Garry Marshall, Director Of Big- And Small-Screen Projects, Dies At 81

Jul 20, 2016
Originally published on July 20, 2016 12:44 pm
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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And now let's remember a comedy legend.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HAPPY DAYS")

PRATT MCCLAIN: (Singing) Sunday, Monday, happy days. Tuesday, Wednesday, happy days. Thursday...

MONTAGNE: That is, of course, the opening to the hit TV show "Happy Days." During the '70s and '80s, it was playing prime time in living rooms across America. That show's creator, Garry Marshall, has died at the age of 81. He was a man of many talents - writer, director, actor - who also created the hit sitcoms "Laverne & Shirley" and "Mork & Mindy."

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "MORK AND MINDY")

PAM DAWBER: (As Mindy) Daddy, this is Mork. Mork, this is Mr. McConnell.

ROBIN WILLIAMS: (As Mork) Nanu, nanu.

(LAUGHTER)

MONTAGNE: That's actress Pam Dawber and the late Robin Williams. Marshall also directed more than a dozen movies, his best known about a prostitute with big dreams, "Pretty Woman."

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "PRETTY WOMAN")

JULIA ROBERTS: (As Vivian Ward) When I was a little girl, I would pretend I was a princess trapped in a tower. And then, this knight on a white horse would come charging up and rescue me.

MONTAGNE: "Pretty Woman" made Julia Roberts a star. And here to talk to me more about Garry Marshall's legacy is NPR's TV critic Eric Deggans.

Good morning.

ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: Hi.

MONTAGNE: Let's start with how he got his start.

DEGGANS: Like a lot of TV producers from the '70s, he started with TV's start. He worked on "The Tonight Show" with Jack Paar and then worked with Joey Bishop, worked on "The Lucy Show." And then, he got his big break in television when he and his writing partner were tapped to do a TV version of "The Odd Couple." And it sort of launched his career as a TV producer.

MONTAGNE: In an interview with NPR's Scott Simon, he credits his mother with getting him into show business. Let's listen to a bit of that.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

SCOTT SIMON, BYLINE: Do you still cast back to what she told you about the business every now and then?

GARRY MARSHALL: Well, she said the worst thing is to be boring, when I was little. And I said, what is boring, Ma? And she said, your father.

(LAUGHTER)

MARSHALL: She always had (laughter) a shot for everybody.

MONTAGNE: Well, then in the late 1970s, there was blockbuster after blockbuster for him in network TV. He had three major sitcoms on the air all at the same time. Tell us about some of the actors that got their start on his shows.

DEGGANS: Well, you know, we heard the wonderful Robin Williams got his start, first as a character on "Happy Days" and then spun off into his own show "Mork & Mindy," his sister Penny Marshall on "Laverne & Shirley," and "Happy Days" had Ron Howard, of course, and Henry Winkler as The Fonz. And we've got a great clip of Garry Marshall talking about the moment he realized that Henry Winkler's character, The Fonz, was the breakout character on that show, "Happy Days."

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MARSHALL: He wasn't at all like Fonzie, Henry Winkler, but he could act. And he just made guttural sounds and had - ho, ho and hey. And a lot of them, Henry made up himself - whoa-ing (ph) and hey-ing (ph).

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "HAPPY DAYS")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: (As employee) One burger, one Coke.

HENRY WINKLER: (As Fonzie) Ay (ph).

ACTRESS: (As employee) What's ay?

WINKLER: (As Fonzie) Ay (ph).

ACTRESS: (As employee) Oh, I'm sorry - too much ice in the Coke and not enough ketchup on the hamburger. I'll be right back.

MONTAGNE: (Laughter) OK. He moved down to movies in the '80s. He directed 18, a couple of which were real standouts.

DEGGANS: Yeah. Well, of course, "Pretty Woman," which was one of his best known ones, but he also did "The Princess Diaries." He did "Beaches." And one of my favorites is "Nothing In Common," which is a film that he did with Tom Hanks and Jackie Gleason, where they played this father and son who had trouble connecting with each other. It was Jackie Gleason's last film and a great mix of comedy and drama, which I think Garry was kind of known for. He would do these films that had a heart. They were funny, but they also had great dramatic moments too.

MONTAGNE: And with the news of his death last night, there was a flood of tributes.

DEGGANS: Well, what's interesting is - of course, we talked about some of the well-known people that he gave some key roles to. But there was this outpouring on Twitter. And people like Rob Lowe, for example, said that Garry Marshall hired him when he was 15 years old. You know, Jason Alexander from "Seinfeld" said that he got a key role. Alyssa Milano talked about how Garry Marshall hired her. So, you know, these actors that you don't even necessarily connect to Garry Marshall films or Garry Marshall TV shows expressed their sorrow on Twitter when they heard about his passing.

MONTAGNE: That's NPR's TV critic Eric Deggans talking to us about writer, director and actor Garry Marshall, who passed away yesterday in Burbank, Calif. Thanks, Eric.

DEGGANS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.