TV star turned film director Penny Marshall passed away on Tuesday at 75 due to complications from diabetes. As a performer, she was a natural in comedy, as a director she enjoyed even more success, and her career spanned decades.
If you were around in the 70’s, you’ll remember her as Laverne DeFazio who drank milk combined with Pepsi and worked at the Shotz Brewery in Milwaukee with her roommate and best friend Shirley Feeney, played by Cindy Williams.
The duo had tremendous chemistry and reached heights of physical comedy reminiscent of Lucille Ball and Vivian Vance on the ‘I Love Lucy’ show.
Mike Barnes of The Hollywood Reporter reminds us of the breadth of Marshall’s career:
Penny Marshall, ‘Laverne & Shirley’ Star Turned Director, Dies at 75
Supporting herself as a secretary while studying acting, she appeared in commercials. Her first was a Head & Shoulders spot opposite the gorgeous, blond and then-unknown Farrah Fawcett; Marshall played her plain roommate.
After appearing on such shows as That Girl and Love, American Style, she and Reiner — mere months before they were to marry — auditioned for a new CBS sitcom. But while Reiner was cast as Michael Stivic, it was Sally Struthers who ended up playing his wife, Gloria, on All in the Family.
Marshall, though, soon joined her brother’s ABC comedy The Odd Couple as Oscar Madison’s flighty secretary, Myrna Turner. It was Jack Klugman, who played Oscar the sloppy sportswriter, who insisted she get the job.
Guest stints on such series as The Bob Newhart Show and The Mary Tyler Moore Show and a regular role on the short-lived sitcom Paul Sand in Friends and Lovers (created by Brooks and Allan Burns) followed.
In 1975, she and Williams — who had met on a double date years earlier during a Liza Minnelli performance at L.A.’s Ambassador Hotel — were working on a satire for Francis Ford Coppola’s Zoetrope magazine when Garry Marshall hired them for an episode of Happy Days…
Laverne & Shirley debuted No. 1 in the ratings on Jan. 26, 1976, and in its post-Happy Days spot at 8:30 p.m. on Tuesdays, went on to become the highest-rated series for the 1977-78 and 1978-79 seasons. (Reiner’s All in the Family was No. 2.)
Marshall moved behind the camera in 1986 to direct Whoopi Goldberg in ‘Jumpin’ Jack Flash’ but it was her next film that put her on the map as a film director:
She hit comedic pay dirt with her next film, Big (1988), the Tom Hanks starrer about a boy who wakes up in the body of an adult. Co-produced by James L. Brooks, who brought the script to her, it was the first film directed by a woman to gross more than $100 million (about $198 million in today’s dollars) domestically.
Another Marshall comedy, A League of Their Own (1992) — a fictional account about the real-life All-American Girls Professional Baseball League organized during World War II that also starred Hanks (as well as Geena Davis, Rosie O’Donnell and Madonna) — broke through the $100 million barrier as well.
This video goes all the way back to her shampoo commercial:
And of course, who can forget this?
Rest in peace, Penny and thank you for all the laughter.
Featured image via YouTube.DONATE
Donations tax deductible
to the full extent allowed by law.