The Only Major Actors Still Alive From Happy Days

As the social and political turmoil of 1960s America spilled into the 1970s, network television executives and producers knew they could no longer ignore the thorny issues being argued over kitchen tables and at work/school. The Vietnam War, the Civil Rights Movement, the Equal Rights Amendment, etc. were driving a wedge between families and neighbors. So when Norman Lear trotted out the unrepentant bigot Archie Bunker on "All in the Family" in 1971, many people in the country felt seen. And while they might not agree on the hot-button topics explored on this show, they could at least laugh through their many disagreements.

There came a point, however (somewhere between President Richard M. Nixon's resignation and the end of the Vietnam War), where television viewers grew weary of all these socially conscious sitcoms. Yes, they were still watching them in huge numbers, but they needed a break from the nonstop tumult of their lives. They wanted to return to a time when their biggest worries were dating, bullies and getting reasonably good grades. They missed cruising the main drag of town with their friends, scarfing down cheeseburgers at the local diner and skirting curfew to squeeze in an extra few minutes of make out time at the drive-in.

Gerry Marshall's "Happy Days" was the nostalgia machine much of America was looking for. Though it wasn't an immediate hit upon its premiere in 1974, it gradually found its audience and, in its fourth season, ended the five-season Nielsen ratings reign of "All in the Family."

"Happy Days" was George Lucas' "American Graffiti" minus the somber ending. It was sweet, aggressively uncontroversial, and a total lie. But its wholesome Midwest-ness and dynamite cast kept us coming back for more. And though the show has been off the air for 40 years, a surprising number of its main cast is still with us. Who's still kicking? Read on!

Ron Howard

The showbiz spawn of actors Rance Howard and Jean Speegle got off to an early start as the adorable Mayberry moppet Opie Taylor on "The Andy Griffith Show." Viewers grew up along with Howard, so he was perfect casting in "American Graffiti" and its unofficial spinoff. Howard turned 20 during the show's first season, but he still had that baby face and aw-shucks demeanor. With his romantic struggles and garage band aspirations, he was the squarest hipster on television. Howard, of course, had aspirations of his own, which led him to leave "Happy Days" in 1980.

After directing "Grand Theft Auto" for Roger Corman in 1977, Howard turned into a Hollywood hit-maker with uproarious comedies like "Night Shift," "Splash," and "Gung Ho," and the fantastical duo of "Cocoon" and "Willow." He's been a go-to A-list director ever since, and though he's made a few stinkers along the way (most notably, "How the Grinch Stole Christmas," "Hillbilly Elegy," and the bafflingly popular "The Da Vinci Code" movies), we'll forgive a lot when you've got "Parenthood," "The Paper" and "Apollo 13" on your resume. Howard took home Best Picture and Best Director Oscars for "A Beautiful Mind" in 2001, and though he's primarily focused on directing, he'll occasionally take a break to narrate the adventures of the Bluth family on "Arrested Development."

Henry Winkler

There's never been a sweeter greaser than Arthur "Fonzie" Fonzarelli. Though he's plenty tough, he's a lover not a fighter — and when he has to step up to a bully (usually on behalf of Richie and the gang), his swagger and reputation almost always ends the altercation before it begins. What with his MFA from the prestigious Yale School of Drama and acclaimed performances as part of the Yale Repertory Theatre, Henry Winkler was an unlikely TV star. Though his breakout work on "Happy Days" was a big enough deal for studios to try him out as a full-fledged movie star, it didn't take. He tried his hand at directing like Howard, but only made two films before dipping behind the camera on occasion for various TV shows.

Winkler ultimately segued to being a character actor, a line of work that paid off with memorable performances in "Scream," "The Waterboy," "Arrested Development," and "Parks and Recreation." Great as Winkler was in these supporting turns, he found another gear as acting coach Gene Cousineau on Bill Hader's deliciously dark HBO comedy "Barry," which earned him a long-deserved Primetime Emmy in 2018. Winkler turned 78 last October, and he's never been more exciting or unpredictable.

Marion Ross

Marion Ross' film and television careers both began in 1953, and while she's done stellar work for the big screen throughout her 70-plus year run (including her Golden Globe-nominated performance in the "Terms of Endearment" sequel "The Evening Star"), she mostly thrived on the small screen. If you're making a list of the greatest TV moms, your top ten must include Ross' Marion Cunningham. Mrs. C. was eccentric, a little loopy, but unconditionally loving, invariably playing the good cop to Tom Bosley's gruff-yet-lovable Howard Cunningham (Bosley passed in 2010). She gave expert counsel to Richie and the younger Joanie (Erin Moran, who died of throat cancer in 2017), and doted on Fonzie when he moved into the Cunningham's attic later in the series' run.

Ross remained a familiar face and voice on television via the underrated CBS sitcom "Brooklyn Bridge" and "Gilmore Girls," and animated series like "SpongeBob SquarePants" (as Grandma Squarepants), "Family Guy," and "King of the Hill." She is currently enjoying a hard-earned retirement at the age of 95.

Anson Williams

As Potsie Weber, Richie's endearingly dim best friend, Anson Williams turned what could've been a one-note punchline of a character into a hard-to-pin-down goofball. He was nerdier than Richie, but a stand-up guy when it mattered — and, of course, one heck of a singer. When Potsie took the stage, his confidence soared. Girls (occasionally) swooned, and the live studio audience gamely shrieked like he was Dion's slightly dweeby kid brother.

Though Williams was never able to build on his "Happy Days" success as an actor, he became an incredibly prolific television director. He made his behind-the-camera debut on the ABC Afterschool Special "No Greater Gift," and, between 1987 and 2013, helmed episodes of some of the biggest shows on TV (including "L.A. Law," "Beverly Hills 90210," "Melrose Place," "Star Trek: Voyager," and "Lizzie McGuire"). His last acting credit came in 2016, but he's been busy outside of the entertainment world. Williams made an unsuccessful bid for mayor of Ojai, California in 2022, and, more happily, got married for the first time at the age of 73 in 2023. Don Most was his best man. 

And speaking of...

Don Most

Every circle of friends needs an obnoxious practical joker, and Ralph Malph ably fit that mold alongside Richie and Potsie. Ralph was more of a girl-chaser than Potsie, and had a penchant for running afoul of humorless tough guys at school and at Arnold's. Alas, Most was so effectively irritating as Ralph that he couldn't break free of this wiseass caricature. He made appearances on shows like "Charles in Charge" (opposite "Happy Days" chum Scott Baio), "Diagnosis: Murder," and "Glee," and performed with Robert Wuhl in a North Carolina production of "The Sunshine Boys," but has been more focused on music since leaving Ralph Malph behind.

Most took a shot at pop music stardom in the 1976 with a self-titled LP that failed to chart. 40 years later, he formed a swing band and continues to tour successfully across the country.

Scott Baio

Scott Baio was brought on to "Happy Days" during its fifth season to inject some young, crush-worthy blood into the still popular series. As Chachi Arcola, Fonzie's young cousin, Baio delivered and then some. The tough-talking scamp developed quickly into a love interest for Erin Moran's Joanie, and their torrid teenage love affair earned a sitcom spin off with "Joanie Loves Chachi." The series only lasted for two seasons, but Baio (who scored a big-screen hit in 1982 with the teen sex comedy "Zapped!") went on to land another long-running sitcom in 1984 via "Charles in Charge."

Baio worked steadily after "Charles in Charge" ended its run in 1990, but he wouldn't pop as an actor again until he law blog operator Bob Loblaw on "Arrested Development." Outside of television, Baio has been a loud and proud conservative supporter of former president Donald Trump, and a conspiracy-theory addled dingbat who's at least once insinuated that the 2012 slaughter of 20 elementary school children and six adults in Newton, Connecticut was a hoax. We've had more than enough of Scott Baio.

Lynda Goodfriend

Lynda Goodfriend made her "Happy Days" premiere during season five as Richie's main squeeze Lori Beth Allen, and hung around for one season after Howard's departure. With Richie in the military, the writers struggled to keep her character interesting; Lori Beth's most memorable moments wound up being her acceptance of Richie's over-the-phone marriage proposal and the Fonzie-assisted delivery of her first child.

Goodfriend went on to make appearances in "Happy Days" creator Garry Marshall's films "Nothing in Common," "Beaches," "Pretty Woman," and "Exit to Eden." She also directed the TV pilot for the Marshall produced "Four Stars" before becoming the Acting Chair of the New York Film Academy (a title she holds to this day).

Cathy Silvers

When Ron Howard left "Happy Days," the writers were faced with the challenge of expanding existing roles and creating a couple of new ones. One they didn't technically have to create was Jenny Piccolo, Joanie's troublemaking best friend whose wild off-screen antics had been a source of punchlines in previous seasons. Cathy Silvers had her work cut out for her when she brought the character to on-screen life in the eighth season, but as the daughter of comedy legend Phil Silvers (aka Sgt. Bilko), she could more than hold her own.

Silvers left "Happy Days" before its final season, though she did return for the big Joanie-Chachi wedding to serve as her best friend's maid of honor. Silver's post-Piccolo career included guest starring bits on "The Love Boat," "1st and 10," and "Wings," and a main cast part on the short-lived CBS sitcom "Foley Square." She retired from acting in the late 1990s, and currently operates a farm-to-table produce business in Los Angeles.

Ted McGinley

Lovingly known as the "Patron Saint of Shark Jumping" (in reference to the wince-inducing episode where Fonzie jumps his motorcycle over a shark tank), Ted McGinley cemented his reputation as a show-killer when he joined "Happy Days" during the first post-Richie season in 1980, and became a member of the main cast during the series' final two years. The handsome McGinley played Mrs. Cunningham's nephew Roger, who started off as a teacher and coach at Jefferson High before becoming a principal at Patton High. The series was well past its sell-by date at this point, and nothing drove this home more emphatically than the writers scrambling to find something, anything for Roger to do.

McGinley is also credited with being a death-knell late addition to long-running shows like "The Love Boat" and "Dynasty." To his credit, McGinley has had a ball making fun of his shark-jumping stature, and has managed to turn up on series such as "Married... with Children," "The West Wing," "Family Guy," and "Mad Man" without getting them immediately canceled. McGinley is still plugging away in movies and film at the age of 65, though it's possible he's never topped his work as fraternity scumbag Stan Gable in 1984's "Revenge of the Nerds." Fortunately, he's currently one of the funniest characters on the Apple TV+ show "Shrinking," so audiences can still laugh along with him today.