Today was a sad day for me. Another icon died in Hollywood. A movie making legend and the man who is at least partially responsible for me becoming a writer. His movies, as well as Norah Ephron’s, were the type of stories and movies I loved seeing. They were and are the type of stories I wanted to tell. Just last week while watching one of his recent films I entertained the fantasy that he would one day read one of my books and like it. His name was Garry Marshall and was 81 years old.
If you are not familiar with the name you certainly will be with his work. He helmed cinema favorites like Pretty Woman, Runaway Bride, The Princes Diaries franchise, Valentine’s Day, Mothers Day, New Year’s Eve and one of my mom’s favorite movies, Beaches. He launched the career of giants like Julia Roberts and Anne Hathaway. He convinced Julie Andrews to sing in a movie again and introduced us to Robin Williams. Garry Marshall got his start directing TV shows while also acting in standouts like Murphy Brown, Lavern & Shirley, Mork and Mindy, The Odd Couple and Happy Days. He produced the entire Happy Days series, Lavern & Shirley, Mork and Mindy and the Odd Couple.
He introduced a generation to catch phrases like, “Nanoo Nanoo” made famous by Robin Williams. He showed the world the one of a kind smile that Julia Roberts has and made America fall in love with her. Who can forget the Fonzie and his, “Aaaaayyy”, from Happy Days?
In his films, Garry Marshall was famous for pulling an Alfred Hitchcock, often showing up in bit parts with maybe only a single line. He was known for using the same actors in his films over the years. Often large portions of a movie’s cast would be seen in later films in small roles. Several of the cast members from Runaway Bride, for example, were in Valentine’s Day. Actor Hector Elizondo was in almost every single movie Garry Marshall made starting with Pretty Woman. Jennifer Garner was in three films and he and Julia Roberts had an unspoken one movie per decade agreement. By all accounts, actors and actresses seemed to love him and loved working with him.
He was known for his warmth and smile as well as his upbeat attitude and humor. When talking about the critical hit the star-studded New Year’s Eve got from critics he took it with a grain of salt. He said, “I got killed on the last one, but it made 146 million worldwide,” he told Variety magazine.
As a novelist, I was and still am inspired by the unique form of storytelling Mr. Marshall used. It was movies like Valentine’s Day and New Year’s Eve that made me decide to write my new book series in the way that I am. In those films, there were several interconnected storylines. By the end of the film, it showed how all the characters were involved somehow, someway in each other’s’ lives and gave it a sense of wholeness and fate. I liked that connection and how it played out on the screen. His movies and TV shows were filled with cheesy and classic humor, cute love stories that we couldn’t turn away from and I will always admire that because the world needs those things.
My two favorite directors and producers are now gone in Marshall and Norah Ephron but I, we, will always have those movies to remember them by. Garry Marshall led an epic life and one where he made millions laugh and cry. He told the kind of touching stories that people wanted to see and made them laugh in ways they never had. Legends like Garry Marshall don’t come around often and Tinsel Town is a little less shiny now as it has lost one of its best people and most prolific storytellers.