Mar­shalling hap­pier days

Life has not al­ways been sweet for di­rec­tor Garry Mar­shall, writes

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - PLAY TV -

IN his newly pub­lished au­to­bi­og­ra­phy, My Happy Days in Hol­ly­wood, which he co-wrote with daugh­ter Lori, Garry Mar­shall re­calls the time in his life when he wasn’t very happy – pro­duc­ing the 1976-83 com­edy se­ries Lav­erne & Shirley.

‘‘It was a tough show,’’ re­calls the gre­gar­i­ous Mar­shall.

It was the op­po­site of the care­free set of Happy Days, the ABC se­ries about the Cun­ning­ham fam­ily and leather-jacket clad Fonzie (Henry Win­kler). Mar­shall pro­duced, di­rected and wrote episodes of the se­ries, which aired from 1974 to 1984.

Lav­erne & Shirley, a spinoff of Happy Days that starred Mar­shall’s younger sis­ter Penny and Cindy Wil­liams, wasn’t nearly as pleas­ant. Mar­shall, 77, re­calls that he brought one writer-pro­ducer, Arthur Sil­ver, over from Happy Days to try to work with the head­strong ac­tresses.

‘‘There are two kinds of writ­ers,’’ ex­plains Mar­shall. ‘‘There are feisty writ­ers and there are calm writ­ers.’’

Sil­ver was a calm one un­til he worked on the se­ries but be­came so stressed Mar­shall had to let him go.

He and Penny even­tu­ally over­came their dif­fer­ences. ‘‘We’re fam­ily,’’ he says. ‘‘We worked it out. That was a long time ago. We got through it.’’

Mar­shall’s five-decade Hol­ly­wood ca­reer in­cluded writ­ing gigs with then-part­ner Jerry Bel­son on The Joey Bishop Show and The Dick Van Dyke Show, and pro­duc­ing, writ­ing and di­rect­ing such pop­u­lar se­ries as The Odd Cou­ple with Jack Klug­man and Tony Ran­dall and Mork & Mindy. He helmed such hit films as Pretty Woman.

He is mar­ried to Bar­bara, a nurse, since 1963 and they have three chil­dren, all of whom have worked with their fa­ther. Bar­bara was a pil­lar of strength two years ago when he had throat can­cer and had to en­dure ra­di­a­tion and chemo­ther­apy.

‘‘The cure is so hard you can’t eat,’’ he says. ‘‘I went from 206 to 164 pounds. They said you have to have a pump feed you through your stom­ach. My wife said, ‘I don’t think so. I’ll make him eat’. It wasn’t easy . . . but you can do any­thing.’’

Mar­shall’s mother, Mar­jorie, was a tap dancer who had a tap school and his fa­ther, Tony, was an in­dus­trial film­maker who be­came a pro­ducer and ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer on his son’s TV shows.

‘‘In the book I said a strange thing hap­pened to me when I was get­ting out of high school – my fa­ther no­ticed me,’’ laughs Mar­shall. ‘‘My fa­ther was very good at try­ing to get us out of the Bronx and get­ting out in the world but he didn’t say hello much un­til we were ready to do that. My mother was in her own world. She was unique and funny.’’

Mar­shall even used one of her com­ments as an in­spi­ra­tion for an episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show he penned with Bel­son.

‘‘I was 11 years old,’’ says Mar­shall. ‘‘I have moles on my back. We were on the beach and Mom said, ‘You have so many moles on your back I could con­nect it with a pen­cil and get a picture’. I didn’t take my shirt off at the beach any­more.’’

He learned life lessons from his men­tor, the Rat Pack comic Joey Bishop. ‘‘He was never so happy (as a per­son) but he taught me a lot. He taught me the most im­por­tant les­son and that is about loy­alty. He never stopped you from ad­vanc­ing.’’

Mar­shall has been in­cred­i­bly loyal to Hec­tor El­i­zondo, who has ap­peared in ev­ery one of Mar­shall’s films since his 1982 fea­ture di­rec­to­rial de­but, Young Doc­tors in Love. He con­sid­ers El­i­zondo to be a good­luck charm be­cause ‘‘the process be­comes twice as easy with Hec­tor. When­ever I had trou­ble on a picture I said, ‘Hec­tor, help me out here’. With Hec­tor it is like hav­ing an­other di­rec­tor not to di­rect but to calm down the ac­tor. I love to laugh. My mother taught me to laugh. Hec­tor and I laugh to­gether no mat­ter how bad things are.’’

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