3 Fonzie Was Originally a Generic, Silent Bully
At this point, Fonzie is more well-known and recognizable than the show he starred in -- and in fact many people who know about Fonzie today have never seen an actual episode of Happy Days at all. The quintessential '50s cool dude resonated with audiences like few other characters did; without him, Happy Days would almost certainly be one more short-lived footnote in sitcom history. And that almost happened, because the Fonz was originally slated to be nothing at all.
Roman Milert / Photos.com
They wanted an unmanned motorcycle, but it kept falling over.
Hell, he didn't even get his name in the original opening -- it was one of those bit parts that only got billing in the closing credits, right around the time most viewers had already switched to one of the other two channels they had at the time. That's because the original character, if you can call it that, was just a generic street tough, a near-mute motorcycle rider whom the other kids feared. He likely would've faded into oblivion, along with the rest of the show, had Henry Winkler not raised a few objections prior to filming the pilot. Namely, that he hated the character and didn't want to portray him as written. The Fonz was a bully, carried around cigarettes, and chewed gum; Winkler said nay to all three.
"'I came here to kick ass and chew ...'? Nope. Not sayin' it. Pass the milk."
Surprisingly, instead of just canning his prima donna ass, the producers agreed to let Winkler play the Fonz his way. Then, one final bit of improv cemented the character in TV history: In one scene, Winkler was supposed to comb his hair in the bathroom mirror, like all the kids did back then. Instead, he sauntered up to the mirror, started to comb, and immediately stopped. He stared into the mirror, arms outstretched, and realized his hair was already perfect, and he was already the coolest guy in the world. "AYYY!"
This cocky persona took off immediately and catapulted the Fonz and Happy Days to the top of the ratings. Add in a few "AYYYYYYYY"s and "WHOOOOOOOA"s (also created by Winkler, who used the phrases a lot while horseback riding), accompanied by a thumbs-up, and the show had itself a bona fide icon. One that wouldn't have existed if Winkler had actually followed the script.
2 Tarzan's Original Battle Yell Sounded Pathetic
20th Century Fox
Like Fonzie, Tarzan exists in pop culture almost completely detached from the medium where he appeared. You'll be hard-pressed to find anyone these days who has seen an actual Tarzan movie, even the Brendan Fraser one, but everybody still knows two things about the character: He swings from vines, and he does that elaborate yell.
The yell is something that everybody recognizes, and that everybody has tried to do at least once, almost certainly to disastrous effect.
Dan Brandenburg / Photos.com
You just tried it, didn't you? Of course you did.
The yell itself was made famous by actor Johnny Weissmuller, who portrayed Tarzan for 16 years. It's a good thing he came along, because everyone before him had nearly run the yell into the ground through sheer awfulness. As you hopefully know, Tarzan first appeared in a book series, and his yell was described as "the victory cry of the bull ape" (whatever the fuck that is). In 1918, Elmo Lincoln became the first actor to vocalize said cry, albeit in a silent film. Years later, he appeared on TV to show us what he sounded like. He really shouldn't have.
What the shit was that? Who greenlit the mighty Tarzan yowling like a giant baby throwing a temper tantrum? It would somehow get worse going forward, as 1929's Tarzan the Tiger starred Frank Merrill as the ape man, giving us his version of the yell:
So we're no longer crying like a baby who wants his ba-ba, but now we've become a clumsy oaf who just had his foot crushed by a brick. That's ... progress? OK, how about the 1932 radio serial, with James Pierce as Tarzan? Anything better?
Not really, no. Unless you consider groaning about a horrible stomachache, followed by some high-pitched wailing straight out of Deliverance, to be an improvement. So when Weissmuller showed up to film 1932's Tarzan the Ape Man, he could have completely mailed a yell in, and it would still have been an improvement. Instead, he drew from his yodeling past, took a deep breath, and gave us this:
And there you have it. Because one actor finally realized that Tarzan shouldn't sound like he was in constant pain, the character's popularity exploded, Weissmuller earned himself a lucrative (albeit woefully typecast) career, and his yell immediately became the gold standard. Even Disney knew better than to screw with the yell, and they screw with everything.