Garry Marshall

Garry Marshall

Born Garry Kent Marshall in New York City, NY Marshall was one of three children born to Anthony Marshall, an industrial filmmaker - and later producer on several of Garry's series - who changed the family name from "Marsciarelli" prior to Garry's birth, and tap dance instructor Marjorie Ward. Along with Garry, his siblings included sisters Penny, who enjoyed a long acting career before segueing successfully into directing and producing, and Ronelle, who served as casting director and executive producer on "Happy Days." Marshall was raised on the Grand Concourse in the Bronx, where he counted future TV writer and actor Carl Reiner (later his boss on "Dick Van Dyke") among his neighbors. Marshall joined the Army in the 1950s and served in Korea, where he penned articles for Stars and Stripes and The Seoul News, and served as production chief for the Armed Forces Radio Network.Back in the States, Marshall attended Northwestern University, where he penned a sports column for the school newspaper before working his way up from copy boy to sports reporter at the New York Daily News, but his side profession - gag writer for such popular comics as Phil Foster and Joey Bishop - held greater interest for him. After trying his hand at stand-up comedy and music (he played drums for a jazz combo), Marshall settled into writing comic material for television, serving for a while under Jack Paar's reign as host of "The Tonight Show" (NBC, 1954-). In 1961, Bishop brought him to Hollywood to work on his new series, "The Joey Bishop Show" (NBC/CBS, 1961-63), where he met and befriended former comic book scribe-turned-TV writer Jerry Belson. The pair began a long and fruitful partnership as contributing writers for such now-legendary series as "The Lucy Show" (CBS, 1962-1974), "The Dick Van Dyke Show," and "Love American Style" (ABC, 1969-1974). The latter series featured a reformatted pilot for a sitcom set in the 1950s called "New Family in Town," which Marshall and Belson recycled into an episode titled "Love and the Happy Days" - which would later serve as the inspiration for "Happy Days."Marshall and Belson's first attempt at producing their own series came with "Hey Landlord" (NBC, 1966-67), a comedy about a naïve Midwesterner (Will Hutchins) who struggles to manage a New York brownstone. "Sheriff Who" (NBC, 1967), a Western spoof with John Astin as a comic black hat, fared even worse - though Marshall and Belson did revive the idea for one of the best TV movie comedies ever: 1972's "Evil Roy Slade" - and their attempts at feature films - the comedy "How Sweet It Is" (1968) with James Garner, and 1970's counterculture drama "The Grasshopper," with Jacqueline Bisset - were met with indifference. They finally struck pay dirt with a TV series based on Neil Simon's popular play "The Odd Couple." Though never a Nielsen success, the series was a critical favorite and received three Emmy nominations for Outstanding Comedy Series.Marshall began to strike out on his own during his tenure with "The Odd Couple." There were several attempts at series - "Me and the Chimp" (CBS, 1972), which also marked Marshall's debut as a director; "Wednesday Night Out" (NBC, 1972); and a handful of TV movies like "Dominic's Dream" (1974) - before he struck paydirt with "Happy Days." A rose-colored slice of 1950s nostalgia, the series benefited greatly from its smart casting - Marshall retained many of the players from the "Love, American Style" pilot, including Ron Howard, Anson Williams, Donny Most and Marion Ross, but also brought aboard veteran Tom Bosley and a newcomer, Henry Winkler, as a soft-hearted delinquent named Arthur Fonzarelli. "The Fonz," as he was known to Howard's Richie Cunningham and friends, became the series' breakout character, resulting in the show being gradually retooled to shift its focus around him. The show became a breakout hit in the 1976-77 season, when it topped the Nielsen charts, and spawned a virtual tidal wave of tie-in products, as well as several spin-off series based around characters who had appeared on the show.First to hit was "Laverne and Shirley," starring Marshall's sister Penny and Cindy Williams as two roommates looking for love and happiness in Milwaukee, WI. Like "Happy Days," it was critically dismissed, but the charisma and comic skill of its leads - as well as several carefully orchestrated appearances by Winkler and other "Happy Days" cast members - helped send it to the top of the ratings heap by its second season. However, "Blansky's Beauties" (ABC, 1977), a comedy with Nancy Walker (whose character was supposed to be a cousin of Tom Bosley's "Happy Days" dad Howard Cunningham) about Las Vegas showgirls, did not follow suit (though it did establish a connection between Marshall and adolescent star Scott Baio, who would later repeat the Fonzie formula when he joined the "Happy Days" cast as Chachi). The offbeat "Mork and Mindy" brought Marshall his third hit; though its origins were indicative of the outlandish direction that "Happy Days" was later taking - what with Robin Williams' Mork planning to take Richie back to his home planet - but the spin-off, set in the present day and co-starring Pam Dawber as Mork's roommate (and eventual love interest), was a huge hit with viewers. A fourth spin-off, "Joanie Loves Chachi" (ABC, 1982-83), was developed to take advantage of the massive fan base that grew around Scott Baio after his arrival on the show in 1977, but its storyline - Chachi and Richie's little sister, Joanie (Erin Moran) depart Milwaukee for Chicago to pursue music careers - found little favor with audiences.Perhaps sensing that the "Happy Days" well was running dry, Marshall developed several series without connections to his flagship show; the most successful of these was "Angie" (ABC, 1979-1980), a class comedy starring Golden Globe-nominated actress Donna Pescow as a waitress who falls for an upscale doctor (Robert Hays). Though short-lived, it did give Marshall another top-rated network program, and at one point in 1979, he laid claim to four out of the five shows in the top five Nielsen slots. But Marshall's interests began to exceed the bonds of television, and in 1982, he branched out into feature film directing with "Young Doctors in Love," a broad and zany spoof of soap opera clichés starring Sean Young and Michael McKean from "Laverne and Shirley." His next effort, 1984's "The Flamingo Kid," was an affectionate period piece set in a swank hotel in 1950s Florida, and featured winning performances by lead Matt Dillon, Richard Crenna, and Hector Elizondo, who would eventually become something of a good luck charm for Marshall and appear in each of his films. Next up, "Nothing in Common" (1986), which was a family-based comedy-drama which gave TV legend Jackie Gleason a fitting final note on his long and storied career. Marshall returned to broad comedy for "Overboard" (1987), a likable nod to the screwball pictures of the 1930s starring Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell, and scored hugely with female audiences with "Beaches" (1988), a sudsy, Oscar-nominated "women's picture" about a lifelong friendship between brassy Bette Midler and wealthy but fragile Barbara Hershey.Marshall's biggest hit came in 1990 with "Pretty Woman," a slick but well-crafted romantic comedy about a businessman (Richard Gere) who falls for the escort (Julia Roberts) he hires to be his date at functions. One of the year's highest grossing films (and a 1991 Cesar and BAFTA nominee), the picture established Roberts as a major star (and earned her a Golden Globe) and solidified Marshall as one of the top film directors of the day. His follow-up, "Frankie and Johnny" (1991), was an effective translation of Terrence McNally's off-Broadway play "Frankie and Johnny in the Claire de Lune," with Al Pacino and Michelle Pfeiffer delivering believable and heartfelt performances as diner workers who fall in love despite her personal baggage. The picture would also serve as Marshall's last big hit for several years. Subsequent efforts like "Exit to Eden" (1994), "Dear God" (1996), and "The Other Sister" (1999) were met with tepid critical and box office responses. "Runaway Bride," a 1999 reunion with his "Pretty Woman" stars, fared better, but suffered by inevitable comparisons with its classic predecessor.Marshall's interests continued to expand during this period. A lifelong passion for the theater had yielded middling results until 1993, when his play "Wrong Turn at Lungfish" (co-written with Lowell Ganz) scored in productions in Los Angeles and Chicago before eventually landing off-Broadway (with Marshall as director). He also attempted to build and sustain a theater in Los Angeles throughout much of the eighties and nineties (which apparently cost him a sizeable chunk of his own money) until he struck gold with the Falcon Theatre in Burbank, CA in 1997. The theater, which he built with his daughter Kathleen, served as home for many acclaimed productions, as well as a popular children's theater program. In 2005, Marshall directed his first opera, Offenbach's "Grand Duchess" for the Los Angeles Opera, and helmed his second, "The Elixir of Love," for the San Antonio Opera in 2008. Marshall's film career rallied in 2001 with "The Princess Diaries," a delightful teen comedy about a young woman (Anne Hathaway) who discovers that she is the rightful heir to the throne of a small European country. The presence of Julie Andrews as her grandmother and social grace instructor helped to bring both younger and older audiences into the theater, and gave Marshall his first major hit in over a decade (the inevitable sequel, 2004's "The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement," fared only slightly less successfully at the box office). Marshall also helmed "Raising Helen" (2004), a sweet but slight comedy-drama with Kate Hudson as a fast-track businesswoman who finds herself in charge of her late sister's children, and "Georgia Rule" (2007), which suffered exceptionally at the hands of critics and audiences, perhaps due to its curious plotline, which attempted to find humor in false accusations of child molestation. Marshall's commercial fortunes rebounded with the romantic comedy "Valentine's Day" (2010), a multiple-storyline film with an all-star ensemble cast ranging from Julia Roberts to Taylor Swift in her feature film acting debut. Marshall followed this success with "New Year's Eve" (2011), another ensemble romantic comedy, and "Mother's Day" (2016), a smaller-scale film starring Roberts, Jennifer Aniston and Jason Sudeikis. In addition to his efforts as producer, director, and writer, Marshall made numerous appearances in films and television episodes. Blessed with excellent comic timing and a brassy Bronx accent, he was a natural for salt-of-the-earth types as well as overbearing businessmen and other authority figures. He shone in bit parts on his own series and films - his drumming chops were given excellent exposure on multiple episodes of "The Odd Couple," "Happy Days" and "Laverne and Shirley" - as well as those produced or directed by former employees like Ron Howard (1977's "Grand Theft Auto") and peers like Albert Brooks (1985's "Lost in America," in which his scene as an exasperated Las Vegas casino boss who refuses to return the Brooks' lost gambling money was one of the film's highlights). He also appeared frequently in sister Penny's films, including "Jumpin' Jack Flash" (1987) and "A League of Their Own" (1992); starring memorably in the latter as tough candy manufacturer Walter Harvey.Marshall's acting gained notice as cutthroat network executive Stan Lansing on "Murphy Brown," which led to larger parts on other series and films. His most substantial part came in 1997 as the patriarch of a Jewish family facing a difficult choice over their daughter's pregnancy in "The Twilight of the Golds," which Marshall also co-produced. His most surprising (and charming) on-screen turn came in "Keeping Up with the Steins" (2006), a lightweight comedy (directed by his son Scott) about a Jewish family gripped by competitive fever over their son's impending bar mitzvah. As the boy's carefree grandfather, Marshall was both amusing and affectionate, even contributing a surprising nude scene. He also lent his distinctive voice to several animated projects, including the short-lived animated primetime series "Father of the Pride" (NBC, 2004) and the feature "Chicken Little" (2005), voicing the title character's embarrassed father, Buck Cluck. He also appeared in the zombie-comedy "Life After Beth" (2014) and guest-starred on an episode of the workplace comedy "Brooklyn 9-9" (Fox 2013-). As two decades' worth of reruns helped to usher his '70s and '80s series into iconic status, Marshall found himself on the receiving end of several lifetime achievement awards, including those from the American Comedy Awards (1990), the Casting Society of America (1995) and Publicist Guild Awards (1998), as well as the Valentine Davies Award from the Writers Guild in 1995 and an induction into the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Hall of Fame in 1997. In 2002, he was honored by the National Italian American Foundation in Washington, D.C.In 1995, Marshall penned his autobiography, Wake Me When It's Funny; a paperback edition which was published in 1997. Continuing the Marshall legacy of keeping it in the family, all of his children were involved in his work and enjoyed entertainment careers of their own. In addition to collaborating with her father on his autobiography, Lori Marshall appeared in several small roles in his films. Daughter Kathleen and son Scott also made regular appearance in Marshall's films; with Scott also serving as second unit director on all of Marshall's films after "Dear God," before establishing his own directorial career with "Spin Cycle" (2000), "Keeping Up with the Steins" and "Blonde Ambition" (2007). Marshall married Barbara Marshall in 1963, and like her family, she too enjoyed small roles in her husband's films. After suffering a stroke, Garry Marshall died on July 19, 2016 of complications from pneumonia. He was 81.