Director’s Chair Introduction: Penny Marshall

by Tony Cogan · January 15, 2019 · Blogathons, Director's Chair, Featured, Periodic Features · 1 Comment

Deadline: 9th February 2019

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Hello everyone and welcome to another year of Director’s Chair. This year, we’re starting off with a tribute to Penny Marshall.

Now Marshall got her start in acting, doing a few small appearances, and auditioning for a few big things, like All In The Family, but hit it big after she was cast in the TV version of The Odd Couple, joining the cast for 4 years. After a few other TV parts, she got cast in Happy Days, by her brother Garry Marshall. Her role as Laverne, alongside Cindy Williams as Shirley, proved massively popular with audiences, leading to the spin-off, Laverne and Shirley, lasting 7 years, receiving three Golden Globe nominations for Best Actress in A Comedy TV series. 

It was on Laverne and Shirley that Marshall started to get involved in directing, helming 4 episodes of the show. She soon moved on to directing features, getting the job to direct Jumpin’ Jack Flash after the original director dropped out. 

Following that, Marshall directed Big, becoming the first woman to direct a film that grossed $100 million, along with directing Tom Hanks to his first Oscar nomination. After Big, Marshall moved into drama with Awakenings, focusing on the treatment of catatonic patients and was nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars. 

Marshall’s next film was another box office hit, A League of Their Own, which Marshall was inspired to make after watching a documentary about the AAGPBL during World War 2. The film was a critical and commercial success, earning a TV series and in 2012 it was placed in the Library of Congress National Film Registry. 

Her next film was The Preacher’s Wife, a remake of 1947’s The Bishop’s Wife, based on the novel by Robert Nathan. The film received a mixed response and was plagued with difficulties throughout, from on set accidents to severe snowstorms to a fear of robberies. The production also helped to renovate Trinity United Methodist Church in Newark, New Jersey, with the renovations staying after filming was completed. 

The final film Marshall competed was Riding in Cars With Boys, a biography of Beverly Donofrio. She was still involved in films behind the camera though, including producing Bewitched and Cinderella Man

Even when she was directing, she was still acting, doing occasional guest spots on TV, including being the first guest star on The Simpsons. She also directed a few more TV episodes, including an episode of the A League of Their Own series and some episodes of The United States of Tara

Her legacy is still ongoing though. Prior to her death, she was working on a documentary on Dennis Rodman, which is planned to be released sometime this year, a final showcase of the talent we lost. 

Just as a reminder, here are the films of hers you can cover:

  • Jumpin’ Jack Flash
  • Big
  • Awakenings
  • A League of their Own
  • Renaissance Man
  • The Preacher’s Wife
  • Riding in Cars With Boys

I look forward to reading what you send me.