Henry Winkler (born October 30, 1945) is an American actor, director, comedian, producer and author. He is known for his role as Arthur Fonzarelli in Happy Days.

"The Fonz," or "Fonzie," a leather-clad greaser and auto mechanic, started out as a minor character at the show's beginning, but had achieved top billing by the time the show ended.

Early life[edit | edit source]

Winkler was born on the West Side of Manhattan, New York City, NY, the son of Ilse Anna Marie Winkler (née Hadra) and Harry Irving Winkler, a lumber company president. Winkler's Jewish parents emigrated from Berlin, Germany, to the United States in 1939, on the eve of World War II. Winkler said that his parents came to the United States for a six-month business trip but that they knew they were never going back.[1] His father smuggled the only assets the family had left, family jewels, in a box of chocolate that he carried under his arm.[2]

Although they did not keep kosher, Winkler was raised in the traditions of Conservative Judaism,[3][4] but said that he was not religious as an adult. The family attended Congregation Habonim, where his mother, a homemaker, ran the Judaica shop. His parents were founding members of the temple.[1] Winkler has a sister, Beatrice.[2]

Winkler said he was very anxious as a child because of his undiagnosed dyslexia. He said he was considered to be "slow, stupid, not living up to my potential." He said his father spoke 11 languages and could do math in his head and did not understand Winkler's problems at school, where Winkler would celebrate a C grade. Winkler has said that his relationship with his German parents (now deceased) was strained, due at least partially to their attitude towards his undiagnosed dyslexia.[5] He stated his father referred to him as "dumb dog" and often punished him for his difficulties in school.[1]

Winkler attended P.S. 87 on W. 78th Street and then graduated from McBurney School in 1963, both of which were located in Manhattan's Upper West Side neighborhood.[6] Winkler said he did not graduate with his class because of his learning disability and problems with a geometry class, which he finally passed after attending summer school.[7]

In 1967, Winkler received his B.A. degree from Emerson College. At Emerson, he was a member of the Alpha Pi Theta Fraternity. In 1970, Winkler earned an M.F.A. degree from the Yale School of Drama. In 1978, Emerson awarded Winkler an honorary D.H.L. degree. Winkler has also received an honorary D.H.L. degree from Austin College.

Career[edit | edit source]

Acting[edit | edit source]

Winkler said he had wanted to be an actor from the time he was a young child.[1]

Winkler's first job on television was as an extra on a game show in New York. He received $10 for the role.[1]

After working in theater and getting fired from a play in Washington, Winkler returned to New York City and supported himself by appearing in television commercials, one year doing over 30. He was able to support himself with the commercial work so he could do theater for free at Manhattan Theater Club.[1]

He also appeared in 1973 in season four of The Mary Tyler Moore Show in the episode, "The Dinner Party" as Rhoda's date, Steve Waldman, and in episodes of The Bob Newhart Show and Rhoda.

Happy Days[edit | edit source]

Although Henry had already shot the film The Lords of Flatbush, he was relatively unknown. In 1973, a year before that film was released, producer Tom Miller was instrumental in Winkler getting cast for the role of Arthur Herbert Fonzarelli, nicknamed "The Fonz" or "Fonzie", in Happy Days, which first aired in January 1974.[8]

For Happy Days, director/producer Garry Marshall originally had in mind a completely opposite physical presence. Marshall sought to cast a hunky, blonde, Italian model-type male in the role of Fonzie, intended as a stupid foil to the real star of the series, Ron Howard. However, when Winkler interpreted the role in auditions, Marshall immediately snapped him up. According to Winkler, "The Fonz was everybody I wasn't. He was everybody I wanted to be."[9]

Winkler's character, though remaining very much a rough-hewn outsider, gradually became the focus of the show as time passed (in particular after the departure of Ron Howard).[10] Initially, ABC executives did not want to see the Fonz wearing leather, thinking the character would appear to be a criminal. The first 13 episodes show Winkler wearing two different kinds of toupe windbreaker jackets, one of which was green. As Winkler said in a TV Land interview, "It's hard to look cool in a green windbreaker". Marshall argued with the executives about the jacket. In the end, a compromise was made. Winkler could only wear the leather jacket in scenes with his motorcycle, and from that point on, the Fonz was never without his motorcycle until season 2. Happy Days ended its run in 1984.

1970s:Early career work[edit | edit source]

During his decade on Happy Days, Henry also starred in a number of movies, including The Lords of Flatbush (1974), playing a troubled Vietnam veteran in Heroes (1977), The One and Only (1978), An American Christmas Carol (TV movie, 1979).

That year Winkler was also narrator and executive producer of Who Are the DeBolts? And Where Did They Get Nineteen Kids?, a documentary film about Dorothy and Bob DeBolt, an American couple who have adopted 14 children, some of whom are severely disabled war orphans (in addition to raising Dorothy's five biological children and Bob's biological daughter). The film won an Academy Award for Best Feature-length Documentary in 1978,[11] as well as the Directors Guild of America (DGA) Award and the Humanitas Award for producer and director John Korty in 1979. A 50-minute version of the film shown on ABC-TV in December 1978, earned a 1979 Emmy Award for Outstanding Individual Achievement - Informational Program and an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Informational Program for Winkler, Korty, and producers Warren Lockhart and Dan McCann.

Winkler was also one of the hosts of the 1979 "Music for UNICEF" Concert.

Acting/Directing work after "Happy Days"[edit | edit source]

After Happy Days was canceled by ABC, Henry began to concentrate on producing and directing. Within months of the program's cancellation, he and John Rich had collaborated to establish Winkler-Rich Productions; whenever Rich or Ann Daniels was uninvolved, his company was called Fair Dinkum Productions. He chose the name in a nod to Australia, where 'fair dinkum' is a common Australian term suggesting a person or thing 'direct' 'honest' 'fair' or 'authentic'. He produced several television shows, including MacGyver, So Weird, and Mr. Sunshine, Sightings, the 1985 made-for-television film Scandal Sheet, for which he was executive producer; and the game shows Wintuition and Hollywood Squares (the latter from 2002–2004, occasionally serving as a sub-announcer).

Winkler appeared in Night Shift, a 1982 American comedy film directed by Happy Days co-star and friend Ron Howard (it was Howard's first Hollywood directoral credit), in which he co-starred with Michael Keaton and Shelley Long.

He also directed several movies including the Billy Crystal movie ''Memories of Me, (1988) and Cop and a Half (1993) with Burt Reynolds.

More recent work[edit | edit source]

In the summer/fall 2010 season, Winkler joined the cast of Adult Swim's television adaptation of Rob Corddry's web series Childrens Hospital, playing a stereotypically feckless hospital administrator. Then, in late September 2010, he provided the voice of Professor Nathaniel Zib in the Lego Hero Factory mini-series, Rise of the Rookies.

In 2011, Winkler guest starred as Ambush Bug in the series finale of Batman: The Brave and the BOld.

In August 2012, Henry announced on Twitter that he would be returning to the fourth season of Arrested Development.[12]

Winkler appeared in the film Here Comes the Boom, released October 12, 2012, as the music teacher at Wilkinson High School.

Between 2013 and 2015, Winkler appeared in 9 episodes of Parks and Recreation as Dr. Saperstein, father of Jean-Ralphio and Mona-Lisa.

He stars in the British television adaption of his Hank Zipzer book series as the teacher, Mr. Rock. Mr. Rock was based on a music teacher Winkler had in high school at McBurney. Winkler said that the real Mr. Rock believed in him, was the only teacher there who he felt did. The show airs on the CBBC Channel in the United Kingdom.[13]

In March 2010, Winkler was cast in a recurring role on USA Network's Royal Pains, as Hank and Evan's ne'er-do-well father Eddy.

Winkler is a spokesman for reverse mortgages through Quicken Loans.

Works and publications[edit | edit source]

In addition to the Hank Zipzer series, which has 14 books, Winkler has written another series with Lin Oliver called Here's Hank, a prequel to the Zipzer stories.[6]

  • Winkler, Henry. The Other Side of Henry Winkler: My Story. New York: Warner Books, 1976. ISBN 978-0-446-87340-6, OCLC 3120426.
  • Winkler, Henry. I've Never Met an Idiot on the River: Reflections on Family, Photography and Fly-Fishing. San Rafael, Calif: Insight Editions, 2011. ISBN 978-1-608-87020-2, OCLC 670481642.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 Emmy TV Legends: Henry Winkler. Archive of American Television (EmmyTVLegends.org). Retrieved on August 4, 2017.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Episode 593 - Henry Winkler. Audio podcast interview (13 April 2015). Retrieved on 18 April 2015.
  3. Welcome to my world: Henry Winkler. The Scotsman (15 May 2009). Retrieved on 9 December 2014.
  4. Nathan, John (9 January 2014). Happy days after hard knocks. The Jewish Chronicle. Retrieved on 9 December 2014.
  5. Henry Winkler, Actor, Producer, Author. The Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity. Retrieved on 15 December 2012.
  6. 6.0 6.1 "How dyslexia made 'Happy Days' star Henry Winkler an author", Daily News, 23 February 2014. Retrieved on 20 April 2015. 
  7. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named Guardian-Zipzer-2014
  8. "It's The Fonz! Ayyyy—the Fonz Is a Smash, but Henry Winkler Finds Some Nightmares in His Happy Daze", People, 24 May 1976. Retrieved on 20 April 2015. 
  9. Remarks to Oprah Winfrey on The Oprah Winfrey Show, original airdate February 26, 2008
  10. "Happy Days - The Third Season", DVD Talk, 27 November 2007. Retrieved on 16 August 2010. 
  11. NY Times: Who Are the DeBolts? And Where Did They Get Nineteen Kids?. NY Times. Retrieved on 2008-11-15.
  12. Twitter / hwinkler4real: "I Am Supposed To Be Memorizing". Twitter.com. Retrieved on 2012-12-15.
  13. Interview with Henry Winkler (21 January 2008). Retrieved on 20 April 2015.

External links[edit | edit source]

Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.