Posted at: 07/11/2013 11:23 AM
Updated at: 07/11/2013 11:27 AM
She grew up going to movies at the Rivoli and the Broadway, and made a name for herself in Hollywood. But even now, for Marion Ross, days spent in her hometown of Albert Lea are happy days.
“I think it was very important, my background, where I came from," the actress said at the performing arts center that now bears her name.
It’s a background she’s never forgotten.
"The lake ... I lived at the lake, and I loved crossing the lake in the winter, ice booming under your feet."
But perhaps more than the lake, Marion Ross’ future was shaped by the movie theaters of Albert Lea.
"You'd be transported and then when I walked home I was Ingrid Bergman, I was Greer Garson."
After her sophomore year in high school, she changed the spelling of her first name from “Marian” to "Marion" because she thought it would look better on a marquee and moved to Minneapolis to study drama. In 1953 she made her movie debut in "Forever female", with Ginger Rogers and William Holden.
"I did have a Minnesota accent, you know," she joked.
In 1974 she began her signature roll as Marian Cunningham on "Happy Days." Starting in its third season the show was filmed in front of a live, studio audience. It took “Happy Days” to a new level.
"Show night was a very big night because the audience first of all was just crazy happy to be there, and it was a performance."
But despite a new life in Hollywood, she never lost touch with her roots.
"Midwest people are very open, very trusting," she said. “I cherish the kernel of God that's in everybody."
Marion Ross returns to Albert Lea this week for the opening of the Albert Lea Community Theater musical production of “Happy Days”.
She’s here as a theater goer, and is not part of the cast.
"Happy Days" will be performed starting tonight and running through July 20th at the Marion Ross Performing Arts Center in Albert Lea.
The production is sponsored by KAAL-TV, WDIO's sister station in southern Minnesota.