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"Schlemiel! Schlimazel! Hasenpfeffer Incorporated!" - Penny Marshall, who played Laverne in 'Laverne & Shirley' before directing movies, dies at 75

Penny Marshall, the trailblazing director of smash-hit big-screen comedies who first indelibly starred in the top-rated sitcom “Laverne & Shirley,” has died. She was 75. Marshall’s publicist, Michelle Bega, said Tuesday that Marshall died in her Los Angeles home on Monday due to complications from diabetes. “Our family is heartbroken,” the Marshall family said in a statement. 

In sitcom that ran for eight seasons on ABC from January 27, 1976, to May 10, 1983. which was a spin-off of Happy DaysLaverne & Shirley, is where she will forever be remembered. We all followed the lives the nasal-voiced, Bronx-born Marshall who starred as Laverne DeFazio and Shirley Feeney (Cindy Williams), a pair of blue-collar roommates toiling on the assembly line of the fictitious Shotz Brewery in late 1950s Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The series was the rare network hit about working-class characters, and its self-empowering opening song (“Give us any chance – we’ll take it, Read us any rule – we’ll break it, We’re gonna make our dreams come true… Doin’ it our way”) foreshadowed Marshall’s own path as a filmmaker in Hollywood.

“Almost everyone had a theory about why ‘Laverne & Shirley’ took off,” Marshall wrote in her 2012 memoir “My Mother Was Nuts.” ″I thought it was simply because Laverne and Shirley were poor and there were no poor people on TV, but there were plenty of them sitting at home and watching TV.”

Marshall directed several episodes of “Laverne & Shirley,” which her older brother, the late filmmaker-producer Garry Marshall, created. Those episodes helped launch Marshall as a filmmaker. When Whoopi Goldberg clashed with director Howard Zieff, she brought in Marshall to direct “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” the 1986 comedy starring Goldberg.

“Jumpin’ Jack Flash” did reasonable business, but Marshall’s next film made her the first woman to direct a film that grossed more than $100 million. Her 1988 hit comedy “Big,” starring Tom Hanks, was about a 12-year-old boy who wakes up in the body of a 30-year-old New York City man. The film, which earned Hanks an Oscar nomination, grossed $151 million worldwide, or about $320 million accounting for inflation.

Marshall reteamed with Hanks for “A League of Their Own,” the 1992 comedy about the women’s professional baseball league begun during World War II, starring Geena Davis, Madonna and Rosie O’Donnell. That, too, crossed $100 million, making $107.5 million domestically.

More than any other films, “A League of Their Own” and “Big” ensured Marshall’s stamp on the late ’80s, early ‘90s. The piano dance scene in FAO Schwartz in “Big” became iconic. Hanks’ reprimand “There’s no crying in baseball,” from “A League of Their Own,” remains quoted on baseball diamonds everywhere.

 She was the sister of late TV mogul Garry Marshall and the ex-wife of Rob Reiner, which ties her to two great comedy traditions. On her own, she became one of the most successful female film directors of all time, with hits such as “Big,” “Awakenings” and “A League of Their Own”  to her credit. More importantly despite the success, she always down to earth. She will always be remembered as Laverne but to paraphrase Jennifer Lopez...

Don’t be fooled by the rocks that she got
She’s still she’s still 
Penny from the block
Used to have a little now she has a lot
No matter where she went, she knew where she came from
From the Bronx!

You may be gone but will never be forgotten!


About AJ Woodson (2394 Articles)
AJ Woodson is the Editor-In-Chief of Black Westchester and Co-Owner of Urban Soul Media Group, the parent company. AJ is a Father, Brother, Author, Writer, Journalism Fellow, Rapper, Radio Personality, Hip-Hop Historian and A Freelance Journalist whose byline has appeared in several print publications and online sites including The Source, Vibe, the Village Voice, Upscale,,, Rolling Out Newspaper, Spiritual Minded Magazine and several others.
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