Monday, March 17, 2014
Keeping that in mind, let’s take a step back and consider for a moment that Happy Days premiered in the wake of The Godfather—and while the eagerly awaited Godfather II was being filmed.
Now, I’m not saying that Happy Days was a shameless prime-time knock-off of The Godfather, but I am saying that undeniable similarities exist between the Cunninghams and the Corleones: Howard (“Mr. C”) heads his family with the protectiveness, if not brute vigilance, of Don Vito. Marion, like Mama Corleone, is the loyal wife, mother, and cook.
And although The Fonz—lending ethnic provenance as “Arthur Fonzarelli”—Potsie, and Ralph Malph are not blood members of the Cunningham family, for all intents and purposes within the parameters of the show, they, along with Richie, serve as the four brothers. The hotheaded, impulsive, womanizing Fonzie is a dead ringer for Sonny; dim-witted Potsie aptly reflects Fredo; brainy Ralph Malph wouldn’t be far removed from Tom Hagen had the all-business consigliere possessed a sense of humor (or at least a pair of springy-eyeball glasses); and the shrewd, All-American Richie, of course, fills the role of war-hero Michael.
Joanie rounds out the family similarly to Connie Corleone, even marrying The Fonz’s cousin, Chachi—as Connie wed Carlo, who, similar to Chachi, was introduced to his future bride through Fonzie’s cinematic “progenitor,” Sonny.
Furthermore, could Arnold and Al be more brazen clones of Tessio and Clemenza? Savvy restaurateur Arnold, like Tessio, clearly is the smarter of the two, whereas Al displays Clemenza’s girth and love of food.
Extending beyond the family, Richie Cunningham’s history with women closely mimics that of Michael Corleone: Although a violent end is not implied, Richie’s first girlfriend, Gloria, passes quickly through his life, appearing in five early episodes before departing—somewhat akin to Michael’s brief, star-crossed marriage to Apollonia Vitelli. Later, Richie weds Lori Beth, who, in her prim-and-proper WASPiness, echoes Michael’s second wife, Kay Adams and, like Kay, knows nothing of Richie’s former life with Gloria.
And perhaps the producers threw in for good measure that—even though they’re not analogous characters—Potsie, like Johnny Fontane, made his bones with a microphone.
Finally, eldest son Chuck Cunningham isn’t exactly a replica of the traitorous Paulie Gatto, but it’s no stretch to believe that the mysteriously vanished Chuck ended up slumped over a steering wheel somewhere in the marshes of Milwaukee. (After all, orange—the color of Richie’s hair—is the Italian symbol of death, and Chuck went missing not long after being in the presence of his younger brother’s hair...)
Hell, Cunningham even sounds something like an Anglicized version of Corleone…
With this less-than-coincidental—and very lucrative—family model in place, Executive Producer Garry Marshall should have further capitalized on the Godfather films’ popularity through the show’s new theme song, especially because The Godfather II was largely set, like Happy Days, in the nostalgia-filled 1950s. This could best have been accomplished by having Truett Platt or Jerry McClain—whichever is performing the lead vocal in “Happy Days”—sing the lyric as how Michael’s new Sicilian bride, Apollonia, recited the days of the week in The Godfather. Or better yet—hire Simonetta Stefanelli, herself, to sing the theme in her adorably fractured English...
Mon-day, Tues-day, Happy Days
Thurs-day, Wednes-day, Happy Days
Fri-day, Sun-day, Sa-tur-day, Happy Days
The car explodes
That’s the way it goes
Fabrizio meant it for you!
(Images of The Godfather copyright Paramount Pictures; images of Happy Days copyright ABC.)