The year 2016 claims another celebrity, as legendary TV presence Garry Marshall passed away on Tuesday in his home in Burbank, California. His publicist stated that the cause was complications from pneumonia following a stroke.
Marshall wrote, directed, and performed in many TV shows and movies, and tributes from fellow actors flooded in after the news broke. Henry Winkler, the star of the Marshall-created show Happy Days, thanked Marshall for his career as well as his loyalty, friendship, and generosity. Fellow Happy Days actor Ron Howard also told CNN that Garry Marshall “was the greatest boss I’ve ever had” and that “his guidance influenced the entire course of my life.”
Successful sitcom after sitcom
Marshall was born in the Bronx and learned to make jokes at a young age thanks to the influence of his mother. After graduating with a degree in journalism from Northwestern University, he set his sights on comedy and started selling jokes to comedians.
Marshall’s first big opportunity came when he started writing sketches and scripts for The Tonight Show and The Dick Van Dyke Show. After writing for a decade, he then developed his first sitcom in The Odd Couple, a show about two very different men living together in an apartment.
The Odd Couple was nominated for three Emmys, and its two main actors each won at least one. From there, Garry began to make even more well-known sitcoms, including the famous Happy Days.
Happy Days ran for 10 seasons and was one of the top-rated shows for multiple seasons. Its iconic characters are so well-remembered that one of Fonz’s leather jackets today sits in the Smithsonian. In addition to Happy Days, Marshall created and directed other shows like Laverne & Shirley and Mork & Mindy. The latter show starred a little-known actor named Robin Williams.
Of course, not all of Garry’s decisions were successful. It was Marshall who came up with the infamous decision to put the Fonz on a pair of water skis and have him jump over a shark. “Jumping the shark” even today refers to a moment when a past-its-prime show makes a bizarre decision in an attempt to win back fans.
A great director and a great man
But Garry Marshall was more than a director and writer who made great sitcoms. He was also a wonderful individual who inspired love and faithfulness from those who worked with him.
Marshall had an eye for spotting talented actors. In addition to discovering Williams, he also discovered Julia Roberts while directing the 1990 romantic comedy Pretty Woman and Anne Hathaway for The Princess Diaries. Both actresses loved him. Hathaway observed that “being on a Garry Marshall movie is like summer camp.” Roberts regularly worked with Marshall in future projects, the most recent being the April 2016 film Mother’s Day.
What made Garry unique was his willingness to show and poke a little fun at ordinary blue-collar life while always being light-hearted and entertaining. Marshall never wanted to direct some grand drama with hundreds of moving parts. He wanted to deal with the everyday, mundane world. And in a world that has seemed to grow ever more complex since the 1950s, Marshall’s shows harkened back to an era of simplicity. He worked up to the end of his life, and he may have started to discuss the possibility of a third Princess Diaries film over the last few months.
Garry Marshall is survived by his wife, three children, and six grandchildren. While his funeral will be a private affair, there will be a memorial for him held on his birthday on November 13.
[Photo By Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images]