Garry Marshall with Lori Marshall. My Happy Days in Hollywood: A Memoir. Crown Publishing Group, 2012.
Actor Hector Elizondo notes how Garry Marshall, as a director, gives simple directions with simple corrections while remaining in sync with actors Elizondo notes that Marshall is “a master of comedy” with natural abilities i guiding actors. Marshall makes the filming experience fell relaxed through creating an upbeat atmosphere.
Marsha, as a child, played drums at his mother’s dance school. He observed when humorous skits worked and when they didn’t, He noted the key was to get the whole audience laughing and not just a few. He rewrote sketches to make them funnier.
Mashall did some TV camerawork in college. After graduating college with a Journalism degree, he became a cameraman in the Army in a unit led by producer Darryl Zanuck’s son Richard. He then wrote for the Armed Forces Korean Network. He wrote humor such as “Now say the password”, “Matzo”,”You may now Passover.”
After being in the Army, Marshall turned to writing comedy for comics. He passed out business cards given to stand up comics promising “100 percent virgin material”. He wrote for Phil Foster and Joey Bishop. He was among the writers for Bishop when Bishop subbed for Jack Parr hosting the “Tonight Show”. Marshall notes Parr did not respect his writers.
In 1960, Marshall was added to the “Tonight Show” writing staff. Writers had to come up with five pages of jokes each day for four days a week. Of the four writers doing this, maybe one or two jokes were selected daily. The writers also stood near during shows, especially when there were guest hosts, and gave hem joked based on what was happening on the show. Marshall also worked at the same time as a New York Daily News copyboy.
The “Tonight Show” writing opened contacts leading to more writing jobs. Marshall learned comedians had their own styles. Arthur Treacher liked obscure referential humor such as “I got up this morning and my mouth tasked like Harrisburg, Pa. after a heavy rain.”
Marshall wrote for Shari Lewis and her puppet Lamb Chop. Marshall observed that Shari Lewis was always outwardly kind towards writers yet she would speak her criticisms through using her puppet. Marshall and other writers were quite unhappy with this treatment.
Marshall was added to the writing staff of the floundering “Joey Bishop Show”. Marshall moved to Los Angeles for this job, as did fellow writer Fred Freedman. They were given a contract of $200 monthly for six months, which they split The pay increased to $300 monthly and Marshall got to keep it all after Freedman left.
Marshall wrote some episodes of the “Lucy Show”. Star Lucille Ball wrote “This is shit” on the first script he gave her. Marshall discovered that Lucille Ball’s humor was to begin with a humorous scenario and base the rest of the script on that scenario,
Marshall wrote scripts for other show such as the “Dick Van Dyke Show”. His agent warned him against being listed as writing too many shows and to save his nae for the most viewed shows. He wrote shows using the fake name Samun Mitsubi. He and writing partner Jerry Belson wrote 32 script in 1963 using their own names.
In 1966, Marshall and Belson developed this own TV series “Hey Landlord” on NBC. The show lasted one year, finishing 99th out of 100 series in ratings. The experiences of creating and running a series was very educational Marshall and Belson wrote movies, the first being “How Sweet It Is!” They were then commanding $75,000 for a movie script and $3,500 for a TV episode script.
In 1969, Marshall and Belson were asked to produce the ABC TV series “The Odd Couple”. The show was a hit. Actor Tony Randall thought the show would be stronger if performed in front of a live audience. Randall despised canned laughter. Randall asked viewers to demand removing the canner laugher in favor of live audience reactions. This was done.
Actor Gavin MacLeod had appendicitis the night before an episode was to be taped. Marshall filled on on the role.
Head writers on “The Odd Couple” ate with meals on their desks. Apprentice writers ate while balancing trays on the laps.
Writers Lowell Ganz and Mark Rothman were hired to punch up the material. They were fired but couldn’t afford to move back home. They remained on the set, telling Marshall they wanted to learn how to improve their writing. This impressed Marshall. He gave them a chance at writing a script. Marshall liked it and he rehired them.
Tony Randall inspired writers by telling them he wanted top notch shows so he would be proud of them when watching them in the future in a retirement home, That imagery motivated the writers.
Marshall believed in nepotism. He cast his sister Penny on the show, as well as giving some work to another sister Ronny, his mother, and Penny’s husband Rob Reiner. Tony Randall helped mentor Penny Marshall/ His father was hired as an Associate Producer. His father taught him each episode didn’t have to cost the same. He could spend more on one episode by spending less on another.
The TV executive worried that the two male lead “Odd Couple” characters were gay. The show staff would deliberately irritate the network executives by sending them unused scenes where they kissed. The executives insisted the characters date women. They were worried hat gay characters would not be accepted by 1970s TV audiences.
The network asked Marshall for more shows. He created “The Lost People” TV series. After “The Odd Couple” finished after five seasons, he created “Happy Days”.
In creating “Happy Days”, he wanted a comedy about youth that did not concern the issues facing youth then, such as the Vietnam War and drugs. He set the show in the 1950s. Executives were pushing for show from the 1930s. Marshall noted he was more familiar with the 1950s. The pilot was filmed, appeared on “Love American Style, which aired rejected pilots, and the show was presumed dead. Yet, the producers of the film “American Graffiti” saw Ron Howard in the pilot and cast him in their movie. The movie was a success. ABC then decided to use “Happy Days” as a midseason replacement.
Marshall’s agent advised him to offer to take less per episode in money in return for a larger ownership share. They believed the show would have a long run. It did, running for 11 seasons.
Marshall saw potential in actor Henry Winkler. He was cast even though he was not physically what they originally sought. Marshall notes that comedy needs to be flexible when you find the right talent.
ABC asked for “Happy Days” spin off ideas. Penny Marshall and Cindy Williams appeared on some “Happy Days” episodes and they had chemistry. A TV series “Laverne and Shirley” resulted. A ten minute pilot was shot after a “Happy Days” was done filming by paying the crew overtime, The pilot was shot with Penny Marshall and Liberty Williams. The network stated they preferred Cindy Williams. Cindy Williams did not want to do the series. Marshall believes she finally agreed by believing it would not last long. It debuted with the number one show rating. The series lasted eight years.
The “Happy Days” cast and crew were pleasant to each other. By contrast, the “Laverne and Shirley” cast and crew bickered. One worker demanded to leave “Laverne and Shirley” and return to “Happy Days” when he confessed to considering running his car over the cast. Even Garry Marshall’s father, who handled payroll, once refuse to give Penny her paycheck when they had a disagreement. Cindy Williams left the show and did not appear in its final season.
Marshall’s son Scott was a big “Star Wars” fan. Scott suggested a space alien could come to Fonzie in a dream. Marshall then hired a talented street performer Robin
Williams to play the alien. The live audience gave Williams a standing ovation. ABC asked Marshall to quickly develop a TV pilot for Williams, even thought it was already past pilot producing season. Marshall remembered an actress he had seen whom he felt would be right, so he hired Pam Dawber without seeing her or auditioning her A montage from a failed Pam Dawber pilot and “Happy Days” footage substituted as a pilot. ABC then bought the show as “Mork and Mindy”.
Marshall also created a TV show “Angie”. He admits it was not as funny as the other shows. It lasted a year.
Marshall directed a movie “Young Directors in Love”. He was not familiar with film directing terms He would take walks to think and resolve problems. During one walk, he resolved shooting a scene differently by having an added actor doing physical comedy in the background.
Marshall next directed the movie “The Flamingo Kid”. He observed, as director Blake Edwards confirmed that performers’ reactions to dialogue are more important than the dialogue. He decided the ending was wrong, The studio wouldn’t pay to return the cast to a beach set the studio so he filmed it at a real beach.
Marshall remembered names of good employees. He developed a reliable team he could raise for future projects.
Marshall next was asked, and agreed, to direct the movie “Nothing in Common” with Tom Hanks. TriStar Pictures was forcing Hanks to do the movie and Hanks was not happy. In addition, Hanks was getting a divorce. Marshall met with Hanks and told him not to take his private issues out on cast and crew. Marshall promised to making the filming fun. Marhsall then asked Hanks how he liked to be directed. Jackie Gleason was signed to do the movie even though he wasn’t physically well. It would pointed out to Gleason that his last film was “Smokey and the Bandit II” and if he wanted that movie to be his last credit. Gleason immediately agreed to do “Nothing in Common”. Marshall had difficulty getting along with the cinematographer, John Alonzo, as they had different ideas on directing.
Marshall next directed “Overboard”. It was not a movie he intended to direct yet he needed the money it paid him. The costars Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell were dating and happy which made the set happy. One of four boys in the movie hurt his ankle ad couldn’t run in a scene where he four boys ran, Marshall had them put on Halloween masks so they when they needed to run, a substitute boy could run. Marshall used John Alonzo as his cinematographer and they got along better.
Marshall directed the movie “Beaches”. Due to his record of getting movies done on budget and on time, Marshall got the unusual reward of having his $500,000 paid upfront in order to get him out of personal debt. He was hired to bring humor to a dark story about dying. When actor Mayim Balik, who were brown contact lens covering her blue eyes, lost a contact lens, it was discovered the doctor in town with contact lenses was on vacation. Rather than correct the different eye colors in postproduction, Marshall called and receive permission from the doctor to break down his office door and tke the correct lens. This was a less expensive alternative.
“Pretty Woman” was Marshall’s next movie directing. It was a low budget movie without any huge strs that become a big success. Marshall made 20 year old Julia Roberts comfortable on a set by making her laugh, Marshall notes he wanted people to enjoy working with him He doesn’t want a reputation of being difficult to work with.
Marshall directed “Frankie and Johnny”. Michelle Pfeiffer wanted the role of a plain woman even though most considered her too beautiful to carry off portraying a more average person. She went in person, without an agent or handlers, to Marshall and spent an hour explaining how she would handle the role. Marshall was convinced and she was cast opposite Al Pacino,
Marshall will take good advice from others. While having problems filming a scene where a floral display was desired, it was suggested that a delivery truck open up showing a truck full of flowers. Marshall loved the idea and used it, noting some directors will not accept ideas from others.
Marshall directed “Dear God”. He observes that the low budget did not allow for obtaining the music he wanted. He believes better music would have much improve the film. He later successfully fought to have a U2 song he thought was perfect to open his directed movie “Runway Bride”.
Diane Keaton and Julie Andrews are both noted for staying on set even when not in a scene to be helpful. They provide advice to less experienced actors, help feel lines, and assist others.
Marshall, as a director, finds something for characters to do with their hands or bodies. Ths makes the scenes more vibrant and interesting.
Marshall recommends actors get schooling, do plays, meet people socially, work at small roles or as extras, use experience to teach others especially children, be willing to work in student films and small films, stay healthy, and don’t waste time being jealous.