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RIP Penny Marshall: Tribute to a brilliant comedienne and talented director

Actress Penny Marshall, who found fame playing Laverne in Laverne & Shirley, then went on to direct a host of popular comedy films, died on Monday night from complications from diabetes.

Marshall starred as the wacky Laverne DeFazio for eight years in Laverne & Shirley (1976-1983) then went on to become the first female filmmaker to make a movie that grossed over $100 million, with Big.

Marshall’s parents christened her Carole Penny, named after high-profile comedienne, Carole Lombard. Although she dropped the ‘Carole’ bit, she did go on to become a brilliant comedienne herself.

Indeed her acting career goes way back, having appeared in no less than 22 television series before taking on one of the titular roles in Laverne & Shirley.

Marshall’s previous small-screen appearances included That Girl, The Odd Couple, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and Happy Days, in which her character of Laverne was introduced. She also appeared in Mork & Mindy, Love Thy Neighbour, Frasier, Bones, Portlandia, and a reboot of The Odd Couple.

“Penny Marshall was a pioneer in television and the big screen who understood humour comes in many forms and [that] some of life’s deeper truths require a laugh.”

While the 1970s and early ’80s were very much about television for Marshall; the latter ’80s saw her focusing on film, directing Jumpin’ Jack Flash (1986), Big (1988), Awakenings (1990), A League Of Their Own (1992), Renaissance Man (1994), The Preachers’ Wife (1996), and Riding In Cars With Boys (2001).
Most of Marshall’s movies managed to house a good balance of comedy and drama, so as to appeal to film lovers of both the comedic and the dramatic.

In the Zeroes, she went on to direct more of TV, taking on the United States of Tara (starring Toni Colette) and The Tracey Ullman Show, among other programs.

Tributes to Penny Marshall continue to flow on social media, with fellow actor-turned-director Ron Howard writing, “She was funny & so smart. She made the transition from sitcom star to A-List movie director with ease & had a major impact on both mediums. All that & always relaxed, funny & totally unpretentious. I was lucky to have known & worked with her.”

Broadcaster Dan Rather tweeted, “Mourning the loss of a funny, poignant, and original American voice. Penny Marshall was a pioneer in television and the big screen who understood humour comes in many forms and [that] some of life’s deeper truths require a laugh. She will be missed.”

Indeed she will. RIP Penny Marshall.

Antonino Tati