A chatty guy himself, Garry Marshall was surprised when a cool, silent type emerged as the star of his 1970s sitcom, “Happy Days,” which begins new life with the DVD release of its first season.
Henry Winkler’s biker Fonzie wasn’t even included in the opening credits in the first season of “Happy Days,” which starred Ron Howard as a 1950s teen. With barely any dialogue early on, the Fonz quickly became the show’s most popular character.
“People were telling me it turns out really the big shot is this Fonzie character, who has no lines,” director Marshall told The Associated Press in an interview to promote his latest movie, “The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement.” “He’s like the big weapon we’ve got here.”
Winkler’s role quickly expanded so that within a couple of seasons, he was technically the star, though Howard retained top billing.
Also debuting Tuesday on DVD is season one of Marshall’s spinoff “Laverne & Shirley,” which starred his sister, Penny Marshall, and Cindy Williams.
Marshall created “Happy Days” as an alternative to his work on the live-audience sitcom “The Odd Couple.” Early on, “Happy Days” was shot on sets and real locations.
“‘Happy Days’ was my artistic period,” Marshall said. “I wanted to make a little film each week, all one-camera shoots like a little film. Pretty! Nice! And they said, ‘Too soft, and too expensive.”’
By season three, the show had switched to the live-audience format, which continued through the end of its 11-year run.