Director and 'Laverne & Shirley' star Penny Marshall dead at 75
Penny Marshall, the actress who rose to fame on the ABC sitcom Laverne & Shirley, then became a trailblazing director of blockbuster hits like A League Of Their Own, Awakenings and Big, has died at 75. Marshall died in her Hollywood Hills home from complications due to diabetes.
The Bronx native scored her first recurring television role on The Odd Couple, playing Oscar's whiny secretary Myrna Turner from 1972 to 1974. She went on to earn widespread fame playing the wisecracking Laverne DeFazio on the Happy Days spinoff, Laverne and Shirley, which ran for eight seasons from 1976 to 1983. Her late brother Garry Marshall created and directed the high-rated sitcom, which centered on the misadventures of two bottle-cappers at a Milwaukee brewery. Cindy Williams co-starred as Marshall’s perky, idealistic roommate, Shirley Feeney.
After cutting her teeth directing episodes of Laverne and Shirley, Marshall went on to make feature films. In 1986, she made her directorial debut with Jumping Jack Flash, an action-comedy starring Whoopi Goldberg as a bank teller who gets tangled up in international espionage.
The film made a modest profit, but her second one was a comedy gold mine: Big, about a young boy who wishes to be "big" and magically transforms into an adult overnight, played by Tom Hanks. The sentimental comedy classic earned $150 million worldwide, making Marshall the first woman to direct a movie that made more than $100 million.
Marshall's third film, Awakenings, starred Robin Williams as a doctor determined to "awaken" a middle-aged man played by Robert De Niro, who had been catatonic for 30 years. The critically acclaimed drama was based on a true story, and earned three Oscar nominations, including Best Director and Best Actor for Robert De Niro. Marshall became the second woman in history to direct a Best Picture nominee.
But perhaps Marshall's most famous film was 1992's A League Of Their Own, a fictional account about the real-life All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, which existed during World War II. ("Girls can't play baseball!") The sports comedy-drama, which starred Tom Hanks, Geena Davis, Madonna and Rosie O'Donnell, went on make more than $100 million. In 2012, the film was selected for inclusion in the National Film Registry, which adds up to 25 "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant films" each year.
Marshall also directed the Danny DeVito comedy Renaissance Man (1994) and the Denzel Washington family film The Preacher's Wife (1996). Her final film, 2001's Riding In Cars With Boys, starred Drew Barrymore as a woman who overcome many difficulties, such as being a teen mother, to earn a master's degree.
In 2012, Marshall released her autobiography, My Mother Was Nuts. Her final acting appearance was The Narrator in her brother Garry Marshalls' comedy, Mother's Day. Garry Marshall died in 2016 from a stroke, following complications due to pneumonia. Penny Marshall is survived by her older sister Ronny, daughter Tracy Reiner, and three grandchildren. Our thoughts are with her friends and family.