Marshall, Garry: Film and TV Director (Happy Days, Pretty Woman)

Garry Marshall, who created some of the 1970s most iconic sitcoms, including Happy Days, The Odd Couple, Laverne and Shirley, and Mork and Mindy, and directed hit movies such as Pretty Woman and The Princess Diaries, died Tuesday of complications from pneumonia. He was 81.

Marshall began as a TV writer before creating sitcoms that touched the spirit of the 1970s and directing popular films. “Happy Days” helped start a nostalgia craze, while “Mork and Mindy” had a psychedelically goofy quality that catapulted Robin Williams to fame and made rainbow suspenders an icon of their era.

Two Femme-Centered Blockbuster

“Pretty Woman” cemented Julia Roberts’ stardom, while “The Princess Diaries” made Anne Hathaway a teen favorite.

“Happy Days” star Henry Winkler credited him for launching his career, tweeting “Thank you for my professional life.”

Richard Gere, who starred in “Pretty Woman,” issued a statement about Marshall: “Garry was one of those truly important people one is blessed to meet in one’s lifetime. Besides being the pulse and life force of ‘Pretty Woman,’ a steady helmsman on a ship that could have easily capsized, he was a super fine and decent man, husband and father who brought real joy and love and infectious good spirits to every thing and everyone he crossed paths with.”

The Odd Couple

Marshall had his first substantial hits when he developed and exec produced an adaptation of Neil Simon’s play The Odd Couple in 1970 for ABC. The show drew Emmy nominations for comedy series and wins for stars Jack Klugman and Tony Randall over the course of five-season run.

Happy Days

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.”

George Lucas asked to view the pilot before deciding to cast Ron Howard, who starred in it, in American Graffiti, released in 1973.  Happy Days debuted as a series on the network in 1974, riding high on the wave of 1950s nostalgia generated by the success of American Graffiti.

Happy Days was the No. 1 show on television during the 1976-77 season, No. 2 in 1977-78 and No. 4 the following year. Winkler’s the Fonz became a cultural touchstone–his leather jacket eventually landing in the Smithsonian.

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,” referring to a show that is past its prime.

“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. Both were as successful in the ratings as “Happy Days.”  “Laverne and Shirley” was No. 1 for two seasons and “Mork and Mindy” peaking at No. 3. “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 Williams. Garry Marshall shared an Emmy nomination, his fifth, in 1979 as “Mork and Mindy” drew a mention for comedy series.

Garry Marshall Henry Winkler


Marshall also created the ABC sitcom “Angie” and exec produced other shows including “Happy Days” spinoff “Joanie Loves Chachi,” “The New Odd Couple,” “Blansky’s Beauties” and “Who’s Watching the Kids.”

He made his directorial debut in 1967 on his series “Hey, Landlord” and also helmed some episodes of “The Odd Couple,” “Happy Days,” “Mork and Mindy” and “Laverne and Shirley.”

Marshall as Movie Director

The first feature Marshall directed was the 1982 comedy Young Doctors in Love, a spoof of “General Hospital,” starring Sean Young and Michael McKean.

The Flamingo Kid

His second feature, The Flamingo Kid, which Marshall scripted from a story by Neal Marshall, drew critical raves. Matt Dillon starred in the social comedy as a working-class kid during a summer spent as a cabana boy.

Nothing in Common (1986) offered good moments from stars Jackie Gleason and Tom Hanks, playing father and son.

Another modest success for Marshall came in “Overboard,” starring Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell.

The melodrama “Beaches” (1988), starring Bette Midler and Barbara Hershey, scored with audiences, if not with critics, racking up a domestic gross of $57 million.

Pretty Woman

His first bigscreen blockbuster was 1990’s Pretty Woman, starring Julia Roberts as an idealized prostitute and Gere as her client-cum-Prince Charming. The romantic comedy grossed $463 million worldwide. Roberts was Oscar nominated for best actress, the film was nominated for a Golden Globe for best comedy, and Marshall scored a Cesar nomination as “Pretty Woman” was placed in the French awards’ foreign-film category.

Marshall told the New York Times that he wanted to make Roberts’ character somewhat less experienced.  “I knew if we lowered the age and made her a new girl in the business, then people would say, ‘Oh, please don’t do that, honey.’”

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 worldwide gross was $309 million.

Princess Diaries

The The Princess Diaries and its sequel were also big hits for Marshall. The films, which made a star of Anne Hathaway, saw global grosses of $165 million and $135 million, respectively.

Marshall took on a smaller film, “Georgia Rule,” starring Jane Fonda, Lindsay Lohan and Felicity Huffman, for some surprising qualities: “Working against its maudlin impulses with lively humor, and at the same time undercutting its laughs with some hard, ugly themes, this movie is neither a standard weepie nor a comforting dramedy.”

The star-packed “Valentine’s Day” and sequel “New Year’s Day” were commercially successful enterprises. Another sequel, “Mother’s Day,” following the same formula of lining up a large cast of top names for small parts, 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 programs. He graduated from Northwestern U.’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 form “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 also found the time for stage efforts. “Wrong Turn at Lungfish,” co-written with Lowell Ganz, played L.A., Chicago and Off Broadway, and “The Roast,” co-penned with Jerry Belson, played Broadway in a production helmed by Carl Reiner in 1980. Marshall also wrote the play “Shelves,” and in 1997, he and his daughter Kathleen founded the Falcon Theater in Burbank. Marshall also occasionally directed opera, including stagings of Jacques Offenbach’s “The Grand Duchess,” which opened the Los Angeles Opera’s 2005-06 season, and Donizetti’s “The Elixir of Love” for the San Antonio Opera in January 2008.

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.

Writer of Memoirs

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.