Penny Marshall, who became famous for her role on the TV show Laverne & Shirley in the late 1970s and went on to have great success as a director, has died. She turned 75.
Marshall died on December 17, 2018 at her home in the Hollywood Hills. She had diabetes, which led to complications. Once diagnosed with brain and lung cancer in 2009, she has been in remission since 2012.
“Our family is heartbroken over the passing of Penny Marshall”
– her family says in a statement.
“Penny was a girl from the Bronx, who came out West, put a cursive ‘L’ on her sweater and transformed herself into a Hollywood success story. We hope her life continues to inspire others to spend time with family, work hard and make all of their dreams come true.”
Penny’s older sister, Ronny, her daughter, Tracy Reiner, and her three grandchildren, Spencer, Bella, and Viva are the only people who will remember her.
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She was the first woman in Hollywood history to direct a movie that made more than $100 million at the box office. This happened in 1988 with Big. Two years after that, her drama Awakenings was nominated for the Best Picture award. And with A League of Their Own in 1992, she made more than $100 million again.
Marshall said in 1996 when she thought back on how she went from acting to directing –
“It was just something to do.”
“If I failed, I had my excuse: I was an actress, not a director.”
Carole Penny Marshall was born into an Italian-American family in the Bronx. She briefly went to college in New Mexico, where she met her first husband, Michael Henry, before moving to Los Angeles with her older brother Garry in 1967.
How Sweet It Is, a comedy with Debbie Reynolds and James Garner that was made in 1968 and co-written by her father, was where she got her first big-screen part. But for the next few years, she had trouble finding work and had to deal with hurtful comments about how she looked.
“I wasn’t perky, and it was the years of Sally Field and The Flying Nun”
– she once said.
In a TV ad for Head & Shoulders shampoo that she did in 1970, she played the plain Jane to Farrah Fawcett’s bubbly blonde.
But Marshall’s luck soon changed when her brother, who directed Pretty Woman and died at age 81 in 2016, cast her in two TV shows that he produced: First came The Odd Couple, in which she played Jack Klugman’s secretary, Myrna Turner, from 1971 to 1975. Then, in 1975, she started playing Laverne De Fazio on Happy Days, a role that would make her a TV star.
The smart-talking tomboy and her cheery roommate, Shirley Feeney, played by Cindy Williams, were such hits with the audience that the next year, ABC gave them their own show, Laverne & Shirley.
The show followed the lives of two people who worked at a brewery in Milwaukee. It is now one of the most popular sitcoms in TV history. Marshall ran for eight years and was nominated for three Golden Globes. And as a sign of what was to come, she was in charge of four episodes.
After the show ended, the two co-stars stayed friends, and in 2007, TV Land announced that they would work together again on a new show called Penny and Cindy. The project never got off the ground, which was a shame. Marshall’s first movie as a director was Jumpin’ Jack Flash, which came out in 1986. By that time, she had pretty much stopped acting.
Marshall’s next three movies—Renaissance Man, The Preacher’s Wife, and Riding in Cars With Boys—didn’t do as well at the box office as A League of Their Own. However, she continued to work with her filmmaker friends, producing Ron Howard’s Cinderella Man and Nora Ephron’s Bewitched, both of which came out in 2005.
Marshall was a sports fan her whole life and had a lot of sports memorabilia. She spent a lot of her later years cheering for her favorite teams, the L.A. Lakers and the New York Yankees. She could be seen winning over fans on the court or behind the dugout with that infectious Penny Marshall smile and her signature tinted glasses on the bridge of her nose.