Garry Marshall Biography

Actor, Director, Writer, Producer (1934–2016)
Garry Marshall produced some of the most popular television shows in the 1970s, including The Odd Couple, Happy Days, Laverne and Shirley and Mork and Mindy. He also directed over 18 films including Pretty Woman (1990) and The Princess Diaries (2001).


Director, writer and producer Garry Marshall was born in New York City on November 13, 1934. He studied journalism at Northwestern University and worked as a reporter after graduation. In 1961, Marshall moved to Los Angeles, where he wrote and produced television shows. In the 1970s, he produced the hit sitcoms The Odd Couple, Happy DaysLaverne and Shirley, and Mork and Mindy. Marshall also directed 18 films including The Flamingo Kid (1984), Beaches (1988), Pretty Woman (1990) and The Princess Diaries (2001). He died on July 19, 2016 at the age of 81.


Famed director and producer Garry Kent Marshall was born on November 13, 1934, in the Bronx, New York. His father Anthony Masciarelli, an industrial filmmaker, changed the family name to Marshall. His mother, Majorie Ward, was a dance teacher whose wit would influence Marshall's comedy later in life. Marshall spoke about his parents in an interview with the New York Times in 2000: “My mother was funnier than anybody I ever worked for,” he said. “My father was as funny as this coat. Not a laugh a minute, my father.”

Marshall attended Public School 80 and DeWitt Clinton High School in the Bronx and went on to major in journalism at Northwestern University. He joined the U.S. Army in 1956 and was stationed in South Korea. After two years of military service, he returned to New York and became a reporter for the New York Daily News.

Television and Film Career

Marshall began his career in comedy writing jokes for comedians. He landed work as a writer for The Tonight Show With Jack Paar. In 1961, he moved to Los Angeles and wrote for The Joey Bishop Show. In L.A., he teamed up with writing partner Jerry Belson, and they co-wrote episodes for The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Lucy Show and I Spy. In 1970, Marshall and Belson developed the hit sitcom The Odd Couple, based on the popular Neil Simon play and starring Jack Klugman and Tony Randall. The popular show ran for five seasons. Marshall reached the height of his career as a television producer during the 1970s, creating iconic hits including Happy Days (1974-1984), starring Ron Howard and Henry Winkler as the Fonz; its spin-off Laverne and Shirley (1976-1983), which starred his sister Penny Marshall and Cindy Williams; and Mork and Mindy (1978-1982), which helped launch the career of Robin Williams. He also created another Happy Days spin-off Joanie Loves Chachi, which didn't fare as well in the ratings and only ran from 1983-1984.

Happy Days Photo

READ ARTICLE: ‘Happy Days’ Cast: Where Are They Now? The "Happy Days" cast (clockwise, from top left): Henry Winkler, Tom Bosley, Anson Williams, Marion Ross, Ron Howard, Erin Moran, and Don Most. (Photo: ABC/Photofest)

Marshall also turned his talents toward the big screen, directing 18 films over the course of his career. In 1968, he co-produced and co-wrote with Belson his first film, How Sweet It Is!, starring Debbie Reynolds and James Garner. He made his directorial feature film debut in 1982 with Young Doctors in Love, a comic look at daytime serials, followed by The Flamingo Kid (1984), a coming-of-age film he wrote and directed, which starred Matt Dillon

In 1986, Marshall directed Nothing in Common, starring Tom Hanks and Jackie Gleason in his last film role. He went on to direct the Goldie Hawn/Kurt Russell comedy Overboard (1987) and the Bette Midler/Barbara Hershey drama Beaches (1988), which enjoyed some box office success, but neither was as huge a hit as Pretty Woman. The Cinderella story of a young prostitute who captures the heart of a wealthy billionaire catapulted Julia Roberts to stardom in 1990. Following its tremendous success, Marshall tried his hand at a serious drama with Frankie and Johnny (1991), starring Al Pacino and Michelle Pfeiffer. The film received lukewarm reviews. Marshall's subsequent films included Dear God (1996) and The Other Sister (1999).

Marshall returned to comedy with Pretty Woman stars Julia Roberts and Richard Gere in 1999 with Runaway Bride. He had a comedy hit with The Princess Diaries in 2001, starring Julie Andrews and Anne Hathaway in her breakout role. He directed John Corbett, Joan Cusack and Kate Hudson in the box office flop Raising Helen (2004), the story of a single woman forced to take care of her sister's three children after a car accident. Subsequent films included The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement (2004), Georgia Rule (2007), Valentine's Day (2010) and New Year’s Eve (2011).

In 2015, Marshall was a consultant on the television reboot of The Odd Couple, starring Matthew Perry

Richard Gere and Julia Roberts

READ ARTICLE: ‘Pretty Woman’ Turns 25: Our Favorite Quotes. Pictured above stars Richard Gere and Julia Roberts. (Photo: Photofest)

In front of the camera, Marshall also acted in films and television shows. He played a casino manager in Albert Brooks’s 1985 comedy Lost in America and a baseball team owner in the 1992 comedy-drama A League of Their Own, directed by his sister Penny. During the mid-1990s, many TV audiences came to recognize him for playing Candice Bergen's ratings-crazy boss, Stan Lansing, on Murphy Brown. He also voiced guest appearances on The Simpsons and guest starred in TV shows including ER, Monk,The Sarah Silverman Show and Two and a Half Men.

Marshall also had a passion for theater and brought his talents to the stage. With Belson, he co-wrote the Broadway play The Roast (1980), which was directed by Carl Reiner, and the Off Broadway play Wrong Turn at Lungfish (1993) with Lowell Ganz. In 1997, he founded the Falcon Theater in Burbank, California with his daughter Kathleen, and he also directed operas including The Grand Duchess for the Los Angeles Opera’s 2005-06 season and Donizetti’s The Elixir of Love for the San Antonio Opera in 2008.

In 1995, Marshall co-wrote his autobiography Wake Me When It's Funny with his daughter Lori. In the book, he described the power of television: “I believe that television was, and still is, the only medium that can truly reach society's lowest common denominator and entertain those people who maybe can't afford a movie or a play. So why not reach them and do it well?”

He released My Happy Days in Hollywood, his second memoir, in 2012.

Awards and Recognition

Marshall received several awards throughout his career, including the American Comedy Award for Lifetime Achievement in 1990, the Writers Guild of America’s Valentine Davies Award in 1995, the David Susskind Television Lifetime Achievement Award and 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. He was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame in 1997.


Marshall died from complications following a stroke on July 19, 2016 in a Burbank hospital. He was 81. Marshall is survived by his wife Barbara and three children — Lori, Kathleen and Scott.

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