Remembering a Beloved Sitcom Star: Penny Marshall's Life in Photos
The actor, director and cancer survivor lived what she called a “charmed and lucky life.” Here’s a look back at her biggest moments
Born in The Bronx, New York, in 1943, Marshall made a name for herself thanks to her comedic wit in popular TV sitcoms. The actress and director passed away on Dec. 18, 2018, at her Hollywood Hills home of complications from diabetes. She was 75.
Her Big Break
Marshall's first big break came in the form of a Head & Shoulders commercial in which she starred opposite Farrah Fawcett.
Laverne & Shirley
Marshall's brother, Pretty Woman director Garry Marshall, cast her in two TV shows he produced in the 1970s: The Odd Couple and Happy Days, where she launched the character that would make her a TV icon: Laverne DeFazio. ABC greenlit her own TV show Laverne & Shirley alongside Cindy Williams' Shirley Feeney. “I could drag and carry Cindy — I was strong,” Marshall told PEOPLE in 2012. “The show was fun.”
Marshall and Rob Reiner
Marshall married actor and director Rob Reiner in 1971. The two were married for 10 years and Reiner adopted Marshall’s daughter from a previous marriage, Tracy. Upon learning about his ex-wife’s death, Reiner tweeted, “So sad about Penny. I loved Penny. I grew up with her. She was born with a great gift. She was born with a funnybone and the instinct of how to use it. I was very lucky to have lived with her and her funnybone. I will miss her.”
Mork & Mindy
Marshall appeared in the pilot episode of Robin Williams' hit show as Laverne DeFazio. In a flashback sequence, Mork (Williams) recalls a previous trip to Earth when Fozie (Henry Winkler) arranged a date for Mork and Laverne.
Dating Art Garfunkel
After separating from Reiner in 1981, Marshall began dating Art Garfunkel. He credited her for helping him get through his depression. “Everything changed. Penny is a sweet human being who can bring anybody down to Earth,” he told the Daily Mail in 1998. Marshall told PEOPLE in 2012, “Artie’s very bright. He’d read Proust, and I’d be reading The Happy Hooker.”
Marshall and Carrie Fisher's Friendship
During her time dating Garfunkel, Marshall met Carrie Fisher, who was dating Garfunkel's music partner Paul Simon. The two hit it off and began cohosting star-studded joint birthday parties every October. "The food was a big draw," Marshall wrote in her 2012 memoir My Mother Was Nuts. "Carrie's housekeeper, Gloria, and her mother's longtime housekeeper, Mary, made fried chicken, meatloaf, mac and cheese and other Southern staples. Barbra Streisand wanted to hire them for a party. Carrie wouldn't let her."
In 1988, Marshall became the first woman in Hollywood to direct a movie that grossed more than $100 million at the box office with Big. Of working with Tom Hanks, Marshall told PEOPLE in 2012, “Tom is a doll. We had no idea the movie would be such a success.”