Garry Marshall, the lovable guru behind scores of adored television sitcoms and movie comedies, died Tuesday in a Los Angeles hospital. He was 81.
A graduate of Northwestern University, Marshall began his writing career in sports before switching to freelance joke writing in the late 1950s. In the following decade, Marshall and partner Jerry Belson wrote for such classic television comedies as The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Lucy Show, and The Danny Thomas Show. He went on create and develop several hit series, including the television adaptation of The Odd Couple, Angie, and Happy Days; the later begat several successful spinoffs, including Laverne & Shirley (starring sister Penny), Joanie Loves Chachi (starring future RNC speaker Scott Baio), and Mork and Mindy (the breakthrough series for Robin Williams).
Marshall migrated to feature films with 1982’s soap spoof Young Doctors In Love, which also marked his first collaboration with character actor Hector Elizondo, who would subsequently appear in every single Marshall feature through this year’s Mother’s Day. In between, Marshall directed several hit movies, including Pretty Woman, Overboard, The Flamingo Kid, Beaches, Runaway Bride, and The Princess Diaries.
He also made multiple memorable acting appearances, honing his aging Brooklyn wiseguy into a reliable comic standby; he appeared on Louie, Bojack Horseman, The Simpsons, Soapdish, Hocus Pocus, and A League of Their Own (directed by Penny), among others. But comedy nerds best remember him for his uproarious, single scene, movie-stealing turn as a pit boss in Albert Brooks’s Lost in America:
Even when his films were no longer acclaimed, Marshall was still regarded as one of the industry’s true nice guys and best storytellers; for a taste of that, check out his recent interview on WTF with Marc Maron.