Welcome back to another installment of Kip Pullman's American Graffiti Blog. This post pays homage to drive-in diner, Arnolds that was seen each week on TV's Happy Days. There is a cross-pollination between the 1973 film, American Graffiti and the TV show, which first aired in January 1974. One of the similarities is between Mels Drive-in featured in Graffiti and and the outdoor set of Arnold's diner in Happy Days. This post is a tribute to the drive-up restaurant that looked so real on TV that we wanted to hang out there with the Happy Days gang.
The association between American Graffiti and the TV series Happy Days is remarkable and the two are definitely linked in some way but not necessary the way most fans think they are. Even though Happy Days starred Ron Howard and premiered in early 1974, which suggests it was inspired by the success of American Graffiti, it actually pre-dates the film, and was as an unsold TV pilot in 1971. ABC aired it in February 1972 as part of the weekly anthology series Love, American Style.
There was no direct spin-off between Happy Days and American Graffiti, but ABC clearly wanted to remind people of the movie. “Rock Around the Clock,” which opened American Graffiti, was also Happy Days‘ theme song for its first two seasons, and even used the same neon style font in its credits. In addition, Arnold's drive-in resembles Mels drive-in featured in Graffiti, as both were the hub of the gang's activities and the place where the kids in both the film and TV show converged.
|Where do you hang a tray on a motorcycle?|
|Arthur's from the pilot episode / 1001 S. Victory Blvd, Burbank|
|Some of the shots were set up purposely to showcase Arthur's Restaurant sign|
|Flashing neon and selected lighting gave Arthur's a carnival-like look similar to what Visual-Consultant, Haskel Wexler achieved with the look of Mels in American Graffiti.|
|Potsie searches the busy drive-in for Ritchie|
There were three known owners of Arnolds throughout the 10 years that the show aired. Matsuo Takahashi “Arnold” (Pat Morita) was the crazy, irritable owner of the diner for the show’s third season who also managed the restaurant and flipped burgers for the local teenagers. Arnold later sold the restaurant to a good-natured, easy-going Italian-American named Al Delvecchio (Al Molinaro) who retained the name of the restaurant. Later in the series, "The Fonz" became Al's business partner at Arnold's Restaurant.
|The 1956 Presidential elections come to Arnold's|
|"I like IKE & my bike likes IKE!"|
“Let’s face it,” he told the old Milwaukee Journal, “Arnold’s is really a compilation of everybody’s recollections of the drive-in of the ’50s. It’s just that the Milky-Way was closest to me when I grew up on Bay Ridge” Ave. in Whitefish Bay.
|Outdoor menu board|
|Ritchie meets Fonzie's cousin, Spike (Danny Butch)|
|Car Hop, Wendy (Misty Rowe) is anxious to serve the boys|
Sometimes to the immediate right of the restaurant there was a large brick wall. On the other side there appeared to be a tall apartment building(s) mixed in with really tall homes that had Spanish style roofing. Other times there is no wall but a tall grayish stucco building with a sign that reads "All American Frozen Foods." There is also a large neon EAT sign to the right of the interior entrance of Arnold's whose position changes height and locations throughout various episodes and bushes below the sign that disappear and re-appear.
So what’s with all the changing scenery? Perhaps the Arnold's set was torn down when they weren’t using it. Then when a particular episode called for an outdoor scene at Arnold’s the set was re-constructed on a random part of the Paramount back lot that wasn’t being used at the time. Hey, as my friend Jeff says, Rumors have to start somewhere.
|Carhop, Marsha (Beatrice Colen) reports a crime|
|Joanie (Erin Moran) poses with the boys. Notice the Bicycle shop in the background|
|Bicycle shop (Click on the pics to enlarge)|
It was easier for many of the the cast to use bicycles to get around the Paramount back lot. This may explain the seeming surplus of bikes at Arnold's. They were transportation and unlike golf-carts they didn't have to be hid from the camera.
|Hanging a right to enter the restaurant's parking lot.|
...next door to the bicycle shop, directly across the street of Arnold's parking lot entrance is a gas station. This extra attention to dressing up some of the surrounding buildings really helps create an interesting and realistic outdoor ambience.
|Notice the odd looking buildings or homes on the other side of the wall.|
|Aaaaay, Kip's American Graffiti Blog is cool!|
The later seasons shamelessly recycled a few seconds of stock footage from the first two seasons (such as the above picture and the one below) for establishing shots of Arnold's in each episode.
|Arnold's Drive-up restaurant looking abandon before it was finally torn down.|
~ ENDE ~