Sad news to report – Garry Marshall, famed writer-director of both the big and small screen has passed away. An influential voice in both mediums for decades and a bonafide star-maker, Marshall is perhaps best known for creating the seminal 1970s comedy series Happy Days and for directing the 1990 blockbuster Pretty Woman. Marshall passed away on Tuesday in Burbank, California. The cause of death appears to have stemmed a bout of pneumonia following a stroke. He was 81-years old.
Long before Marshall propelled actors like Julia Roberts and Anne Hathaway to movie stardom, he begin his fifty-plus year career in the industry as a comedy writer, working his trade in television. Early writing jobs for The Jack Paar Tonight Show and the sitcom Make Room for Daddy gave Marshall a career start – by the mid-1960s, he was writing for seminal television comedy classics The Lucy Show and The Dick Van Dyke Show before creating his first sitcom, the short-lived Hey, Landlord (he directed one episode of that series which marked his first trip behind the camera).
Marshall’s television work in the 1970s boosted his capital as he created the nosalgic comedy staple Happy Days, a widely successful show that made a household name out of future Oscar-winning director Ron Howard and cemented Henry Winkler’s The Fonz as one of the most iconic characters in history; the leather jacket he wore is on display at the Smithsonian. The success of Happy Days brought on successful spin-offs that included Laverne and Shirley (which starred Marshall’s sister Penny Marshall, a formidable film director in her right) and Mork and Mindy, which helped make a star out of Robin Williams.
In the 1980s, Marshall made the leap to feature films, where he’s stayed pretty consistently ever since. He made his directorial debut on the 1982 comedy Young Doctors in Love starring Michael McKeon he it wasn’t long until he was churning out box office hits like Overboard (1987) starring Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell and the seminal weeper Beaches (1988) starring Bette Midler. It was the 1990 comedy Pretty Woman that may be Marshall’s most lasting cinematic legacy – the blockbuster film (which earned $463 million worldwide) helped make a global superstar out of Julia Roberts (who earned an Oscar nomination for her turn as the smart and sassy prostitute Vivian).
Marshall also directed Frankie and Johnny (1991) starring Al Pacino and Michelle Pfieffer, Runaway Bride (1999), a re-team of his Pretty Woman stars Richard Gere and Roberts, The Princess Diaries (2001), which made future Oscar winner Anne Hathaway a household name and the recent triple of holiday-themed ensemble pieces Valentine’s Day (2010), New Year’s Eve (2011) and this spring’s Mother’s Day.
Marshall is survived by his wife Barbara and three children.