Garry Marshall, creator of the 1970s US sitcoms Happy Days, The Odd Couple, Laverne And Shirley and Mork And Mindy and director of Pretty Woman and The Princess Diaries, died on July 19. He was 81. The news was first reported by Access Hollywood.
Marshall’s first bigscreen blockbuster was 1990’s Pretty Woman, starring Julia Roberts as a highly idealised hooker and Richard Gere as her client-cum-Prince Charming. The romantic comedy grossed US$463mil worldwide. Roberts was Oscar nominated for best actress, the film was nominated for a Golden Globe for best comedy/musical – and Marshall scored a Cesar nomination as Pretty Woman drew a mention in the French awards’ foreign-film category.
In 1970, Marshall had a substantial hit when he developed and executive produced an adaptation of Neil Simon’s play The Odd Couple for ABC. The show drew several Emmy nominations for outstanding comedy series and wins for stars Jack Klugman and Tony Randall over the course of its five-season run. (In 2015 Marshall served as a consultant on a CBS remake of the series that starred Matthew Perry and Thomas Lennon.)
Marshall penned the 1971 pilot for Happy Days, which was recycled in 1972 as a segment of ABC’s comedy anthology series Love, American Style called Love And The Happy Days.
Happy Days debuted as a series in 1974, riding high on the wave of 1950s nostalgia generated in part by the success of American Graffiti. During its peak, Happy Days was the No.1 show on television during the 1976-77 season and Henry Winkler’s the Fonz became a cultural touchstone, with his leather jacket eventually landing in the Smithsonian.
Years later, Marshall acknowledged being the one behind the idea, for a 1977 episode, of putting Fonzie on water skis – an idea so outlandish that it spawned the phrase “jumped the shark”, said in reference to a show that is clearly past its prime.
Nevertheless, Happy Days spawned Laverne And Shirley, which Marshall created with Lowell Ganz and Mark Rothman, and Mork And Mindy, which Marshall created with Dale McRaven and Joe Glauberg. Laverne And Shirley starred Cindy Williams and Penny Marshall, Garry’s sister, who would go on to her own successful career as a director of feature films, while Mork And Mindy began the career of star Robin Williams.
Marshall’s tear-jerking chick flick Beaches (1988), starring Bette Midler and Barbara Hershey, scored with audiences, if not with critics, racking up a domestic gross of US$57mil and a healthy afterlife on homevideo.
Marshall reunited with his Pretty Woman stars Roberts and Gere for the 1999 box office success Runaway Bride, about a woman who keeps leaving her fiances at the altar. The The Princess Diaries and its sequel were also big hits for Marshall. The films made a star of Anne Hathaway.
Marshall took on a smaller film, Georgia Rule, and while the critics were generally unimpressed, the New York Times lauded the film, starring Jane Fonda, Lindsay Lohan and Felicity Huffman, for some surprising qualities. The star-packed Valentine’s Day and sequel New Year’s Day were more commercially successful enterprises. Another sequel, Mother’s Day, following the same formula of lining up a large cast of top names for small parts, in this case Julia Roberts, Jennifer Aniston, Kate Hudson and Jason Sudeikis, was released in April 2016.
Garry Kent Maschiarelli was born in the Bronx, the son of a dance and a director of industrial films who would later become a producer on some of his son’s TV programmes. He graduated from Northwestern Univerisity’s Medill School of Journalism and began his career as a joke writer for comedians including Joey Bishop, then worked on the writing staff of The Tonight Show With Jack Paar.
Marshall also had a long acting career that began in the early 1960s. He played a hoodlum in the James Bond film Goldfinger and made appearances, most uncredited, in many of his film and TV projects. He had a recurring role on Murphy Brown as the head of the network and guested on shows ranging from Monk and The Sarah Silverman Show to ER.
His many small film roles included a part in sister Penny’s A League Of Their Own as a cheapskate baseball team owner, which he reprised in the brief TV series based on the movie. In his son Scott Marshall’s 2006 comedy Keeping Up With The Steins, Marshall had a small but notable role as the grandfather of the bar mitzvah boy who has adopted Native American customs.
Marshall received the American Comedy Awards’ Creative Achievement Award in 1990, the Writers Guild of America’s Valentine Davies Award in 1995, the PGA’s Honorary Lifetime Membership Award and Lifetime Achievement Award in Television in 1998 and the American Cinema Editors’ Golden Eddie Filmmaker of the Year Award in 2004. In 1997 he was inducted into the Academy of Television, Arts and Sciences’ Hall of Fame.
Marshall’s memoir Wake Me When It’s Funny, co-written with his daughter Lori and published in 1995, recounted his first 35 years in Hollywood. He wrote an additional memoir, My Happy Days In Hollywood, in 2012.
Marshall is survived by his wife, Barbara, to whom he was married since 1963; son Scott, a film director; and daughters Lori, an actress and casting director, and Kathleen, an actress; a number of grandchildren; and sisters Penny Marshall, an actress and film director, and Ronny Hallin, a TV producer. – Reuters/ Carmel Dagan