Friday, July 22, 2016

Garry Marshall Passes On

Garry Marshall, producer of the classic TV show The Odd Couple and creator of such shows as Happy Days and Laverne and Shirley, died on July 19 2016 at the age of 81. The cause was complications from pneumonia following a stroke.

Garry Marshall was born on November 13 1934 in The Bronx, New York. His father was a director of industrial films while his mother taught tap dancing. His younger sister is Penny Marshall, an actress and director in her own right who starred in Mr. Marshall's show Laverne and Shirley. Garry Marshall attended Northwestern University where he received a degree in journalism.

Mr. Marshall began his career as a gag writer for such comedians as Joey Bishop. His first work on television was on The Jack Paar Tonight Show in 1960. As a television writer he went on to write for such shows as The Danny Thomas Show, The Bill Dana Show, The Joey Bishop Show, The Lucy Show, and The Dick Van Dyke Show. He created and produced the short lived sitcom Hey, Landlord.

While Hey, Landlord is largely forgotten, Mr. Marshall's next sitcom would become a classic. He developed Neil Simon's play The Odd Couple for television. While the sitcom, starring Jack Klugman and Tony Randall, was not a smash hit in the ratings, it managed to last five seasons and has went on to a highly successful run as a syndicated rerun. Mr. Marshall followed The Odd Couple with the hit sitcom Happy Days. Created and produced by Mr. Marshall, Happy Days was a hit from which the hit shows Laverne and Shirley and Mork and Mindy were spun off. Like Happy Days, Laverne and Shirley and Mork and Mindy were created and produced by Garry Marshall. Garry Marshall also created and produced the sitcoms Blansky's Beauties and Angie.

Not only did Garry Marshall write, produce, and direct for television, but he also had an acting career. He made his acting debut in a a bit part as a United States recruiting officer in the film The Phoney American in 1961. In the Sixties he appeared on the TV shows The Dick Van Dyke Show; That Girl, Hey, Landlord; Good Morning, World; and The Odd Couple. He appeared in small parts in the films Maryjane (1968) and Psych-Out (1968). In the Seventies he appeared on Laverne and Shirley Happy Days, and Vegas$ as well as a bit part in the film Grand Theft Auto. In the Nineties he had a recurring role of Stan Lansing on the TV show Murphy Brown and guest starred on the sitcom A League of Their Own  and Pinky and the Brain. He appeared in such films as Soapdish (1991), his sister's film A League of Their Own (1992), The Twilight of the Golds (1996), With Friends Like These... (1998), Never Been Kissed (1999), This Space Between Us (1999), and It's a Shame About Ray (2000). In the Naughts he appeared in such films as Orange County (2002), Mother Ghost (2002), The Long Ride Home (2003), and Race to Witch Mountain (2009). He guest starred on Monk, Brothers and Sisters, ER, According to Jim, and The Simpsons. In the Teens he guest starred on such shows as Two and a Half Men, Hot in Cleveland, and the revival of The Odd Couple.

Of course, today, in addition to his work in television, Garry Marshall may be best known as a director of feature films. He broke into directing with an episode of his show Hey, Landlord in 1967. Afterwards he directed episodes of The Odd Couple, Happy Days, and Laverne and Shirley. His first screenplay was the 1968 film How Sweet It Is. It was followed by the 1970 film The Grasshopper. The first feature film he directed was the comedy Young Doctors in Love (1982). He followed Young Doctors in Love with the hit Flamingo Kid in 1984. In the Eighties Mr. Marshall directed the films Nothing in Common (1986), Overboard (1987), Beaches (1988), The Lottery (1989), and Pretty Woman (1990). In the Nineties Mr. Marshall directed Frankie and Johnny (1991), Exit to Eden (1994), Dear God (1996), The Other Sister (1999), and Runaway Bride (1999). In the Naughts he directed The Princess Diaries (2001), Raising Helen (2004), The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement (2004), Georgia Rule (2007), and Valentine's Day (2010). In the Teens he directed New Year's Eve (2011) and Mother's Day (2016).

Even if Garry Marshall had never directed a single film he would have an impact on American pop culture. In fact, it seems possible that his work in television may be his greatest legacy. The Odd Couple, Happy Days, Laverne and Shirley, and Mork and Mindy all proved to be very successful and all four have remained on television since their debuts. Most television producers are lucky to have one hit show. The fact that Garry Marshall had a highly successful film career as well as his work in television is nothing short of remarkable.

As to why Garry Marshall had success in both television and film, it is perhaps because he not only treated his subjects with humour, but with warmth as well. Mr. Marshall's work was often very funny, particularly with his work on The Odd Couple, but he never lost sight that his characters were human beings with their own thoughts and feelings. What is more, he could find humour in nearly any situation. Indeed, his first film, Young Doctors in Love, was set in a hospital.

Garry Marshall was not only a man who did a good deal in his career, but he was also a man who was universally loved. His death has seen a number of tributes from those who worked with him over the years. Those fans lucky enough to have met him have all said the same thing. He was a warm and funny man who always had a kind word to say. Garry Marshall was remarkable given his multiple successes in both film and television. What is more, he was also a truly nice guy.

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