Thursday, October 30, 2014
The man behind one of the most popular TV characters ever is having a birthday today! The multi-talented, super-nice in real life and dedicated to doing good Henry Winkler is 68 years old today. The man who forty years ago caused a pop culture tsunami when he turned supporting character Arthur Fonzarelli on Happy Days into the mega-popular "The Fonz" has been a fan favorite ever since, and for good reason. A good buy, a great character, a long and successful career -- you don't get much better than that. Henry Winkler is genuine classic TV royalty.
In addition to his 11 seasons (1973 - 1984) as Fonzie on Happy Days and occasionally crossing-over to Laverne & Shirley, Joanie Loves Chachi and in animated form on The Fonz and the Happy Days Gang, Yale acting grad Winkler starred in a number of feature films including Heroes, The One and Only, Night Shift and The Waterboy. But he was primarily a TV guy; TV movie aficionados will remember him in the 1975 TVM Katharine co-starring Sissy Spacek as a wealthy debutante who turns into a radical activist, or as a homegrown Scrooge in An American Christmas Carol from 1979. Many other series starring roles and guest roles have also liberally peppered his resume, including his very popular stint on the cult comedy Arrested Development.
Perhaps less known may be Winkler's output as a television producer, including serving as executive producer for the seven-season hit series MacGuyver beginning in 1985, several seasons of Hollywood Squares, and many other titles over the four decades he's been a show business figure. All that, combined with his work helping kids overcome learning disabilities including dyslexia (which he had as a child), makes Henry Winkler a wonderful example of a that rare species of show business celebrity who is also a good human being. (Interesting that his Happy Days co-star Ron Howard is also known as a good guy...must have been something in the water on that set.)
Here's a little selection of Henry Winkler clips showing some of his charm, versatility, pop culture chops and good heartedness.
Winkler played a precursor to Fonzie in the 1974 movie The Lord's of Flatbush:
On The Merv Griffin Show from 1977:
The Fonz is so cool:
Yes, Fonzie really did jump the shark in Happy Days' fifth season; the term has come to mean when a show turns from being good to stinking a little. Happy Days was not at that point yet though it did get a little silly sometimes, mostly because Fonzie was such a popular character that the show started to become fixated on him.
Henry Winkler did an extensive interview for the Archive of American Television and the Emmy folks. See an excerpt here and you can watch the whole thing by clicking here:
Henry Winkler with Arsenio Hall in 1990:
Henry Winkler on the joys of reading:
The Huffington Post also did a birthday post on Henry Winkler; you can read it here.
It's comforting to know that somebody who has been in the public eye for such a long time continues to be a great person, too.
Happy Birthday, Henry Winkler!