If you grew up in the 1970s, odds are that a majority of your television entertainment was provided by two men: Norman Lear and Garry Marshall. And if you were a kid, you probably watched a lot more of Marshall’s shows than Lear’s, as the broad comedy in the shows he produced were more inviting. So, if you were like me, Garry Marshall help define your childhood and today is a rough day for you. The producer/writer/actor/director died yesterday in Burbank, Calif. of complications from pneumonia following a stroke. He was 81.
Marshall got his start in show-business writing jokes for stand-up comedians which led to a job writing for the Jack Parr era Tonight Show in 1960. A year later, he partnered with Jerry Belson and together they wrote for shows such as on The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Joey Bishop Show, The Danny Thomas Show, and The Lucy Show.
The pair moved on to creating and producing TV Shows. Their first effort, Hey Landlord, wasn’t a success, airing for just one year, 1966-1967. However, the pair struck gold with their television adaptation of the successful play and movie, The Odd Couple, in 1970. That series would run for five seasons.
Eventually, Marshall struck out on his own as a producer and went on to create one of the most iconic television shows in the history of the medium, Happy Days. Tying into the 1950s nostalgia of the mid 70s, the show focused on the lives of a group of teenagers living in Milwaukee< Wisconsin. Eventually, the focus shifted to a leather-jacket clad biker called “The Fonz,” and the show became a pop culture phenomenon. It spawned toys, games and no less than five spin-offs: Laverne & Shirley (where Marshall cast his sister Penny as one of the leads), Mork & Mindy (which exposed the world to the manic comedy of Robin Williams), Blansky’s Beauties, Out of the Blue and Joanie Loves Chachi.
Marshall movie in the realm of film direction in the early 80s, making his start with the 1982 hospital soap opera spoof, Young Doctors in Love. Marshall would go on to direct 18 feature films, most notably Beaches, Pretty Woman (which made Julia Roberts a superstar), Runaway Bride, The Princess Diaries (which was Anne Hathaway’s feature film debut) and The Princess Diaries 2. His last film was Mother’s Day, which was released earlier this year.
Garry Marshall also appeared in front of the camera a number of times, most notably as Walter Harvey for his sister’s A League of Their Own.