such as Mickey Spilane’s Mike Hammer portraying a character named Mary Williams, and The Donna Reed Show, appearing as a teacher named Miss McGinnis.
Ross also made guest appearances on dozens of other TV series throughout her television career, including The Outer Limits, Father Knows Best, The Brady Bunch, Hawaii Five-O, Perry Mason, and The Fugitive – just to name a few.
In 1961, Ross was cast as Gertrude Berg’s daughter on the CBS situation comedy Mrs. G Goes to College. That same year she played a mail-order bride on Rawhide. Simply put, virtually every role she was brought in for, be it big or small, ended up being quite memorable. Ross always was a very versatile actress who could thrive both in comedic or dramatic roles. It wouldn’t be until 1974, however, that she was cast in the most significant role of her career.
Happy Days And Beyond
Ross may have shined in a broad range of roles, but she is best known for playing the fun and quirky Marion Cunningham on Happy Days. She landed the role of the matriarch of the Cunningham family in 1974 and continued to play her throughout the series’ entire 11-season run.
For her work on the series, Ross received several Primetime Emmy Award nominations and later reprised the role on the Happy Days spin-off Joanie Loves Chachi. Years later, she would reprise the role once again on an episode of Family Guy.
Reflecting on that iconic role, the 94-year-old retired actress was recently quoted as saying that she will never regret her time on Happy Days. These days Ross is now a mother and grandmother, but she admits to still using her iconic role to her advantage.
In 2022, she told a reporter that she still uses the fact that she played Mrs. C. to her advantage whenever she wants ‘the plumber to come’. She went on to say that she plays this card whenever she needs anything done. And really, who can blame her? It sounds like a pretty effective strategy if you ask me.
Ross has also noted that she loved playing the role because of how it opened countless doors for her professionally. She has also expressed gratitude for getting to work with all of her Happy Day’s cast mates. Throughout the series production, she says that the cast all grew to love one another like a family.
After Happy Days came to an end in 1984, she went on to appear in shows such as The Love Boat and the short-lived yet critically acclaimed dramedy Brooklyn Bridge which aired on CBS from 1991 to 1993. The latter role earned her a Golden Globe Award as well as another Primetime Emmy nomination.
More recently she starred as the housekeeper Rosie Dunlop in the 1996 film The Evening Star. In 1997, she played a secretly ill mother in an episode of Early Edition titled ‘The Cat’.
Throughout The Drew Carey Show’s run, she flourished in the recurring role of Drew’s mother. After that she played Bernice Forman on That 70s Show and Lorelai “Trix” Gilmore on Gilmore Girls.
In the 90s well into the 2000s, Ross did a lot of voice-over work. For example, she provided the voice for the character Ms. Wakefield on King Of The Hill as well as Grandma Squarepants on Spongebob SquarePants. Additionally, Ross voiced characters in animated shows like The Wild Thornberrys, Generator Rex, and Tweety Mysteries.
In the aughts, Ross appeared in the 2007 biographical period drama Music Within. From 2007 to 2010, she played Ida Holden on ABC’s Brothers & Sisters. In 2008, she played Aunt Lucille in the film Superhero Movie. The following year, she had a guest spot on The New Adventures of Old Christine.
In the 2010s, she guest-starred on Grey’s Anatomy, Major Crimes, The Middle, Two and a Half Men, and Nurse Jackie. In 2018, she appeared in Guardians of the Galaxy. Her final film role was in 2021s Senior Entourage, after which she announced that she was officially retiring.
Although she’s no longer taking on new roles, Ross says that she she doesn’t regret that decision in the least bit. When she was asked if there was any specific role from her decades-spanning career that she liked the best, she confessed that she really didn’t care. While playing Mrs. C. was clearly her most prominent role, she seems to have enjoyed every last minute of her time in Hollywood.
Since retiring, Ross says that she’s been enjoying taking time for herself to relax. After all, she spent close to seven decades appearing both on the big and small screens. If anyone has earned the right to kick back and indulge in a little R&R, it’s her!
A few years ago, shortly after celebrating her 88th birthday, Ross gave a candid interview in which she confessed that she has never felt old. She went on to describe how her inner child has kept her feeling young and spry. At one point she even went as far to say that she still felt like she was eleven.
Elaborating on that point, Ross said that although she still feels young inside, she thought that it was important to acknowledge the fact that she’s gotten up there in years. Though many other actresses her age still work, she says that she never felt any pressure to do anything that she didn’t want to because she already had a successful career.
While she isn’t looking forward to dying, Ross says that the optimist inside of her firmly believes that there’s going to be the ‘most fantastic thing’ after death. Acknowledging that no one really knows for certain where you go after passing on, Ross still is very casual and happy when discussing the topic.
A Legacy That Will Live On
A pillar in her community, Marion Ross has been honored in a couple of beautiful ways ensuring that her legacy will live on long after she’s gone. In June of 2008, the Albert Lea Civic Center Theater in her hometown of Albert Lea, Minnesota, officially changed it’s name to the Marion Ross Performing Arts Center. More recently, in 2021, the city of Albert Lea installed a bronze statue of her that sits outside her namesake theater.
While having places named after you and statues being built in your likeness ensure that your name won’t be soon forgotten, the most significant way that any of us can keep our legacies alive is through our family and children.
Ross has two children, and she’s quite proud of how she raised them. The Ross’s are a very close family and Marion is especially proud of her kid’s achievements.
Both her daughter and son have followed in her footsteps by pursuing careers in the entertainment industry. Her son Jim Meskimen is an actor and impressionist who made it to the the finals of America’s Got Talent in the early 2010s.
Jim has also appeared on Whose Line Is It Anyway and in the 2000 film How The Grinch Stole Christmas, which was directed by Ron Howard. Additionally, Jim and his mother got to work with each other doing voice-over work on The Boondocks and Kung Fu Panda: Legends Of Awesomeness.
Marion”s daughter, Ellen Plummer, may not be an actress but she has done quite a bit of work behind the camera. In the 90s, she served as a writer and producer on Friends. She later worked on the Friends spin-off series Joey as well.
In the mid-2000s Plummer served as the co-executive producer of The New Adventures of Old Christine. More recently she’s worked as an executive producer for the 2018 ABC TV Movie Three Rivers and as a consulting producer for the TV shows Trial & Error and American Housewife.
While Ross is undoubtedly thrilled that her children have found successful careers of their own, she says that the biggest accomplishment she’s made in regards to her family is consistently maintaining a happy, healthy, and loving relationship with them. You can achieve all of the riches and glory that life has to offer, but to Ross, nothing is more important than that.
Marion Ross will forever be remembered for her iconic role of Mrs. C. on Happy Days, but her life story is far more nuanced than many only familiar with that one character might imagine. At 94, she still feels like a child inside. That youthful glow has continued to let her perceive the world as being magical and beautiful. She’s also never lost sight of what matters most, family. May we all take a few pointers from Marion Ross’s playbook.
With that, we’ll go ahead and wrap this video up.
Did you know that Marion Ross enjoyed success as a voice-over actress in the 2000 and 2010s and that she continued to perform well into her 90s before finally retiring in 2021? Let us know in comments, and as always, thanks for watching!