He created one of the most beloved TV series of all time. He was an actor, writer, director, and producer. His career spanned seven decades, with the last of his 18 films as director coming early this year, when he was past his 80th birthday.
Garry Marshall was a towering figure in American comedy, television, and film, with a career that began in 1961 and continued until earlier this year. He created Happy Days and Laverne and Shirley, while directing such popular films as Beaches, Pretty Woman, and The Princess Diaries.
A New York native who, contrary to popular belief, was not Jewish but rather of Italian-American heritage, Marshall was born in the Bronx in 1934. After appearing as a young actor on The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show in the 1950s, Marshall arrived in Hollywood in 1961, working first as a joke writer for Joey Bishop and later as a writer on Jack Paar’s version of The Tonight Show. Throughout the ‘60s he wrote for such series as The Dick Van Dyke Show and The Lucy Show. His big break came when he adapted Neil Simon’s play The Odd Couple for television in 1970.
In 1974, Marshall created Happy Days, the 1950s-set sitcom that introduced Fonzie and “jumping the shark” to the lexicon. The series retains cultural resonance today after running for 10 years and for much longer than that in re-runs. Marshall also created a pair of hugely successful spinoffs – Laverne and Shirley and Mork and Mindy.
In the 1980s, Marshall moved on to movies, and his films as director included The Flamingo Kid, Beaches, Pretty Woman, Runaway Bride and The Princess Diaries. His final three films, all of which were ensemble comedy/dramas based on specific holidays, were Valentine’s Day, New Years Eve and Mother’s Day.
Marshall was also known for loquacious and entertaining interviews on talk shows, and for occasional on-camera roles. He played the owner in A League of Their Own, a network executive on Murphy Brown, voiced a pair of episodes on The Simpsons and appeared on BoJack Horseman last year. His final acting part was on an episode earlier this year of CBS’ new version of The Odd Couple, on which he had also served as a consultant.
Marshall is survived by members of his showbiz family, including his sister Penny Marshall and three children, including director Scott Marshall.