Garry Marshall: Legendary Director And Television Producer Dies at 81, Hollywood Reacts

Garry Marshall, the creator and producer of timeless television comedies like Happy Days and Laverne and Shirley and director of well loved movies such as Pretty Woman and Beaches, has passed away at the age of 81. According to his publicist and the Associated Press, Marshall passed away in a Burbank hospital after developing pneumonia while recovering from a stroke. Garry’s sister, actress and director Penny Marshall, confirmed his death to news outlets.

Garry Marshall once said that working with his sister Penny Marshall was the biggest challenge of his career. Image by Matthew Simmons/Getty Images.
Garry Marshall once said that working with his sister Penny Marshall was the biggest challenge of his career. Image by Matthew Simmons/Getty Images.

Garry Marshall began his career as a writer for The Tonight Show with Jack Paar. Marshall sharpened his comedy skills by teaming up fellow writer Jerry Belson and moving on to other projects like The Dick Van Dyke Show and The Lucy Show. In the mid-70’s, however, Garry would go on to become a creator and producer, creating some of the most successful shows of the decade including Happy Days, Laverne and Shirley, and Mork and Mindy.

Marshall launched the careers of a multitude of actors and actresses, who took to Twitter to pay their respects to the Hollywood legend. Many complimented Garry not only on his wit, but his genuine kindness to others in a business that has a reputation for being cruel.

Garry Marshall’s career spanned more than five decades, and there were no signs that Marshall was slowing down. Just last April, Garry released the film Mother’s Day starring Julia Roberts, Jennifer Garner, and Jennifer Aniston, and Marshall directed. Though the film was panned by critics, it still brought in a respectable $45 million worldwide.

While Marshall was involved as either an actor, producer, or director in other successful films – such as his cameo in sister Penny Marshall’s A League of Their Own or romantic favorites like Pretty Woman and Overboard – it was Garry’s television career that endeared him to many and made a deep impact on the industry.

In a 2012 interview with the New York Times, Garry Marshall candidly discussed his decision to go ahead with an episode of Happy Days in which Fonzie accepted a water skiing challenge from a Hollywood local.

Yes that’s right, Garry Marshall’s decision to film the infamous attempt to stave off declining ratings resulted in what would later become known in the television industry as “jumping the shark,” a phrase often used to describe when declining television shows use desperate acts to draw in viewers. Garry admitted he didn’t care for the actual episode but Marshall felt accomplished at the same time.

“Well, it wasn’t good…At the time we put it on, viewers didn’t throw rocks at it or send letters, but later some very clever guys said that’s when the show turned. So if it’s used about a show going down, fine. I got a word into the American vernacular,” Marshall said, taking some pride in knowing his lasting effect on television language.

Garry Marshall’s tactic must’ve worked, however, considering Happy Days held on for six more seasons. And Garry Marshall’s genius is evident as Happy Days still runs in syndication forty years after its creation.

Garry Marshall and Julia Roberts. Image by Kevin Winter/Getty Images.
Garry Marshall and Julia Roberts. Image by Kevin Winter/Getty Images.

But perhaps the greater impact on the film and television industry was Garry Marshall’s willingness to take chances on unknown actors whom would move on to become industry giants. Julia Roberts’ role in Marshall’s Pretty Woman boosted her from supporting actress to romantic lead. Garry’s spinoff show Laverne and Shirley would jumpstart the career of his sister Penny Marshall, who would go on to become a respected director in her own right.

And Zelda Williams, daughter of comedy legend Robin Williams, took to Twitter to remind the world how Garry Marshall’s willingness to take a chance on Robin and his oddball comedy was what promoted Robin Williams from standup comedian to well renowned actor.

So thank you Garry Marshall for the many decades of entertainment, for the belly laughs, and for “jumping the shark.” And tell Robin Williams we all said “Hello.”

[Image by Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images.]