Penny Marshall, Director, Producer, Actress, Dies

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Penny Marshall, director, producer, actress, comedian, trailblazer, sister to famed Director Garry Marshall, and part of the New Hollywood inner circle died at her Hollywood Hills home this week from diabetes complications. She was 75.

Marshall's entertainment career spanned nearly six decades beginning as the "plain girl" opposite Farrah Fawcett in a Head & Shoulders commercial to the "normal, everyday girl" in the Happy Days sitcom spin off Laverne & Shirley.

Ms. Marshall played Laverne, part of a duo that held jobs in a bottling factory in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She would later explain people at the time wanted characters they could relate to not the Mary Tyler Moore's, the pretty girls, and she believed she gave the audience that look.


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Born Carole Penny Marshall on October 15, 1942 in the Bronx, New York, she never believed a television or a Hollywood career especially one as illustrious as her own would be possible.

Slowly making her way west, Ms. Marshall studied psychology and math at the University of New Mexico. During her college career she became pregnant and married the father, Mike Henry. Her daughter Tracy was born and the two divorced soon after.

Brother, Garry Marshall, who passed away in 2016, had already begun a successful comedy writing career for the Tonight Show with Jack Parr and went onto create the sitcom Happy Days which made stars out of most of its cast. Ms. Marshall guest starred on a number of episodes.

He also created the sitcom Laverne & Shirley which starred Ms. Marshall. The sitcom ran for eight seasons, from January 27, 1976 through May 10, 1983.

Penny Marshall, the girl from the Bronx, was established in her own right. She remarried producer, director, comedian and All in the Family actor, Rob Reiner, who adopted her daughter and raised her as his own. The two remained close even after they divorced.

She worked in film and television, directing and producing and had success in each.


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Her television career reads like a sitcom who's who of the great television era through 2016 with bit parts on Taxi, Happy Days, The Wonderful World of Disney, Love American Style, The Bob Newhart Show, The Odd Couple, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, multiple stints on Saturday Night Live, Mork & Mindy, The Simpsons, Frasier and Nash Bridges.

Her career included many first, breaking Hollywood barriers before they were openly discussed. Of the seven film she directed, five are ingrained in American culture.

Her first film as a director, the cult smash Jumpin' Jack Flash with Whoopi Goldberg was followed by Big with Tom Hanks. The film became a smash success, grossing more than $150million at the box office, and establishing Ms. Marshall with the studios as a solid box office bet. It also placed her in an elite group of one, as the only female director to gross more than $100million at the box office.

She also directed A League of their Own, which also grossed more than $100million, followed by Awakenings, with Robert DeNiro, who received an Academy Award nomination for his performance, and Robin Williams.

These two films were followed by the comedy the Renaissance Man, and The Preacher's Wife, which also gained greater critical success earning the talent multiple nominations in various awards, and Riding in Cars with Boys.


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From all reports she died peacefully in her sleep at her Hollywood Hills home. She is survived by her daughter Tracy Reiner and five grandchildren.

Actor Tom Hanks, who also used Twitter to convey his remembrances said, @tomhanks "Goodbye, Penny. Man, did we laugh a lot! Wish we still could. Love you. Hanx."

Eulogized by many the following are from her updated Wikipedia page. 

 

Following Marshall's death, her ex-husband Rob Reiner took to Twitter to say: "I loved Penny. I grew up with her. She was born with a great gift. She was born with a funnybone and the instinct of how to use it. I was very lucky to have lived with her and her funnybone. I will miss her". 

 

Broadcaster Dan Rather tweeted: "Mourning the loss of a funny, poignant, and original American voice. Penny Marshall was a pioneer in television and the big screen who understood humor comes in many forms and some of life's deeper truths require a laugh. She will be missed."

 

Ron Howard, her onetime co-star, and like her an actor who went on to become a celebrated film director, stated on Twitter: "She was funny & so smart. She made the transition from sitcom star to A List movie director with ease & had a major impact on both mediums. All that & always relaxed, funny & totally unpretentious. I was lucky to have known & worked with her."

 

Major League Baseball tweeted the following statement: "We join the baseball community in mourning the passing of Penny Marshall, director of A League of Their Own."

 

Laverne & Shirley co-star Cindy Williams had remained good friends with Marshall for most of the thirty five years since their sitcom's end. The day after Marshall's death, she shared a simple, poignant message on Twitter stating: "I Love You, Partner." Underneath the one line of text was the image of a familiar, cursive 'L' initial.

Sources; Wikipedia. Images courtesy of Penny Marshall IMDB page.

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