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Garry Marshall, creator of ‘Happy Days’ and director of ‘Pretty Woman,’ dead at 81

🕐 3 min read

One of Hollywood’s brightest stars is no longer shining.

Garry Marshall died on Tuesday at 81 years old his publicist said in a statement, according to the Associated Press.

To credit the multi-talented Marshall with any single accomplishment would be to diminish his others. The director, writer and actor worked in Hollywood for six decades, becoming arguably one of the most influential people in the business.

Marshall created some of the most enduring and seminal sitcoms, including Happy Days, Laverne & Shirley and Mork & Mindy. He also transformed Neil Simon’s play The Odd Couple into yet another hit sitcom for ABC.

Through these sitcoms, he helped launch the careers of screen legends like Ron Howard, Henry Winkler and Robin Williams. Not to mention that of his sister, actress Penny Marshall, who portrayed Myrna in The Odd Couple and Laverne DeFazio in both Happy Days and Laverne & Shirley.

Of course, every artist has his ups and downs, and Marshall would become responsible – if accidentally – for the rise of the phrase “jumping the shark,” which refers to the episode when a television show is no longer considered good.

This moment came in the fifth season premiere of Happy Days. Wanting to display the actual water-skiing prowess of Winkler, who played Fonzie, Marshall had an idea: put the Fonz on a pair of skis and have him jump over a shark. Needless to say, the episode, titled “Hollywood: Part 3,” was a disaster. It did, however, spawn a lasting phrase, yet another of Marshall’s entries into the Hollywood canon.

Marshall always shrugged off his losses though. As Penny told the New York Times in 2001, “he’s not into the show business glitterati. If he has a hot movie, that’s great. But if he has something that doesn’t do great, he’s not around those people who won’t speak to you or will make you feel terrible.”

His success did not stop at television. In 1990, he directed Pretty Woman, the film that starred Richard Gere and solidified Julia Roberts’ place as America’s sweetheart (and earned her an Oscar nomination). The film would gross $463 million worldwide.

His career as a director would create several gems and cult classics, from Runaway Bride to The Princess Diaries, but he often stepped in front of the camera as well.

One of his first roles was as an uncredited “hoodlum” in the 1964 James Bond film Goldfinger.

Later, he became a recurring character on Murphy Brown as Stan Lansing. He continued to work until his death, appearing in Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Netflix’s BoJack Horseman and the reboot of The Odd Couple in just the last two years.

Marshall was inducted into the Academy of Television, Arts and Sciences’s Hall of Fame in 1997.

Almost immediately Tuesday night, celebrities began honoring Marshall’s life and expressing grief over his death on Twitter.

Robin Williams’s daughter Zelda wrote, “RIP Garry. You forever changed my father’s life, and thus, mine. Thank you for capturing so much joy on film, over and over.” Henry Winkler tweeted, “Larger than life, funnier than most, wise and the definition of a friend.” And Albert Brooks, who appeared across from him in Lost in America, tweeted “R.I.P. Garry Marshall. A great, great guy and the best casino boss in the history of film.”

Marshall is survived by his wife Barbara, who he married in 1963, his three children, several grandchildren and sisters Penny Marshall and Ronny Hallin.

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