Garry Marshall: A tribute to the wonderful man who was creative and fun

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By Frank & Margie Barron

Marshall leaves a legacy of many happy days and great advice

Garry Marshall was a great guy who was creative and fun, and so it was a joy to interview him over the years and catch up with him when we attended opening night shows at his Falcon Theatre in Toluca Lake.

Most of the following quotes are from our article for Production Update magazine a decade ago. His great advice for future filmmakers still rings true and is part of his legacy of mentoring.

A Garry Marshall film or television show is a reflection of the respected producer-director-writer-actor. His productions always show a fun-loving spirit, plus the enthusiasm of the cast and crew bubbles forth to the surface, infecting the audiences of his many hit movies and TV shows.

Regarding the legacy of his Happy Days TV series that ran for 11 seasons, Marshall said with pride, “It was a show that families could watch together. I grew up in the ’50s, and it was a gentle time. I just wanted to create shows that families could watch together and I think I achieved that.”

Marshall revealed the secret to choosing his projects. He said, “It must have three elements—one is humor, because my voice is comedy. Two is some kind of positive character change for the hero. And three is a happy ending. I like a positive finish.”

Another nugget of advice Marshall had for his fellow filmmakers is: “Surround yourself with people you love, and who love you. They pump you up. They make a project fun, and it will show on the screen.”

‘It was always a dream of mine.’
– Garry Marshall on founding the Falcon Theatre

Actor Hector Elizondo (Garry’s good luck charm—appearing in almost every Marshall film) explained it best when he said, “The set of a Garry Marshall movie has a party atmosphere. We laugh a lot. We eat a lot. And we make a little movie that will entertain people.”

Marshall built a respected reputation of being easy and comfortable on the set. He relaxes, he snacks, and he enjoys himself at all times. And he advised all around him, cast and crew, to do the same.

In the five decades since his career began, Marshall developed and created 14 television series. By his own count, he executive-produced more than a thousand half-hour episodes, turning out TV classics such as Happy Days, Laverne & Shirley, Mork & Mindy and The Odd Couple.

His film credits are equally impressive, producing or at the helm of some of the all-time best-loved hit movies, including The Princess Diaries with Anne Hathaway and Julie Andrews, Beaches with Bette Midler, Overboard with Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell, The Flamingo Kid with Matt Dillon, and of course the Julia Roberts and Richard Gere blockbusters Pretty Woman and Runaway Bride.

Over the years, through his TV shows and films, Marshall helped launch the careers of a long list of notables, including his sister, director Penny Marshall, producer-director Henry Winkler, Robin Williams, and, of course Ron Howard who honed his behind the camera skills on the set of Happy Days.

Marshall’s favorite advice for young filmmakers was “wear comfortable shoes when you’re directing. You’re on your feet all day, 12-16 hour days. Directors have to make quick decisions. You can’t do that if you’re tired and your feet hurt.”

Regarding filmmaking, Marshall said every producer and director must “keep consistently excited about what you’re doing. It’s difficult to keep that energy level up there, but it’s so important. Creativity doesn’t come when you’re emotionally and physically exhausted.”

Marshall loved his family and he loved creating The Falcon Theatre in Toluca Lake. “It was always a dream of mine,” he said. He took enormous pride in the productions, showcasing talent, newcomers and veterans. Unless he was out of town filming, Garry was always part of the opening night festivities for every new show.  That was when we last saw him, last month, congratulating the cast of Tennessee Williams UnScripted, and joking around with us about the softball league he loved so much.

Garry Marshall will be remembered for many things—his great movies and TV shows, memorable roles, his mentoring of Hollywood’s best performers and filmmakers, his many awards, his theater, his family and his reputation for being one of the nicest guys you’d ever have the pleasure to meet. He made us laugh.

Thank you Garry—thank you for all the happy days you gave us.

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