I was skimming the headlines yesterday when I noticed Anne Hathaway paying tribute to director Garry Marshall for her acting breakthrough in The Princess Diaries movies. Then I realized the tribute was because Marshall had died recently, at 81 from pneumonia. Something about Marshall resonated with me but I couldn’t put my finger on it (okay, I may have watched the Diary movies with my daughter). When I checked his credits it made more sense. I’ve been drawn to Marshall’s work longer than I ever realized. This guy was prolific.
In the 1980’s, a burst of coming-of-age films hit the big screen. Today they’d still be considered cult-classics. I was particularly drawn to Sixteen Candles (1984), The Breakfast Club (1985), Pretty In Pink (1986), and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986). The characters were about my age and dealing with the kind of teenage angst I could really relate to. As it turns out, John Hughes wrote every single one of these movies. He also wrote one of my all-time favorites (still to this day): Some Kind of Wonderful (1987). If you’re a guy and you’ve seen the movie perhaps you made the same connection. Like Eric Stoltz’s character I was madly in love with Lea Thompson, until I realized I was really in love with Mary Stuart Masterson.
In my obsession with John Hughes (and director Howard Deutch), apparently I overlooked Garry Marshall. Marshall entered my life early with The Lucy Show, The Dick Van Dyke Show and The Odd Couple in the mid-’70’s. My brothers and I watched what my dad wanted to watch in those days, so Marshall gets the credit for some fond father-son memories side-by-side on the family room couch.
By the early ’80’s Marshall had moved on to Mork & Mindy, Laverne & Shirley, and Happy Days. I’m sure I didn’t miss many episodes (and I can still hum the theme songs). Along with The Brady Bunch those were my go-to shows. Bit of trivia: Garry Marshall directed his sister Penny Marshall to fame in Laverne & Shirley.
Marshall solidified his influence on my life when he directed Pretty Woman in 1990. I was so taken by the movie in fact, that I mimicked a few scenes for my wife’s birthday a few years later. I woke her up with a handful of hundred-dollar bills, told her to go out and buy a nice dress for dinner; then showed up later in a limousine, standing through the sunroof in a tux with a bouquet of flowers. It was fun to play the part, but alas I am no Richard Gere.
Trivia again: Garry Marshall played a small role as a tour guide in Pretty Woman.
My wife and I took a chance on the movie Mother’s Day this past May – a light comedy with Jennifer Aniston and Jason Sudeikis (and Pretty Woman star Julia Roberts). Was it a great movie? No. But as it turns out it was the last film directed by Garry Marshall. That little fact gave the movie more substance. With Mother’s Day, Marshall managed to give me more than fifty years of television and movie memories.
Rest in peace Garry. Thanks for so many kinds of wonderful.