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Penny Marshall was a good actress, a great director and one of a kind personality. She took chances. She fought for what she believed in, and she did it all with a great sense of humor. The legendary Hollywood personality passed away this week at the age of 75, survived by generations of admirers who connected with her work.
Penny Marshall moved to Los Angeles in the late 1960s, following in the footsteps of her brother Garry who would later go on to make Pretty Woman and a bunch of other great movies. At the time, he was a writer on The Dick Van Dyke Show. He helped point her in the right direction, which eventually led to commercials, bit parts of TV shows and finally, Laverne & Shirley. She credited her brother with launching her career, but it was her natural talent as a director that progressed her into the upper echelon of Hollywood power brokers.
She was hired as a last minute replacement for the film Jumpin' Jack Flash in 1986. Two years later, she directed Tom Hanks in Big. It was the first movie ever directed by a woman to make $100M at the box office. She hit the milestone again in 1992 with A League Of Their Own.
To me, Penny Marshall will always be the director of A League Of Their Own, one of my favorite movies ever made. To others, however, she'll always be Laverne from Laverne & Shirley. Or Myra from The Odd Couple. Or the director of Big. Or the director of Awakenings. Or the producer of Cinderella Man. Or one of a bunch of other hats she wore during her fifty year career in Hollywood. That's the sign of a great career and a diverse one that takes chances and produces work that really matters to people.
During her career, Penny Marshall was also involved in several much-discussed romances. During her early days on Laverne & Shirley, she was married to actor and director Rob Reiner. As he was a regular on All In The Family, the two could often note they were key players on the two most popular sitcoms in the country. Following their divorce, she also had a relationship with popular singer Art Garfunkel. Her first marriage also produced one daughter, Tracy, who was later adopted by Rob Reiner. She appeared in many of her mother's projects, most notably as Betty in A League Of Their Own.
When Marshall was at her best, she was able to strike a great balance between comedy and genuine heart. Her better movies will continue to be watched and loved for decades to come. Our thoughts go out to her family during this difficult time.