Hollywood News

Garry Marshall, Pretty Woman Director, Dead At 81

Garry Marshall, director of iconic films like Pretty Woman and The Princess Diaries, passed away this Tuesday due to complications from pneumonia. He was 81.


Born Garry Kent Maschiarelli in the Bronx area in New York, Marshall received his degree from NorthWestern’s Medill School of Journalism. He subsequently changed his name to Marshall, as did his sister, Penny.

Marshall was known for his offbeat humour and the sensitivity with which he portrayed women in his films. His first big blockbuster was Pretty Woman (1990), in which he wrote the female lead (Julia Roberts) as a sex-worker who is down on her luck. Marshall drew flak for not killing her character. “Traditionally, a prostitute in a movie has to die or be punished. I don’t like women to be victims. It’s time we stopped that,” he said in an interview with Vanity Fair.

In Pretty Woman, Vivian’s station in life makes her an object of derision. This Cinderella moment from the film became wildly popular.

Marshall liked to imbue his female characters with a core of steel. Laverne (Penny Marshall) from Laverne & Shirley, as a tough-talking tomboy, was a very progressive character for its time.

The Princess Diaries (2001) established Anne Hathaway as a teen star. Marshall’s treatment of the Young Adult series, focused on Mia Thermopolis’ (Anne Hathaway) transformation from awkward teenager to polished young Princess, and was full of slapstick humour. The audience (mostly teenage girls) lapped it up, catapulting the film into the big league. It generated around $165 Million for Walt Disney.


The director first came into prominence as an NBC executive who developed and produced an adaptation of Neil Simon’s play The Odd Couple for television. He began his career as a joke writer for comedian Joey Bishop, and briefly worked on The Tonight Show With Jack Paar. In the late sixties, he teamed up with writer Jerry Belson and began work on television shows, which included The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Lucy Show among others.

Garry Marshall is credited with launching the careers of many stars, including Robbie Williams, Harry Winkler, his sister Penny Marshall, and Hector Elizondo, who met Marshall over a game of basketball. Marshall considered Elizondo his good luck charm, and cast him in all of his films.

Harry Winkler, who played Fonzie in Marshall’s iconic Happy Days show, tweeted:

Happy Days had a seven year run, and was the No. 1 show on television during the 1976-77 season, No. 2 in 1977-78, and No. 4 the following year. Years later, Marshall acknowledged that he was behind the idea of putting Fonzie on water skis in a 1977 episode. The scene was so bizarre that it spawned the phrase “jumped the shark,” used in reference to a show that was clearly past its prime.


Garry also made several acting appearances. As a child, he appeared regularly on The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show,  played a hoodlum in The Goldfinger, and most recently, appeared in an episode of the newly rebooted The Odd Couple.

Over the course of two decades, Marshall directed nearly 18 films, and oversaw around 33 television shows.He received the American Comedy Awards’ Creative Achievement Award in 1990, the Writers Guild of America’s Valentine Davies Award in 1995, the PGA’s Honorary Lifetime Membership Award and Lifetime Achievement Award in Television in 1998, and the American Cinema Editors’ Golden Eddie Filmmaker of the Year Award in 2004. In 1997, he was inducted into the Academy of Television, Arts and Sciences’ Hall of Fame


On Pretty Woman‘s 25th anniversary, a musical based on the film was launched and Marshall was more than happy to work on it. “I was not happy with the way I wrote Richard Gere’s character. This is my opportunity to flesh him out more. We’ve given the musical more scenes with Edward Lewis’ and his family life, so that his character seems more human.”

Asked when the show would open (Fall 2017), the director had joked, “Well, I will probably be in the home for old directors when they do.”

Marshall is survived by his wife Barbara, son Scott (also a film director), daughters Lori and Kathleen, and sisters Penny Marshall (an actress and film director), and Ronny Hallin (a TV producer).


Featured Image Courtesy: Getty Images