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Friday, July 22, 2016

In Memoriam: Garry Marshall

Written by Jon Williams

We’ve noted before that 2016 has been a difficult year in the entertainment industry, having already lost a number of notable names. Sadly, that trend held true this week with the passing of Garry Marshall, the legendary writer, director, and producer of comedies for the screen both big and small. He was 81 years old.

Marshall actually studied for a career in journalism, but he soon found his footing as a comedy writer. The early to mid-1960s were quite a busy time for him. He started off writing sketches for The Tonight Show when Jack Paar was the host, which soon led to gigs writing for some of the most popular sitcoms of the era, such as The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Lucy Show, and Gomer Pyle, USMC. In 1970 he had another hit on his hands when he, along with partner Jerry Belson, adapted Neil Simon’s play The Odd Couple into the beloved TV series starring Jack Klugman and Tony Randall.

And that’s where Marshall’s TV career really skyrocketed. In 1974 he created the iconic show Happy Days, that idyllic look at American life in the 1950s and ‘60s through the eyes of the Cunningham family. Spinning off from that show in 1976 came Laverne & Shirley, which starred Marshall’s sister Penny. Then, in 1978, he scored a real coup when he discovered Robin Williams and cast him as the title alien in the show Mork & Mindy, thus changing the face of comedy forever.

If that were all the credits to Garry Marshall’s name, that would still be a pretty outstanding career. But that’s not all by any means. Having worked exclusively in television to that point, in 1982 he stepped into the director’s role for his first feature film, Young Doctors in Love (currently unavailable). One of the movie’s cast members was Hector Elizondo, who became one of Marshall’s closest friends and would go on to have at least a minor role in each of his movies to come. And what movies they were—Marshall’s directorial credits include such well-loved films as Beaches, Pretty Woman, Runaway Bride, and The Princess Diaries. His final films were a trio of holiday-related ensemble comedies: Valentine’s Day, New Year’s Eve, and this year’s Mother’s Day.

Garry Marshall had a stellar career in comedy, and by all accounts he was as fine a person as he was an entertainer. His voice will be sadly missed, but library patrons can continue to enjoy and explore his hilarious and timeless work. Make sure you have all the classics listed above on your shelves, and you can SmartBrowse his name on our website for more selections.

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