Writer, director, producer and occasional actor Garry Marshall passed away on Tuesday of pneumonia following a stroke. He was 81.
Marshall cut his teeth as a writer in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s of TV on shows like The Tonight Show with Jack Paar, The Danny Thomas Show (Make Room for Daddy), The Joey Bishop Show, The Dick Van Dyke Show and The Lucy Show.
But it was in the 1970s where Marshall made his name as a TV producer adapting Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple starring Tony Randall and Jack Klugman. This was followed by Happy Days and several of its spin-offs — Laverne & Shirley (co-starring his younger sister Penny Marshall), Mork & Mindy and Joanie Loves Chachi. He also produced shows like Angie and The New Odd Couple starring Ron Glass and Desmond Wilson (which deserved a far better fate).
In the 1980s and beyond, Marshall turned his attention to directing and would be at the helm of such films as Nothing in Common with Jackie Gleason and Tom Hanks, Beaches, Pretty Woman (which launched the career of Julia Roberts), Runaway Bride and The Princess Diaries starring Anne Hathaway and Julie Andrews. His most recent film was Valentine’s Day, released earlier this year starring Julia Roberts, Jennifer Aniston, Kate Hudson, Jason Sudeikis and Hector Elizondo (who appeared in nearly all of Marshall’s films).
Marshall was also an occasional actor probably best known for his recurring role on Murphy Brown during the late ’80s and early ’90s. His last acting appearance took place, perhaps fittingly, on the newest incarnation of The Odd Couple starring Matthew Perry and Thomas Lennon.
I particularly enjoyed his performance in a lost treasure of a film released in 2006 called Keeping Up With the Steins directed by his son Scott Marshall and starring Jeremy Piven, Larry Miller, Richard Benjamin, Doris Roberts, Jami Gertz, Daryl Hannah and even a cameo by Neil Diamond. The elder Marshall hilariously yet poignantly plays a hippie grandfather who helps his grandson (played by Daryl Sabara) gain a deeper understanding of his impending bar mitzvah. Let’s just say I could relate to the story and, in a cast of equals, Garry Marshall loomed very large. The same can be said for the TV shows and movies he wrote, produced, and directed.