Marion Ross' Christmas wish in 1996 was to be in another Ron Howard movie
Let's get Mrs. C up on the big screen again, Ronny!
For the Happy Days Christmas episode "Richie Branches Out," Richie Cunningham spends the whole time trying to convince a gorgeous model that he’s a big deal hardware magnate seeking the right face for his company’s advertising campaigns.
It’s an episode all about forgetting who Richie Cunningham really is, and for actor Ron Howard, after Happy Days ended and he became a big deal movie director, you could say that he was ready to do just that in the real world, by putting some distance between him and the whole Cunningham family.
For more than a decade as Howard’s star rose as a director, he produced hit films that spanned genres. Rom-coms like Splash, sci-fi splendor like Cocoon, adventure-fantasy flicks like Willow, family comedy like Parenthood, and heart-clutching drama like Apollo 13. There was no genre where he couldn’t make magic.
No matter what the genre, though, you may have noticed that Howard didn’t try to fold in many actors from his Happy Days family into any of his hit movies.
For his TV mom Marion Ross, this was a huge bummer. She understood that Howard had to go on to do his own thing, but she was struggling as an actor. While she'd made an appearance in Ron Howard's 1977 feature directorial debut, Grand Theft Auto, that movie now looked like small potatoes compared to the megahits he was now working on.
But then in 1996, Ross ended up cast in a major motion picture without Howard’s help.
It happened when an earthquake forced Ross out of her Los Angeles home, and she decided to take a part in a Missouri theater production of Steel Magnolias.
The director of that production was Robert Harling, who had just been tapped to make his movie directorial debut by directing the sequel to Terms of Endearment.
Having enjoyed working with Ross on Steel Magnolias, Harling cast her in The Evening Star across from Shirley MacLaine, playing her maid.
Ross saw this role as her big chance to not just prove she had the acting chops to share scenes with MacLaine, but also to show to Howard that she was good enough to be in one of his big movies.
That’s why when The Evening Star came out on Christmas Day in 1996, Ross had a special Christmas wish she shared with The Atlanta Constitution. She wanted to be in one of Ron Howard’s next movies: "I can see why he couldn’t use anyone from Happy Days at first," Ross said, "But I hope this [movie] will change his mind."
Unfortunately, Ross’ Christmas wish has yet to come true. Howard continues to direct movies today, but he has never cast his former TV mom to be in any of his movies since Grand Theft Auto.
Ross is mostly retired from acting today but has contributed to a few projects within the past year, so our Christmas wish, if Ron Howard happens to see this: Maybe put Marion Ross in your next movie? Do it for Mrs. C!