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Marion Ross’ Spouse Was ‘Devastated’ & Screamed at Her ‘In a Rage’ When She Said She Was Pregnant

Gaone Pule
Jan 30, 2022
03:00 A.M.
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Marion Ross is famous for playing a traditional homemaker, Marion Cunningham, on the ABC television sitcom “Happy Days.” The actress’s marriage life was far from perfect, yet it lasted for 18 years. Ross was stunned by her husband’s reaction to her pregnancy news.

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Marion Ross made her first television debut at age 25 in "Forever Female" (1953). After that, she became a regular actress in TV shows like “The Lone Ranger,” “The Donna Reed Show," and “The Brady Bunch,” among others.

Everything else came crumbling down for the two-time Emmy nominee when she told her husband, actor Freeman Meskimen, that she was expecting their first child.

(L) Actress Marion Ross as Marion Cunningham on the TV series "Happy Days" dated June 28, 1974. (R) Marion Ross and Freeman Morse compute data on Red Cross blitz drive in Movie City in May 1957 | Photo: Getty Images

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MARION ROSS’ ONLY MARRIAGE

Ross’ former spouse Meskimen struggled to choose a career path back in the '90s as he was still trying to figure out another profession other than acting. He starred on "Sky Commando" and "Battle of Rogue River."

In her memoir, Ross wrote Meskimen (whom she called Effie) never downright admitted it, nor did she harshly ever throw it in his face that perhaps show business was not the right career for him to pursue:

“I think we were both well aware that to establish a career as an actor took a dedication and a determined mind work ethic, which I had in spades, and he completely lacked.”

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Marion Ross and Freeman Morse compute data on Red Cross blitz drive held in Movie CityFor release March 15, 1957 | Photo: Getty Images

However, the good part about him was that he was a supportive husband. According to Ross, Meskimen was helpful, cooperative, and understanding when she had to go away because of work in the first years of their union.

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The former couple had a quickie wedding in Arizona, and Ross shared she always felt like she was the one who had to take the lead in everything that happened in their lives.

TV star Marion Ross poses for the iconic TV show "Happy Days" Season 2 on July 10, 1975 | Photo: Getty Images

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She was the sole breadwinner, had to relocate to places where they would live, and once they settled, “I would handle all the day-to-day things that were just basic needs of living,” said Ross while adding:

“Our marriage was never one with any sort of balance.”

Marion Ross visits Hallmark's "Home & Family" at Universal Studios Hollywood on January 23, 2019 in Universal City, California | Photo: Getty Images

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The Minnesota native emphasized it was, as a matter of fact, constantly imbalanced and that there were many times when she wished that it was not the case and that things could be different:

“I wanted Effie to be like me, to be motivated and excited about making something of himself.”

"I was married to an unmotivated, unfocused, and moody drinker," she continued. Ross said Meskimen did go on auditions occasionally, but nothing came from them. He became discouraged and even started talking about giving up on acting altogether.

Marion Ross as (Marion) and Tom Bosley as Howard on "Happy Days" Season 2 on June 28, 1974 | Photo: Getty Images

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Ross was okay with it because it did not matter to her what career he pursued and instead preferred he did something with his life:

“I just wanted him to have a career, to have a reason to get up every morning, to feel that he was accomplishing something, and to be able to partner with me in making a living.”

Yet it was not a dealbreaker for Ross because she was always willing to give Meskimen the benefit of the doubt. She said she felt he was unhappy because things were not going as expected.

Marion Ross attends Garry Marshall Theatre's 3rd Annual Founder's Gala honoring Original "Happy Days" cast at The Jonathan Club on November 13, 2019 in Los Angeles, California | Photo: Getty Images

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Still, she did not resent him but merely felt sorry for him. Ross did not believe she could have done anything to change Meskimen because she was too focused on her career and did not even bother trying or focusing on his heavy drinking.

Despite being in an imbalanced marriage, she admitted that it was the life she wanted. Ross could not have lived with a controlling husband and would have never wanted to be in a weakened position in a relationship:

“I would have been miserable if I had been with someone who stood in the way of me achieving my dream, and with Effie, that was never an issue.”

Marion Ross speaks on stage at the "So the World May Hear Awards Gala" fund raising event at the Century Plaza Hotel, November 6, 2003 in Los Angeles, California | Photo: Getty Images

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Lucky for her, Meskimen was also content with the way their married life was because he was more than happy to allow her to be in control of everything else and had no problem with her drive, motivation, and a quest for her career.

Even though the two parties were happy with their lives, things took a twisted turn years later, and their marriage hit rock bottom.

Hollywood starlet Marion Ross as Marion Cunningham on "Happy Days" in November 1980 | Photo: Getty Images

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HUSBAND’S REACTION TO PREGNANCY NEWS

Ross fell pregnant, and to her shock, when she broke what was supposed to be the happy news to Meskimen, she got a response she never expected from her spouse.

The “Gilmore Girls” star had suspected that she was pregnant for about a month but held off on telling Meskimen before a doctor confirmed the pregnancy.

Marion Ross arrives at the 8th Annual TV Land Awards at Sony Studios on April 17, 2010 in Culver City, California | Photo: Getty Images

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When she finally learned that she was expecting, Ross was ecstatic, but the reaction from her husband was the total opposite.

Meskimen was not happy about the prospect of them being parents and was devastated and angry upon learning about the pregnancy. According to his wife, “he screamed at me in rage that was unlike any he had ever displayed before,” and bluntly asked her:

“What have you done?”

Marion Ross on the US comedy series "Love, American Style" aired on February 25, 1972 | Photo: Getty Images

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Ross shared she tried to calm him down, telling him not to worry and saying that it was okay because she would take care of the baby. Yet he was still furious about the news.

“When I look back, I believe it was that initial reaction to me being pregnant that, for the first time, made me slowly start to fall out of love with him. If he was devastated by the news that I was pregnant, I was equally devastated by his reaction,” she said.

Author Marion Ross speaks at her book signing for "My Days: Happy and Otherwise" at Barnes & Noble at The Grove on March 27, 2018 in Los Angeles, California | Photo: Getty Images

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At the time, Ross was also dealing with feelings of frustration and inadequacy over her career not progressing as she had hoped and, on the other hand, a spouse who was enraged that they were going to have a child. 

Despite being taken aback by Meskimen’s reaction, a part of Ross felt that he just needed time to digest the news and would eventually come around.

Marion Ross attends the American Heart Association's Go Red For Women Red Dress Collection 2018 at Hammerstein Ballroom on February 8, 2018 in New York City | Photo: Getty Images

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CARY GRANT’S REACTION 

While her husband did not receive the news too well, her co-star Cary Grant reacted differently. At the time, Ross was on location at a naval station in Key West, Florida filming. She played the role of a nurse stationed on a pink submarine in the 1959 movie “Operation Petticoat."

At that period, Ross had not shared the suspicions of her pregnancy with anyone until one day when she got called for a scene that she believed was unsafe for a pregnant woman.

An undated image of American actor Cary Grant who starred in several Hitchcock films | Photo: Getty Images

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They were supposed to go out to the submarine set, climb down into the sub, and do some underwater scenes. Nervous as she was, Ross noticed Grant talking to another castmate and then came over to greet her, and she said to him:

“I don’t think I should go down in this sub. I think I may be a little bit pregnant.”

The actor sat down next to Ross, put his arm around her, and swiftly said, "You're pregnant!" and when she “looked up at him, he had tears in his eyes. He was so excited for me, and we had this incredible moment together," Ross explained.

Marion Ross attends Love Boat Cast Christening of Regal Princess Cruise Ship at Port Everglades on November 5, 2014 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida | Photo: Getty Images

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She became emotional as one of the most famous movie stars sat beside her and told her how wonderful it was that she would have a baby. Grant also advised her not to overexert herself too much while doing the submarine scene.

However, because she was not 100 percent certain that she was pregnant, Ross asked him to keep the news a secret, and he did. The "Skyward" star did whatever the script or the director required her to do and later shared she enjoyed being in Florida and working on the film.

Marion Ross arrives with son actor Jim Meskimen at the "Not Forgotten" Los Angeles premiere at the Mann Chinese 6 on May 15, 2009 in Los Angeles, California | Photo: Getty Images

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On Mother's Day in May 2020, her now grown-up first child, son Jim Meskimen, asked his mother about his connection to Grant.

The radiant 93-year-old Ross recalled when she told the British native that she was two months pregnant and shared how endearing the moment was. Jim, 62, added that he and Grant would forever be connected spiritually.

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ROSS' KIDS, DIVORCE, AND LIFE AFTER

Ross and Meskimen got married in 1951 and eventually divorced in 1969. She was forty years old at the time, jobless, and struggled to find gigs with two young children. The TV veteran once revealed to Closer Weekly:

"I rented out one of the bedrooms in my house to pick up some money. I'd think I made $35 today. It was hard.”

Marion Ross and daughter Ellen Ross attending Fifth Annual Mother-Daughter Fashion Show on March 27, 1986 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, California | Photo: Getty Images

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The divorce left her broke and poor, with her career stalling at the same time. Ross remembered a moment when her son asked why they could not have a hairdryer, and she responded: "We can't afford it."

Regardless of Meskimen's reaction to her pregnancy news and being broke and poor following their divorce, Ross raised two beautiful kids she shares with her ex-husband, and they have great careers.

Marion Ross arrives at the 10th Annual LA Femme International Film Festival closing night awards ceremony at LA Film School on October 19, 2014 in Hollywood, California | Photo: Getty Images

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On her motherly duties, she said, “I did a great job.” Her eldest child, Jim, is an accomplished actor, improviser, and voice artist well known across TV and film audiences.

Several times, he appeared on the British series "Whose Line Is It Anyway" and was a recurring character on the fan-favorite "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air," for two seasons.

Ross’ daughter, Ellen Plummer, is a former writer-producer of "Friends" (1994), "Veronica's Closet" (1997), and "Welcome to the Captain" (2008)."

Marion Ross and actor Paul Michael attending Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Gala honoring Top College Films at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on March 14, 1993 in Beverly Hills, California | Photo: Getty Images

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After Ross divorced Meskimen, she found her true love, Paul Michael, at the age of 60, and their relationship lasted for 23 years until his death. The love birds met by fluke in 1988 when a show Michael was producing was shelved because the theater had burned down.

When the actor approached a new venue about putting up a show, the place wanted a “name” star in the production and brought in Ross. Michael shared at the time:

“So, she walked in the room, and she looked like a dream. So, I spread my arms like that, and she came right to me. We hugged each other. Nobody introduced us or anything. It was just like that.”

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Marion Ross and Paul Michael attending Women's Press Club Golden Apple Awards at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on December 13, 1998 in Beverly Hills, California | Photo: Getty Images

They used to finish each other's sentences, clasp hands while they talked, gazed dreamily while the other spoke, and generally engaged in every mushy cliché of young, besotted lovers.

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"People are capable of hot romances as they get older," said Ross of their relationship, adding, "We sort of forget that and sort of give up on that."

The two were close companions on and off stage after appearing in several productions together. “These are the happiest days of my life with Marion,” said Michael back then. Sadly, he died in July 2011 of heart failure in Woodland Hills, California, at age 84.

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