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Marion Ross (born October 25, 1928) is a Golden Globe-nominated American actress, best known for her role as, "Marion Cunningham," on the TV series Happy Days from 1974 to 1984.
Born Marian Ross in Watertown, Minnesota, she lived in Waconia and then moved to Willmar and eventually to Albert Lea, Minnesota. At the age of 13, she changed the spelling of her name from "Marian" to "Marion" because she thought it would look better on a marquee. After completing her sophomore year in high school, she moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota, and worked as an au pair while studying drama at the MacPhail Center for the Arts, and attending Southwest High School. A year later, her family moved to San Diego, California. She graduated from Point Loma High School in San Diego. Ross enrolled in San Diego State University, where she was named the school's most outstanding actress. After graduation in 1950, she performed in summer theater in La Jolla, California. The director was impressed by her talent, and recommended that she try for work in films. Ross made her 1953 film debut in Forever Female, starring Ginger Rogers and William Holden. She found steady work in film, appearing in The Glenn Miller Story (1954), Sabrina (1954), Teacher's Pet (1957), and Operation Petticoat (1959). Her career on television also 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 George Burns and Gracie Allen Show, The Barbara Stanwyck Show, The Brothers Brannagan (two episodes as Diane Warren), The Eleventh Hour, The Brady Bunch, Love Boat and Night Court. In the 1961-1962 season, she played Gertrude Berg's 33-year-old daughter, Susan Green, in CBS's sitcom Mrs. G. Goes to College. Ross' most famous role was in the long-running series Happy Days from 1974 to 1984, in which she played Marion Cunningham, mother of Ritchie, Chuck and Joanie. She later starred in the short-lived but critically acclaimed drama Brooklyn Bridge, which ran on CBS in the early 1990s. She also played a part in CBS' Touched by an Angel as a homeless lady who talked about the JFK conspiracy, and was in the final two episodes that closed out the series. In 1996, Ross starred as Rosie Dunlop opposite Shirley MacLaine in the Terms of Endearment sequel, The Evening Star. Ross has acted on Broadway and on film, but she prefers doing TV. In recent years, she played recurring roles as Drew Carey's mother on The Drew Carey Show; as evil Bernice Forman on That '70s Show; and as Lorelai "Trix" Gilmore and Marylin on Gilmore Girls. She also frequently appears on Hollywood Squares, and did voiceover work as "Grandma SquarePants" on SpongeBob SquarePants. In an episode of the ABC drama Brothers & Sisters that aired on January 21, 2007, she guest-starred as Ida, the not-so-loving mother of Nora and Saul, making an unwelcome visit to celebrate a milestone in her daughter's life. Ross lives in Los Angeles, California with actor Paul Michael. Her two adult children also work in entertainment: Jim Meskimen's credits include How the Grinch Stole Christmas and appearances on Whose Line Is It Anyway?, and Ellen Plummer was a writer/producer on Friends. On Saturday, June 7, 2008, the Albert Lea Civic Theater in Albert Lea, Minnesota changed its name to the Marion Ross Performing Arts Center.