PENNY MARSHALL passed away on Monday, reportedly from complications of diabetes. She was 75. She was previously diagnosed with brain and lung cancer in 2009.
Penny was most famous for starring as Laverne DeFazio on “Laverne & Shirley”, which was a spin-off of “Happy Days”.
But she was also a successful director in the ’80s and ’90s. She did the Whoopi Goldberg movie “Jumpin’ Jack Flash”, the Tom Hanks movie “Big”, the Robin Williams movie “Awakenings”, “A League of Their Own” . . .
The Danny DeVito comedy “Renaissance Man”, the Whitney Houston movie “The Preacher’s Wife”, and Drew Barrymore’s “Riding in Cars with Boys”.
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when I was a really little kid, maybe 4 or 5 years old, I already really loved filmmaking- but there were only a small handful of directors I knew by name- and mostly remembered by the way they looked or the popularity their movies commanded. spielberg, with his dopey combover and scruff. scorsese, with his thick black rim spectacles and pitchy, wisetalking iconic voice. george lucas and his neckbeard. directors of massive movies known to be the pinnacle of pop culture cinema. and then, inexplicably, one other- not quentin tarantino or the coen brothers or kubrick- but the imitable director of big and a league of their own- penny marshall. with her comically-low-on-the-nose small gradient sunglasses and her bronxy candor, penny marshall was perhaps one of my favorite directorial personalities growing up. someone I admired and couldn’t believe the repeat-success of her work, with such tonal sweetness and consistency, throughout the early 90s. it wasn’t that she happened to be an ex-TV star from an iconic show (something I wouldn’t learn until years later), or that she was the sister of a more-famous romcom director, or that she was a strong, multitalented, cinematically-commanding female auteur in an era far, far before such was more-easily possible. it’s that she was just, straight-up, a damn fine filmmaker. an instant-classic-maker. and a woman who approached movies with such pitch-perfectly balanced levity and gravity that her work remains oft-praised and even more-frequently replicated by inferior artists. 30 years later. . penny marshall wasn’t just a great example of what a female director can or should be- she was an example of what a great DIRECTOR, period, should aspire to be. she brought out career bests from her actors and helped define some of them entirely. she was the first female director to pull in a $100 million. and she did it all, with humor and class, like it was all no big deal. she was an enormous talent that will be greatly missed. Rest In Peace. #pennymarshall #rip #rippennymarshall #big #aleagueoftheirown #awakenings
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What an inspiration this woman has been to all of us. I had the privilege of meeting her once upon a time in #NYC. She was a force of nature and will not be soon forgotten. #rippennymarshall #trailblazer #changemaker #femalefilmmaker #jumpingjackflash #big #aleagueoftheirown #unitedstatesoftara #laverne #legend
Penny’s brother was actor and producer Garry Marshall, who created “Happy Days”, “Laverne & Shirley”, and adapted “The Odd Couple” for TV. Clearly, he worked with her a lot, and helped her get her start.
Garry passed away two years ago at the age of 81.
Penny broke a lot of ground as a director . . . in fact, she became the first female director to gross more than $100 million at the box office with “Big”. It made about $115 million domestically, which made it the fourth biggest movie of 1988.
Four years later, “A League of Their Own” also cracked $100 million. BoxOfficeMojo.com says that in today’s money, “Big” and “A League of Their Own” would’ve made more than $255 million and $236 million, respectively.
Penny was married twice . . . to a guy named Michael Henry for a few years in the ’60s, and to ROB REINER from 1971 to 1979. She also dated ART GARFUNKEL in the ’80s. They never married, but remained close friends.
Rob Tweeted, quote, “I loved Penny. I grew up with her. She was born with a great gift. She was born with a funnybone and the instinct of how to use it. I was very lucky to have lived with her and her funnybone. I will miss her.”
No word yet from Art, but a while back he praised Penny for helping him through his depression, and added, quote, “Penny is a sweet human being who can bring anybody down to earth. We had a lot of laughs, great sex, and a ton of party nights.”