Garry Marshall, the American director, producer, actor, and writer behind seminal rom-coms and comedy-dramas like Pretty Woman and Beaches, has passed away at the age of 81.
Marshall, whose career spanned over five decades, died after battling complications from pneumonia, which had been preceded by a stroke, in his home in Burbank, California on Tuesday, July 19, according to Variety.
Born Garry Kent Maschiarelli in 1934 in New York City’s Bronx borough to a mother who ran school for tap dance and a father who worked as a director and producer of sponsored films. (Both his sisters, actress and director Penny Marshall, and Ronny Marshall Hallin, a television producer, followed in his footsteps.)
Marshall’s first foray into show business coincided with the dawn of color-broadcasted television, where he began working as a writer in 1961 for programs such as The Tonight Show with Jack Paar, and later and The Lucy Show. In the 197os, he oversaw the success of his own creations, among them the demi-nostalgia-infused Happy Days, which ran for eleven seasons on ABC (the second-longest running sitcom in the network’s history), The Odd Couple, which was based on Neil Simon’s play of the same name, and Laverne and Shirley, which featured his sister as one of the two leads.
Marshall made the jump to the silver screen in the 1980s, making his directorial debut with the 1982 comedy Young Doctors in Love—a spoof on medical dramas like the serial soap General Hospital—and which also marked the Marshall production debut of actor Hector Elizondo, Marshall’s longtime collaborator. He later saw industry recognition and film success with the Bette Midler vehicle Beaches, which garnered one Oscar nomination for Best Art Direction, and nabbed a Grammy for the shlock number “Wind Beneath My Wings.”
Perhaps Marshall’s greatest cinematic achievement came with the 1990's rom-com Pretty Woman, which starred Julia Roberts as a Hollywood-based sex worker who develops a relationship with a corporate impresario and client played by Richard Gere. Roberts’ performance earned her both an Academy Award and Golden Globe nomination, as well as a Golden Globe Best Picture nom for the film. Marshall would later work with both Roberts and Gere almost a decade later on the endearing but less popular Runaway Bride in 1999.
The director’s career was marked with a number of acting credits, beginning with a 1950 appearance on The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show—now best known for the inaccurately quoted sign-off of “say goodnight, Gracie.” Marshall’s credits included small but memorable parts in A League of Their Own, Hocus Pocus, and Never Been Kissed, as well as a recurring stint as the nitpicky network boss Stan Lansing on the groundbreaking feminist sitcom Murphy Brown.
While the last arc of his career was characterized more by commercial successes as opposed to critical commendations (see: the holiday-centric ensemble flicks like Valentine’s Day, New Years Eve, and most recently the 2016 flop Mother’s Day, which ultimately paired Marshall with his former muse Roberts for the last time), his Disney adaptation of the Meg Cabot novel The Princess Diaries introduced Anne Hathaway to audiences worldwide, pairing her with Hollywood legend Julia Andrews.
After news of Marshall’s death went public, a number of his former colleagues spoke out about his untimely passing. In an official statement, Richard Gere called the director “one of those truly important people one is blessed to meet in one’s lifetime” and “a super fine and decent man, husband and father who brought real joy and love and infectious good spirits to every thing and everyone he crossed paths with.” Henry Winkler, whose iconic turn as the vending machine-punching, leather jacket-wearing Arthur “The Fonz” Fonzarelli on Happy Days also lead to the origination of the TV trope “jumping the shark,” took to Twitter to express his condolences.
A memorial service for Marshall has been scheduled later this year for November 13, on what would have been his 82nd birthday.
Update [9:39 a.m. EDT]: An earlier version of this article did not identify Ronny Marshall Hallin as Garry Marshall’s sister.
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