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American comedy in the last couple of decades owes a significant debt to Garry Marshall. As a writer, an actor, a show runner, and a director, the man built a legacy of laughter, and even up until this spring, he was as active as ever. It saddens us to report that as of this afternoon, Garry Marshall has passed away, at the age of 81.
The official cause of death, according to The Hollywood Reporter, was due to complications from pneumonia, after previously suffering a stroke. Garry Marshall is survived by his wife, Barbara, as well as his daughter, six grandchildren, and his sister, director Penny Marshall. While his passing is unfortunately one of many sudden passings that have occurred this year, his legacy will remain as bright and laugh filled as it always has been. Born in 1934, Marshall grew up in The Bronx and eventually went to Northwestern University, which started off his career in writing via a regular sports column.
However, it wasn't until Garry Marshall's career began in the field of television writing, that everything began to fall into place. Among his first gigs were duties as a joke writer on such programs as The Dick Van Dyke Show and The Tonight Show with Jack Paar. Of course, writing soon lead to producing, as Marshall went on to create such legendary hits as The Odd Couple, Happy Days, Laverne and Shirley, and Mork and Mindy. It was through those shows that the careers of such comedic talents as Henry Winkler and Robin Williams would find their jump start, with the already famous Ron Howard continuing to nurture his own career through his work with Marshall and his team. With a lot of success under his belt, Garry Marshall still had two more frontiers to cross: acting and film directing.
While Garry Marshall had some early roles in films like Goldfinger and Lost In America, his acting career really picked up in the 1990s. Among his most recognizable roles are Stan Lansing, the head of the network that Murphy Brown and company worked for, as well as "The Devil" in Hocus Pocus, and most recently Abe, a Catfish director on Bojack Horseman. However, his acting career only complimented the part of his career that made up the bulk of his resume, his three plus decades as a film director.
Starting with 1982's Young Doctors In Love, Marshall evolved through the course of decades to deliver iconic hits such as The Heartbreak Kid, Pretty Woman, The Princess Diaries, and most recently Valentine's Day. For the most part, romantic comedies were Garry Marshall's bread and butter, which not only helped refine the genre into what we recognize it as today, but also delivered stars such as Julia Roberts and Anne Hathaway into the superstar careers they recognized for today. Though besides his lighter fare, Marshall was also known for the comedy / drama, Beaches, which also spawned the hit single "Wind Beneath My Wings," sung by one of the film's stars, Bette Midler.
If there's one thing Garry Marshall will be remembered for, it's laughter. Through his legendary career, he's never ceased to make an audience laugh, though sometimes he has been able to make them cry or fall in love. It's his gift that we remember today, as well as his equally sparkling personality. We send our deepest condolences to the Marshall family in this time of need, and would like them to know that we will forever cherish the joy he brought us, his audience.