Penny Marshall died Monday at the age of 75, reportedly from complications of diabetes. News of her passing has hit many of her fans very hard and looking back over her long and successful career, now we celebrate the amazing woman that she was.
Marshall’s iconic laughter and voice, first made famous by her wisecracking Laverne on American sitcom Laverne & Shirley, who so many people loved, is truly one of our most beloved characters of all time on television.
Penny Marshall took her fame from that series and spun it into a class act cinematic career too. She starred in great memorable films Big with Tom Hanks and the period historically rooted film, A League of Their Own with an all-star cast that also included Hanks plus Geena Davis, Madonna, and Rosie O’Donnell.
Family spokesperson Michelle Bega released a statement from the family:
“Our family is heartbroken over the passing of Penny Marshall. We hope her life continues to inspire others to spend time with family, work hard and make all of their dreams come true.”
It was the standout TV role of a lifetime for Marshall, cast as Laverne DeFazio in the Happy Days spin-off Laverne & Shirley. Opening with the famous: “Schlemiel! Schlimazel! Hasenpfeffer Incorporated!” We tuned in by the millions to see Laverne DeFazio and Shirley Feeney navigate the beer filled streets of Milwaukee.
The year of 1976 saw this comedy jump to the top of the Nielsen ratings, and for eight seasons, these plucky roomies who worked at Shotz Brewery were the watercooler favorites, along with their crazy neighbors Lenny (Better Call Saul star Michael McKean) and Anthony Squiggliano (David Lander), aka “Squiggy.”
The entire TV show was a Marshall family labor of love as Penny Marshall starred and directed some episodes. Her late brother Garry Marshall (he died in 2016) created, produced, directed and wrote the scripts and Ronny Hallin, their sister, was the casting director. Anthony Marshall, the Marshall siblings father, produced the show too.
Later on, Marshall and Williams voiced their animated Laverne & Shirley characters who were in the Army, a Saturday morning cartoon in the fall of 1981.
It was the magic chemistry between show stars Penny Marshall and Cindy Williams that sold it and made it a hit with the country.
Cindy Williams said of their famous song in an interview: “[Garry Marshall] was the one who told Penny, ‘Teach Cindy that little ditty you used to do on the way to school. We’ll shoot that.”
“Penny taught me ‘Schlemiel! Schlimazel!’ I had no idea what it meant and I’m still kind of shakey on it…. When Penny and her school chums would walk to school, they’d link arms and count off their steps, ‘1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, schlemiel, schlimazel, hasenpfeffer incorporated!’ Then they’d run and stop and start counting again. Garry remembered that.”
Marshall took her fame card and went more behind the scenes by directing some TV series before her first feature film directing job with the 1986 Whoopi Goldberg film, Jumpin’ Jack Flash.
It was then the breakout box office hit Big that put her in the big boy director leagues, grossing over $100 million.
She parlayed that into another smash hit in 1992 with the historically based women’s baseball league movie A League of Their Own. She also directed 1990 film Awakenings, which was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture.
She directed Renaissance Man in 1994, The Preacher’s Wife in 1996, and Riding in Cars with Boys in 2001. Marshall produced Cinderella Man and Bewitched both in 2005, as well as episodes of the sitcom According to Jim, as noted in her biography.
The memorial for Marshall will be held at a later date according to the family spokesperson,
Marshall survived by her former husband Rob Reiner, her older sister, Ronny, her daughter Tracy Reiner, and her three grandchildren. R.I.P. Penny Marshall.