Garry Marshall dies, leaving a long line of TV hitsLOS ANGELES - Writer-director Garry Marshall, whose deft touch with comedy and romance led to a string of TV hits that included “Happy Days” and “Laverne & Shirley” and the box-office successes “Pretty Woman” and “Runaway Bride,” has died. He was 81.
Marshall died Tuesday at a hospital in Burbank, California of complications from pneumonia after a stroke, his publicist Michelle Bega said in a statement.
The director also had an on-screen presence, using his New York accent and gruff delivery in colorful supporting roles that included a practical-minded casino boss unswayed by Albert Brooks’ disastrous luck in “Lost in America.”
“In the neighborhood where we grew up in, the Bronx, you only had a few choices,” Marshall said in a 1980s interview. “You were either an athlete or a gangster, or you were funny.”
Marshall earned a degree in journalism from Northwestern University and worked at the New York Daily News. But he found he was better at writing punchlines.
He began his entertainment career in the 1960s selling jokes to comedians, then moved to writing sketches for “The Tonight Show” with Jack Paar in New York. He caught the eye of comic Joey Bishop, who brought him to Los Angeles to write for “The Joey Bishop Show.”
Sitcoms quickly proved to be Marshall’s forte. He and then-writing partner Jerry Belson turned out scripts for the most popular comedies of the ’60s, including “The Lucy Show,” “The Danny Thomas Show” and “The Dick Van Dyke Show.”
Marshall and Belson detoured into screenwriting in 1967 with “How Sweet It Is,” starring Debbie Reynolds, and followed it up with “The Grasshoppers” (1970) with Jacqueline Bisset.
In 1970, they turned Neil Simon’s Broadway hit, “The Odd Couple,” into a sitcom starring Jack Klugman and Tony Randall and produced by Marshall. It ran for five seasons and proved the beginning of a TV sitcom empire.
In January 1979, Marshall had three of the top five comedies on the air with “Happy Days,” which ran from 1974-84; “Laverne & Shirley” (1976-83) and “Mork and Mindy” (1978-82) with Robin Williams.
“Critics have knocked me for targeting society’s lowest common denominator,” he said in his 1995 autobiography.
“I believe that television was, and still is, the only medium that can truly reach society’s lowest common denominator and entertain those people who maybe can’t afford a movie or a play. So why not reach them and do it well?” he said. AP