Garry Marshall: A consummate showman

Last Updated by Chip Chandler on
Garry Marshall, left, with Jason Sudeikis on set of "Mother's Day."
Courtesy Open Road Films

By Chip Chandler — Digital Content Producer

Garry Marshall — the prolific, perennially popular writer, producer and director of TV sitcoms and film comedies and dramas — died Tuesday after a career built upon launching major stars and creating highly watchable, if not critically successful, entertainment.

His career began as a writer for The Jack Paar Show in 1960, and he moved on to write for such shows as The Dick Van Dyke Show and The Lucy Show before finding great success in adapting The Odd Couple for television. From there, his career skyrocketed, and he created such massive hits as Happy DaysLaverne & Shirley and Mork & Mindy.

He moved to film work in the 1980s, directing such popular comedies as OverboardRunaway Bride and The Princess Diaries.

Along the way, he helped make stars out of the likes of Julia Roberts, Robin Williams, Anne Hathaway and his own sister, Penny Marshall.

Just as audiences loved his work, so, too, did Hollywood love the man.

"Garry Marshall was a wonderful man, hilarious, gifted in the ways of humanity and storytelling. He launched and nurtured more careers than he had shoes. Oh lord, how he will be missed," Tom Hanks tweeted.

"Thank you for my professional life. Thank you for your loyalty, friendship and generosity," Henry Winkler tweeted.

He was a showman, through and through. You could see it in his frequent bit roles as an actor (Murphy BrownSoapdishLouie and dozens more), you could see it in his interviews (like the one embedded at the bottom of this post), but mostly, you could see it in his products. 

Think of his best-loved works: Happy DaysLaverne & ShirleyMork & Mindy, the movies BeachesPretty Woman

Though Happy Days started out in a much quieter, more personal vein, it found worldwide success when Marshall made the comedy — and its potential audience — much more broad, as Vox's Todd VanDer Werff argues in an appreciation of his career on Vox.

"That was Garry Marshall’s greatest skill: He knew what people wanted, and he wasn’t afraid to ditch his own artistic ambitions in favor of entertaining as many human beings as possible," VanDer Werff writes. "If Marshall is going to have a legacy, then, I don’t think it should be any of his TV shows or his films so much as his overall attitude, his notion that once you knew your stuff, you were bound to serve viewers, not whatever ambitions you had."

That's not a bad legacy, at all.

Now, I'm a fan of the highbrow, the challenging, the thought-provoking, the artistic, too.

But when I see Soapdish in my DVR guide, I record it.

"Soapdish" clip

I quote Pretty Woman incessantly ("Well, color me happy! There's a sofa in here for two!" "Oh honey, you know what's happened? I got a runner in my pantyhose. ... I'm not wearing pantyhose!" "Cinderf---in'-rella." "Your folks must be really proud.")

"Pretty Woman" clip

I still sing the Laverne & Shirley theme song ("Schemeel, schlemazel, Hasenfeff Inc. / We're gonna do it!") 

"Laverne & Shirley" theme song

I think of the madness of Mork & Mindy, which never should have worked, but still makes me laugh.

"Mork's Mixed Emotions" — "Mork & Mindy"

I think of the sublime pleasures of The Odd Couple, especially the gut-busting Password episode.

"The Odd Couple"

They're purely entertaining. No, not a bad legacy at all.

 

The Writer Speaks: Garry Marshall

 

Chip Chandler is a digital content producer for Panhandle PBS. He can be contacted at Chip.Chandler@actx.edu, at @chipchandler1 on Twitter and at www.facebook.com/chipchandlerwriter on Facebook.

 

 

 

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