Director/actor Penny Marshall, R.I.P.

Penny Marshall appeared in Paul Sand in Friends and Lovers (1974-1975), a TV show that only about 14 people, including me, even remember.

Penny Marshall

The first regular gig Penny Marshall got on television was as Myrna, the secretary of Oscar Madison (Jack Klugman) on The Odd Couple (1972-1974), a program I watched religiously. The late Garry K. Marshall, Penny’s brother, adapted the Neil Simon play for the small screen and cast Tony Randall as Felix Ungar.

I loved Myrna. Penny Marshall explains how she got the role and that distinctive laugh. Rob Reiner, her husband at the time, who played Mike “Meathead” Stivic on All in the Family, was a guest star in this 1974 episode (sound quality so-so).

Then she appeared in Paul Sand in Friends and Lovers (1974-1975), a TV show that only about 14 people, including me, even remember.

Penny shows up in a couple episodes (1975-1976) of the immensely popular Happy Days as Laverne DeFazio, a date for the Fonz. Garry created, produced, directed and scripted that show, and then Laverne and Shirley, a successful spinoff also starring Cindy Williams as Shirley. “During the late ’50s and early ’60s they worked as bottlecappers for Shotz Brewery in Milwaukee.” By the time their characters moved to Hollywood, I had stopped watching.

L and S was a family affair. Ronny Hallin, their sister, served as the show’s casting director, and Anthony Marshall, their father, produced as well. Penny Marshall directed four episodes of the series (1979-1981).

She went on to direct a string of movies. I’ve never seen Jumpin’ Jack Flash (1986) with Whoopi Goldberg. But I watched Big (1986) with Tom Hanks; Awakenings (1990) with Robert De Niro and Robin Williams; and A League of Their Own (1992) with Hanks, Geena Davis, and Madonna, all originally in the movie theater.

Two films, in particular, contain iconic scenes. Big features Hanks and the late Robert Loggia playing piano in FAO Schwarz. And A League of Their Own, which revealed to America a piece of its own hidden history, There’s No Crying in Baseball, with Hanks and Betty Schram.

I also watched 1996’s The Preacher’s Wife, with Whitney Houston, on TV at some point.

Schram said that Penny Marshall “broke barriers as one of the first great women directors/ She really had a knack for picking material, finding the right talent and making a hit. Her instincts were impeccable. She was a true pioneer for women.”

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