Bronx-born Penny Marshall, best known for playing Laverne DeFazio on ABC’s megahit TV show “Laverne & Shirley,” has died after complications from diabetes at the age of 75.
The late, great writer-director-producer Garry Marshall, her older brother by a decade, cast her as DeFazio in Happy Days before giving her a title role alongside actress Cindy Williams in the spinoff about two factory workers, fumbling their way through love, trying to make all their dreams come true in Milwaukee.
Penny, who seesawed between sarcasm and sweetness, smashed Hollywood’s glass ceiling with her sophomoric directorial effort Big (1988) starring Tom Hanks as a boy who wakes up in a man’s body, becoming the first woman ever to helm a major motion picture that grossed more than $100 million at the box office, according to the Hollywood Reporter. Marshall claimed another blockbuster as the director of 1992’s A League of Their Own, memorably starring an ensemble cast that included Hanks, Madonna, Geena Davis and Rosie O’Donnell, and chronicled the story of a women’s professional baseball team. Marshall went on to become the second woman in Oscar history to direct a movie nominated for best picture with 1990’s Awakenings, which tells the story of a doctor (Robin Williams) determined to bring a catatonic man (Robert De Niro) back to consciousness after 30 years.
She proved — over and over again — to the sexist establishment in Hollywood that a woman’s vision is as creatively vital and economically profitable as a man’s. Today, we celebrate her life and career, as well as the path she paved for the rest of us, by remembering some of her best lines, some from her memoir, My Mother Was Nuts:
Pursue your happiness
“If you’re not having a good time, find something else that gives you some joy in life.”
Do your best and enjoy the ride
“Experiences taught me the lessons that came in handy later in my life: Try hard, play by the rules, help your friends, don’t get too crazy, and have fun.”
“I was learning that I didn’t have to have everything figured out. Often the point was to live and see what happened.”
“I have never wanted to grow up and stop playing.”
“I would much rather feel comfortable and feel beautiful, than to feel uncomfortable, but look fantastic.”
Say no when you need to
“Once I commit to something, I complete it. If I say ‘no,’ I mean ‘no.’ I just have to learn how to say ‘no’ more.”
Make face-to-face connections
“I have a grandson who is 20. He’s a computer guy. I’m worried that he can’t communicate without his machine. They have no personal contact with people. That’s the bad part of technology.”
Marshall, who passed away in her Hollywood Hills home last night, is survived by her daughter Tracy, whom she raised with actor-director Rob Reiner. “I loved Penny. I grew up with her,” Reiner tweeted. “She was born with a great gift. She was born with a funnybone and the instinct of how to use it. I was very lucky to have lived with her and her funnybone. I will miss her.” As will we.