Friday, November 13, 2015

The Fonz

Henry Winkler as "The Fonz" in the 1970s sitcom "Happy Days".

Although Winkler had already shot the film, The Lords of Flatbush,
he was a relative unknown. In 1973, a year before that film was released, producer Tom Miller was instrumental in Winkler getting cast for the role of Arthur Herbert Fonzarelli, nicknamed "The Fonz" or "Fonzie", in Happy Days, which first aired in January 1974.

For Happy Days, director/producer Garry Marshall originally had in mind a completely opposite physical presence. Marshall sought to cast a hunky, blonde, Italian model-type male in the role of Fonzie, intended as a stupid foil to the real star, Ron Howard. However, when Winkler, a Yale School of Drama graduate, interpreted the role in auditions, Marshall immediately snapped him up. According to Winkler, "The Fonz was everybody I wasn't. He was everybody I wanted to be."

Winkler's character, though remaining very much a rough-hewn outsider, gradually became the focus of the show as time passed (in particular after the departure of Ron Howard). Initially, ABC executives did not want to see the Fonz wearing leather, thinking the character would appear to be a criminal. The first 13 episodes show Winkler wearing two different kinds of windbreaker jackets, one of which was green.

As Winkler said in a TV Land interview, "It's hard to look cool in a green windbreaker". Marshall argued with the executives about the jacket. In the end, a compromise was made. Winkler could only wear the leather jacket in scenes with his motorcycle, and from that point on, the Fonz was never without his motorcycle until season 2. Happy Days ended its run in 1984.

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