News broke last night that Hollywood has lost another of its greats: Garry Marshall passed away at the age of 81. News like this is always sad to hear, but Marshall’s passing hit me particularly hard because his work has been an ever-present constant in my life, from the re-runs of his classic TV shows that I’ve watched since toddler-dom, to those Princess Diaries films I loved watching as an early millennium tween. Like many of the folks I’ve seen reacting to the news on social media, I grew up laughing with him. @KatyRochelle on Twitter phrased it perfectly: “Thank you Garry Marshall for all the light-hearted cheerful movies [and shows] you gave to a very grim world.”
In honor of this talented fella, who by all accounts was also one of the nicest people in Hollywood, today I’ll be sharing five of my favorite Garry Marshall creations (as writer, creator, or director).
Writer: THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW
Marshall co-wrote (with Jerry Belson) 18 episodes of The Dick Van Dyke Show between seasons three and five — nothing as iconic as “The Twizzle,” but very fun episodes nonetheless. Having watched and reviewed every episode here on the blog, I can say with certainty that Marshall and Belson provided some of my very favorite moments of the series. My favorite Marshall/Belson-written episodes: “The Brave and the Backache” (3×20), “4 1/2” (4×7), “Young Man with a Shoehorn” (4×22), “No Rice at My Wedding” (5×5), “Talk to the Snail” (5×24), “The Man From My Uncle” (5×27), and “Long Night’s Journey Into Day” (5×30).
Creator: HAPPY DAYS
A truly iconic television comedy. Even if you haven’t watched it, you’ve probably heard the theme song (“Sunday, Monday, happy days. Tuesday, Wednesday, happy days!”) or seen an image of The Fonz giving a thumbs up, at the very least. This is one of those Garry Marshall shows I’ve been watching for practically my entire life through re-runs on antenna channels. I think this show serves as a great example of that light-hearted cheerfulness mentioned above, which so often defined Marshall’s work. You can criticize it as corny or sentimental, or disagree with its way-more-rosy-than-reality view of the ’50s, but it’s a great show to watch when you just need something light that’ll make you laugh a little and put a smile on your face.
Creator: LAVERNE & SHIRLEY
Of all of Garry Marshall’s creations, Laverne & Shirley is probably the most special to me. My dad and I have always watched it together. We love it so much that for several years, the theme song has been my ringtone for whenever Dad calls me… and one year for Christmas, since my name begins with an “L,” dad got me an embroidered sweater Laverne would be proud to own! I find the show hilarious, and not only that, as a young gal it gave me two lead characters to look up to. Laverne and Shirley aren’t perfect — they experience plenty of mistakes and mishaps. But they also work hard, make their own way in life, and deal with every problem the world throws at them, having plenty of fun through it all.
Director: RAISING HELEN
Garry Marshall directed this romantic “dramedy” about a young, successful New York woman who finds her life turned upside down when her sister and brother-in-law pass away, leaving her with custody of their three children. I turned thirteen the year this film came out and I absolutely loved it. It has a lot of heart and speaks to the importance of family bonds — a message I always appreciate and connect with, since my own family is pretty close-knit. Raising Helen is also worth watching for a great performance by the highly underrated Joan Cusack, Helen’s older sister who is more qualified to care for the kids, but wasn’t chosen to do so by their parents.
Director: RUNAWAY BRIDE
Pretty Woman is probably Garry Marshall’s best-known film, but I prefer his other directorial effort starring Julia Roberts/Richard Gere, Runaway Bride. If a film is classified as a “rom com” I’m basically guaranteed to watch it, and near-guaranteed to enjoy it, but I’m more selective about those I’ll re-watch over and over. Runaway Bride is one of those rom coms I’ve watched a million times, and will likely watch a million more in my lifetime. Most films of the genre follow the very same formula, and this one is no exception, but what makes certain romantic comedies great is the amount of fun they deliver while telling a variation on the same ol’ story. Runaway Bride blends in elements of screwball comedy, and the cast has a great energy/strong chemistry. Top it off with another scene-stealing performance by Joan Cusack and you’ve got one heck of a delightful film.
REST IN PEACE, GARRY MARSHALL
1934 – 2016