Garry Marshall, a giant of TV comedy whose long list of credits include such landmark series as Happy Days, The Odd Couple and The Dick Van Dyke Show, has died. He was 81. He also helmed 18 feature films including Pretty Woman, and had acting credits dating to the 1960s. His publicist Michelle Bega said Marshall died Tuesday at a Burbank hospital from complications of pneumonia following a stroke.
Henry Winkler, who played Arthur “The Fonz” Fonzerelli on Happy Days, tweeted tonight: “Thank you for my professional life. Thank you for your loyalty, friendship and generosity.”
A recipient of two WGA career honors — the Valentine Davies Award and Paddy Chayefsky Laurel Award — Marshall also co-created and wrote such classic 1970s comedies as Happy Days spinoffs Laverne & Shirley and Mork & Mindy. The former co-starring his sister Penny Marshall was the No. 1 primetime series in back-to-back seasons, and the latter made a star of Robin Williams. With those and Happy Days, the Bronx native had a hand in creating, writing and producing three of the four top-rated TV series of 1978-79.
In 1970, Marshall and Jerry Belson adapted Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple for television, starring Tony Randall as the fastidious Felix Unger and Jack Klugman as the slovenly sportswriter Oscar Madison. The ABC series ran through 1975 and was an Emmy nominee for Outstanding Comedy Series three times. The show revived seven years later as The New Odd Couple with an all-new cast led by Ron Glass as Felix and Demond Wilson as Oscar. It lasted two seasons.
“Garry Marshall’s filmography – from The Joey Bishop Show to Happy Days – is a virtual history of American television comedy,” WGAW President Christopher Keyser said in announcing Marshall’s Laurel Award in 2014. “Both of-their-time and timeless, his shows are a gentle, generous, comic mirror held up to late mid-century America. And no one is a finer or funnier chronicler of friendship – male or female (or alien) – than Garry Marshall.”
During the 1970s and ’80s, Marshall also co-created and/or wrote for and directed sitcoms Blansky’s Beauties, Angie, Makin’ It, The Brian Keith Show, The New Odd Couple, Me and the Chimp and yet another Happy Days spinoff in Joanie Loves Chachi.
Marshall already was a veteran of the TV comedy game by the 1970s, having written multiple episodes of such series as Make Room for Daddy, The Joey Bishop Show, The Lucy Show and Love, American Style. He also penned 18 episodes of The Dick Van Dyke Show‘s final season. That comedy ranked No. 14 on the WGA’s 2013 list of the 101 Best Written TV Series.
He also worked on such telefilms as Evil Roy Slade and The Murdocks and the McClays, both co-written with Belson and served as executive producer on Showtime’s 1996 telepic The Twilight of the Golds, in which he also co-starred as Mr. Gold.
Marshall told the Archive of American Television in 2000: “The producer has to convince people of the basic sports theory that sometimes you’ve got to work with people; you don’t have to go to lunch with them.”
Marshall directed the 1990 smash comedy Pretty Woman, which made a star of Julia Roberts. He would direct her again in Runaway Bride (1999) and his recent holiday-themed films Mother’s Day — which opened in April — and Valentine’s Day. His other film directing credits include the Michelle Pfeiffer-Al Pacino drama Frankie & Johnny (see photo below), Beaches, Overboard, The Princess Diaries, The Flamingo Kid and Young Doctors in Love.
Marshall continued to act into his 80s, most recently appearing as Walter Madison, the father of Oscar (Matthew Perry), in an episode of CBS’ The Odd Couple this past season and recent episodes of series including Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Hot in Cleveland, Louie and Two and a Half Men. He also appeared in two dozen episodes of Murphy Brown and did plenty of voice work, working on toons including BoJack Horseman, The Simpsons, The Looney Tunes Show and Father of the Pride. His acting credits stretch back to an uncredited role as a bad guy in the 1964 James Bond classic Goldfinger.
Marshall also was a lover of theater. In 1997, he founded The Falcon Theatre, a 130-seat hall near Disney Studios in Burbank, and launched a five-play subscription series in 2002. He directed his first opera, Grand Duchess, which opened the Los Angeles Opera’s 2005 season. Three years later, he directed L’Elisir d’Amore (The Elixir of Love) for the San Antonio Opera. In 2007, he debuted a stage musical production of Happy Days, with a book by Marshall and music and lyrics by Paul Williams.
Along with the WGA career honors, Marshall has a slew of other awards to his name. He received a Lifetime Achievement Award in Television from the PGA in 1998 and was a two-time winner of the Publicists Guild’s Showmanship Award, for TV in 1980 and motion pictures in 1992. He also logged four Emmy noms for Outstanding Comedy Series — the three for Odd Couple and another for Mork & Mindy. Marshall received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1983.
In addition to Penny Marshall, he is survived by his wife of 53 years, Barbara Sue Marshall; another sister, Ronny Hallin; children Lori, a writer; Kathleen, a theater producer; and Scott, a film and TV director; as well as six grandchildren.
Funeral services will be private. A memorial is being planned for his birthday on November 13. The family requests no flowers. Donations in the name of Garry Marshall can be made to the Saban Community Clinic (formerly known as the Los Angeles Free Clinic), the Intensive Care Unit at Providence St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Burbank and Northwestern University Undergraduate Scholarship Fund.
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