brian-mcgee - December 19, 2018
One of the great family dynasties of film and television has sadly lost another member. Penny Marshall—sister of the late Garry Marshall, Laverne of Laverne & Shirley, and the director of, among other things, Big and A League of Their Own—has passed away at age 75.
Marshall was a staple of film and television throughout the 70s and 80s, and in her later years, made frump a fashion statement. The Bronx native first made an impression as Oscar Madison's secretary Myra Turner on The Odd Couple, before earning three straight Golden Globe nominations for her role as Laverne DeFazio on the Happy Days spinoff Laverne & Shirley, produced by her brother Garry.
Penny directed several episodes of the long-running series as well, eventually parlaying that into a film directing career with the 1986 Whoopi Goldberg vehicle Jumpin' Jack Flash. Two years later, her film Big became a smash hit, making her the first woman to direct a film that grossed over $100 million at the box office, and earning star Tom Hanks his first Best Actor Oscar nomination. Another two years on, she became only the second woman to direct a Best Picture nominee with the hit film Awakenings.
In 1992, she gave us the film she'll likely be best remembered for, A League of Their Own. This flick was on regular TV the other night and I happened to land on it and ended up watching all three hours—with commercials—of it. It's a terrific movie, home to career best performances by Geena Davis, Madonna, Lori Petty, Rosie O'Donnell, and—yeah, I'll say it—Tom Hanks.
There's no denying that Penny Marshall worked on at least one—if not many—of the pop cultural milestones in your life. It's a truly sad day and she will be missed.