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Penny Marshall (1943–2018), filmmaker and “Laverne and Shirley” star

by Kirk Fox

Penny Marshall (1943–2018) was the star of the popular sitcom, “Laverne and Shirley.” She later moved behind the camera to become an acclaimed director, helming the hit movies “Big,” “Awakenings,” and “A League of Their Own.”

The actress with the recognizable Bronx accent became a star as Laverne in “Laverne and Shirley,” a spin-off of “Happy Days.” Marshall’s brother, Garry Marshall, cast her and Cindy Williams as the boisterous friends who work in a brewery in Milwaukee. The pair originally appeared on an episode of “Happy Days” and then starred on their hit sitcom from 1976 until 1983.

See Penny Marshall and other 1970s Sitcom Stars


Marshall moved on from acting to become a top director, becoming the first female director to have a movie gross over 100 million dollars with the 1988 hit “Big,” a feel good comedy starring Tom Hanks.

Her next directorial effort was the inspirational “Awakenings,” starring Robert de Niro and Robin Williams. The movie received an Oscar nomination for Best Picture. Her next film, “A League of Their Own,” a comedy-drama about women’s professional baseball during World War II, again starred Hanks along with Geena Davis, Rosie O’Donnell, and Madonna, and was a box office smash.

She continued to direct with her last movie being 2001’s “Riding in Cars with Boys,” starring Drew Barrymore.

Marshall occasionally acted in cameo roles including a memorable one in “Get Shorty.” She reunited with Cindy Williams for a 2013 episode of the Nickelodeon series “Sam & Cat.”

She was married twice, first to Michael Henry and then to actor/director Rob Reiner (they divorced in 1979). She is survived by her daughter Tracy Reiner, from her marriage to Henry, who was adopted by Reiner.

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Died: Monday, December 17, 2018 (Who else died on December 17?)

Details of death: Died at the age of 75 from complications of diabetes

Is there someone you miss whose memory should be honored? Here are some ways.

Notable Quote: “He’s a great guy. I wouldn’t have a career without him. He told me go have lunch with this person, go take acting classes from this person. I said, ‘Mommy wants me to change my name.’ He said, ‘Why?’ ‘Because she doesn’t want me to embarrass the family.’ ‘He said, ‘Don’t listen to her, she’s nuts.’ ” —Marshall in a 2012 interview with Travis Smiley talking about her brother Garry

What people said about her: “Penny Marshall brought us great laughter and truly broke new ground as a director. Neither a schlemiel, nor ever a schlimazel, she shall be missed by her many fans. Rest in peace.” —Actor George Takei

“I grew up wanting to be as funny as Penny Marshall, and had the pleasure of meeting her a few times. Watch some old Laverne and Shirley to see why her brother Garry insisted on casting her. Comedy gold, she was.” —Big Bang Theory’s Mayim Bialik

“She was funny & so smart. She made the transition from sitcom star to A List movie director with ease & had a major impact on both mediums. All that & always relaxed, funny & totally unpretentious. I was lucky to have known & worked with her.” —Ron Howard

“I loved Penny. I grew up with her. She was born with a great gift. She was born with a funnybone and the instinct of how to use it. I was very lucky to have lived with her and her funnybone. I will miss her.” —Rob Reiner

“Mourning the loss of a funny, poignant, and original American voice. Penny Marshall was a pioneer in television and the big screen who understood humor comes in many forms and some of life’s deeper truths require a laugh. She will be missed. May she RIP.” —Newscaster Dan Rather

“I first met Penny one month after having arriving here in LA. I was a guest star on a TV pilot she was working on. The next time we worked together was on that iconic episode of ‘Happy Days.’ She was so inventive, so funny and so warm. She brought her own unique brand of humor to what was on the written page.” —Henry Winkler

“I’m sad to read she has passed. Director, producer and actress who had the humor, wit and fortitude to stand equally with the boys in Hollywood. Goodbye Penny, we will miss you. RIP.” —Actress Marlee Matlin

Full obituary: New York Daily News

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