Star of TV Comedy and Major Director, Dead at 75.
I confess, I’m still getting to know Penny Marshall.
In my defense, I missed her during her career’s prime. A League of Their Own premiered the year I was born, so sorry, yes, I’m one of those pesky #Millennials. But when I watched it for the first time this year, I was surprised by how well it balanced the demands of a period piece, sports film, and a character drama all at once. Somehow it still finds time to be funny, and it hit a home run as one of the best baseball movies of all time. Most of all, it’s just as (or perhaps even more) relevant now that at 26 years old than it was when it was made for its original Gen X and Baby Boomer audience.
I recently watched Happy Days for the first time—again, sorry about that—and digging into that show led to hearing rave reviews of Laverne & Shirley, which again surfaced with Marshall’s passing. That might need to be my next show, alongside my ongoing viewing of the Mary Tyler Moore show, in which I see she made several (I’m sure hilarious) appearances.
I’m sad it sometimes takes a loss to realize how much you’ve already missed, but I don’t intend to let your legacy go unnoticed, Ms. Marshall. Thank you for helping create characters and stories that make us laugh and make us feel empowered—you’re already missed.
– Taylor Blake
Even as a kid, bearing any kid’s abundant lack of critical thought, Laverne & Shirley did nothing for me. Being the relatively sheltered midwestern kid that I was, I found it shrill and difficult to relate to.
Of course, it was via this hit series that the world came to know and love Penny Marshall. The little sister of TV power producer Garry Marshall, once Laverne & Shirley ran its course, she followed his career path into big screen film directing. Though Penny never made the volume of films that Garry did, it could be argued that she can boast the bigger hits. Big is the one that, in 1987, rendered Tom Hanks a mega-star, whereas before he was merely a funny guy in funny movies. Hanks subsequently followed Marshall onto the baseball diamond for 1993’s A League of Their Own, a film that endures to this day with a reputation for being one of the very best baseball movies.
Not that I’ve actually gotten around to seeing A League of Their Own. And truth be told, I was never terribly big into Big. Which may (quite fairly) beg the question… why exactly am I chiming in for a remembrance of Penny Marshall??
In late 2006, in another career, I had the distinct pleasure of working on a film shoot in which Penny Marshall costarred. It was a “tween film” called Alice Upside Down, directed by the skilled Sandy Tung. The film landed a DVD release the following year, and is a pretty decent film of it is type, if I do say so myself. But, the presence of Penny Marshall- by that time a legend in her own right- elevated not just the movie, but the shoot itself.
I was Art Director on Alice Upside Down, a very busy job that kept me off set during filming most of the time. So, I didn’t work in any kind of close capacity with Ms. Marshall, though I did see her around. What I remember the best about her was her contentment and nice demeanor, even as we were filming this relatively small movie on the abandoned fourth floor of an otherwise active Catholic high school. Amusingly, the one thing she couldn’t be without were her cigarettes, so one of the empty rooms on our fourth floor shooting area was converted into a private Penny Marshall smoking lounge. Smoking in school is, no doubt, still a grave offense for students. But for TV and film royalty, exceptions are happily made. When I asked my friend, the Props Master, how she was treating him, he said all was quite well. Although, then he stated the line I’ll never forget: “Penny Marshall has only two expressions: ‘Smoking’, and ‘Wants To Be Smoking’”. He wasn’t wrong. And I suspect she’d appreciate that wry observation.
Anyhow, I count myself fortunate to have had the professional experience of working on a film with Penny Marshall. Rest well, good lady.
– Jim Tudor