Thank you, Garry Marshall
by Paul Greenstone
I remember the exact moment when my life got a whole lot funnier. It was a cold NJ night in 1978. I was watching Happy Days with my parents, like we did every week. Obviously it was way before I cared about paying attention to the names in the credits. I just knew it starred the kid from The Andy Griffith Show and on this particular night some weird sounding zany alien named Mork entered the Cunningham’s house and planet Earth was forever changed.
Fast forward to August 11, 2014 when the world received the shocking news of Mr. Williams’ passing.
Comedy was an important part of my upbringing. There was always laughter in my youth — from my family to my childhood friends. Laughing is like… breathing.
Mr. Williams’ death made me reflect on how he entered my life and after doing a quick timeline of his career and thinking about his family, I immediately thought of… Garry Marshall, because, well, he discovered Mr. Williams and helped unleash this genius of a talent onto the world’s stage.
As I got older and I began to care about the names of those in front of, and behind the camera, I realized that the Garry Marshall from Happy Days was the same actor/writer/producer/director who wrote for Joey Bishop, Bob Hope, Danny Thomas and Lucille Ball. Mr. Marshall even wrote an episode of Bill Cosby’s I Spy and Love, American Style before bringing the world: The Odd Couple, Happy Days, Laverne & Shirley and Mork & Mindy, just to name a few.
So, Mr. Marshall not only helped make his sister, Penny Marshall, famous (Gary once stated: “When in doubt, you bring in your relatives. Nepotism is a part of my work” and “Never underestimate the power of your sister.”), but he also cast an up and coming actress named Julia Roberts to star opposite Richard Gere in a Disney movie about a prostitute. Not only did Ms. Roberts become a massive star via the success of Pretty Woman, but she was nominated for an Oscar. Yes, an Oscar nomination for a performance in a comedy! Years later he discovered Anne Hathaway by casting her as a Princess and The Princess Diaries sequel was written by Shonda Rhimes.
And years earlier via The Odd Couple and Happy Days, Mr. Marshall introduced us to the amazing writing abilities of Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel, who went on to write Splash, Parenthood (both directed by Ron Howard) and City Slickers, just to name a few of their movie credits.
From TV success, Mr. Marshall made the obvious leap to movies where he directed some of the biggest (and best) actors in the world in films such as The Flamingo Kid, Beaches, Frankie and Johnny, Nothing in Common and Valentine’s Day.
Talk about a track record of discovering and hiring amazing talent, and talk about loyalty: Mr. Marshall loves to surround himself with many of the same actors and crew members so he (and everyone else) is in the most comfortable and safest work environment. Just ask Hector Elizondo or the first person you see on screen in Pretty Woman. You know, the kid on the skateboard?! Well, that’s Mr. Marshall’s son, Scott.
We first met at a test screening of Princess Diaries. He told me after the screening that he liked my laughter during the film and that he also enjoyed my constructive comments. We would see each other, professionally and socially, and he was always willing to meet any actor I wanted which was a tremendous thrill for my clients and for me.
In 2012, Mr. Marshall said: “The truth is that I always wanted a more stable life than my intellectual idols had. People like Arthur Miller, Roman Polanski, Woody Allen, Sylvia Plath, Anton Chekhov and Albert Camus all had unconventional family life. I was a product of the 50s and was charmed by The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, Father Knows Best, and the drawings of Norman Rockwell. Whether they were true or not didn’t matter. I wanted to come home to a wife, children, and a sane family dinner hour. This is probably why I have been married for forty-nine years and have three children and six grandchildren.“
Now we can see how he has remained so grounded and successful while navigating the difficult work/life balancing act Hollywood has erected. People in all sorts of occupations need to read that quote. It says so much. Work/life balance is important and here is Mr. Marshall being yet again, a great teacher.
I’ll treasure those times I spent with Garry Marshall for the rest of my life, just like the times I was lucky enough to share with Mel Brooks, and that one brief moment I had with Robin Williams. Yes, I met my three comedy heroes and it’s a joy I could never eloquently articulate.
So while we have all been thinking about how the world has been rocked and robbed by the recent passing of Mr. Williams, the bright spot for me has been spending some time rediscovering and re-appreciating what Mr. Marshall has creatively and comedically given to us. I came to the conclusion that comedy is a great tool that can be used for many reasons, including as Mr. Williams said in 2013: “… A cathartic way to deal with personal trauma.”Tags: Comedy, Comedy heals, Entertainment industry, Garry Marshall, Hollywood, Mel Brooks, Paul Greenstone, Robin Williams, Sandra Taylor