Garry Marshall on the careers he launched, the shark he jumped and the missing Cunningham

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By Leighton Ginn

It’s not just the amount of great entertainment Garry Marshall created with television shows like “Happy Days,”and “Laverne and Shirley,” but it’s the careers he launched.

There’s Julia Roberts, whose life-changing role was in “Pretty Woman.”

Or Robin Williams, one of the most brilliant and versatile comedians of our time, whose career was launched as Mork from Ork, first on Happy Days and then in his own sitcom, “Mork and Mindy.”

It was a teenaged Anne Hathaway that was introduced to the world in the film “The Princess Diaries.”

But when Marshall was starting out himself, he worked with legends as well. There was a time when he was a writer for Lucille Ball. And when he worked on The Tonight Show when Jack Parr hosted.

Marshall recapped his career on May 14 at Cinemas Palme D’Or in Palm Desert, Calif., in a Q&A following a viewing of his latest movie, “Mother’s Day.”

Here are some highlights.

JUMPING THE SHARK: Marshall kept good humor about the famous, or infamous, episode of “Happy Days,” when The Fonz jumped over a shark on water skis.

Many people pointed to that episode to where “Happy Days” became more silly, so “jumping the shark” became a phrase for when series started to turn bad.

Marshall said he’s proud the phrase has become part of the lexicon, but also points out that “Happy Days” continued for five years after the episode.

PRETTY WOMAN: Asked if he was surprised by the success of his most iconic film, Marshall said he didn’t expect the movie to become what it was.

But when he saw the dailies, he knew that he had a star on his hands with Julia Roberts.

Before “Pretty Woman,” Roberts had only done a successful small movie called, “Mystic Pizza,” and she was an unknown playing the lead in a big movie.

Marshall said he wasn’t sure Roberts would become a star. But that all changed when he did finally see her on the screen and how her smile radiated.

In fact, Marshall joked that he wanted to put a Nike swish on her teeth, so they could make extra money on endorsements.

ROBIN WILLIAMS: One of the finest comics of our time, Williams got his break when he played an alien on “Happy Days,” Mork from Ork. The episode was so popular that Williams got his own show that Marshall produced.

But at first, Marshall and his crew had to get use to the manic and unpredictable nature of Williams.

Marshall said even on a three-camera show, they had a hard time keeping up with Williams and missed some of his hilarious antics. So Marshall said he added a fourth camera to just follow Williams.

“You adjust to talent,” Marshall said.

Marshall was also asked what he thought when he found out about Williams’ suicide.

“That was the last time I cried,” Marshall said.

NORTHWESTERN AND THE TONIGHT SHOW: Marshall went to school at Northwestern and studied at the Medill School of Journalism, where he would have four future Pulitzer Prize winners in his class.

Marshall said he became known as the class clown.

Following graduation, he would eventually find himself working as a writer on The Tonight Show with Jack Parr as the host. One of Marshall’s co-worker would also become an acclaimed writer and director, Woody Allen.

HE STILL LOVES LUCY: Another early job for Marshall was working for Lucille Ball following her divorce from Desi Arnez.

At one point, Marshall was working for the acclaimed Dick Van Dyke show at the same time. Marshall said there was a time he was thinking about dropping the Lucy Show to focus on the award-winning Dick Van Dyke show.

When Marshall said he wanted to quit, a producer for Lucy spoke to him and said he should stay on. Working with Lucy “is like an insurance policy.”

Marshall would work for two more years, until 1965. Marshall said this year he still got a check from the Lucy show, which was $16.

One particular memory Marshall had from working with Lucy was what she wrote on the first script he wrote. It was so memorable that Marshall said he’s still looking for the script to see if he could sell it on eBay.

“This is sh**,” Marshall said of what Lucy wrote on the cover.

WHERE’S CHUCK: Early in Happy Days, Richie Cunningham had an older brother, Chuck. But as the show evolved, Richie had more of an older brother relationship with Fonzie, so it became obvious Chuck was no longer needed.

Not sure what to do with the character, Marshall said they would just eliminate him and not offer an explanation just to see what happened.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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