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Penny Marshall, Director And 'Laverne & Shirley' Star, Dies At 75

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

The actress and director Penny Marshall died last night in her Los Angeles home. A publicist says it was of complications from diabetes. Marshall was 75. In front of the camera, she was best known as Laverne of "Laverne & Shirley," the hit "Happy Days" spinoff. Behind the camera, Marshall was a groundbreaking director. NPR's Andrew Limbong has this appreciation.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "LAVERNE & SHIRLEY")

CINDY WILLIAMS AND PENNY MARSHALL: (As Laverne and Shirley) One, two, three, four...

ANDREW LIMBONG, BYLINE: Set in the late '50s in Milwaukee, two women are working at the Shotz Brewery. Shirley, played by Cindy Williams, is put-together, if a little nervous and uptight. Her friend Laverne, played by Penny Marshall, is none of those things. But she can see the best of a bad situation, like after the pair gets laid off from the Shotz Brewery. She says in her nasal New York accent, hey, maybe we can meet a couple of guys down at unemployment.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "LAVERNE & SHIRLEY")

PENNY MARSHALL: (As Laverne) I happened to meet a doctor there once.

CINDY WILLIAMS: (As Shirley) I want you to think about that for a minute, Laverne.

(LAUGHTER)

WILLIAMS: (As Shirley) Why would a doctor be unemployed?

(LAUGHTER)

MARSHALL: (As Laverne) He was so good he cured everybody.

(LAUGHTER)

LIMBONG: Carole Penny Marshall was born in the Bronx in 1943. She directed a few episodes of "Laverne & Shirley." But she got her big break behind the scenes directing the movie "Big," starring Tom Hanks, about a boy who gets transported into a grown man's body. She told NPR in 1988 that "Big" was about childhood innocence.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

MARSHALL: If you lose the child in you as - when you get older as far as him being too driven to - you know, that work becomes too important, and you just become a horrible human being, that you could keep some of that innocence and openness of being - of a decent human being.

LIMBONG: Like when Tom Hanks' character Josh brings over a woman, played by Elizabeth Perkins, over to his house for what he thinks is a playdate.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "BIG")

ELIZABETH PERKINS: (As Susan) I mean, I like you, and I want to spend the night with you.

TOM HANKS: (As Josh) Do you mean sleep over?

PERKINS: (As Susan) Well, yeah (laughter).

HANKS: (As Josh) OK, but I get to be on top.

LIMBONG: With "Big," Penny Marshall became the first woman to direct a movie that brought in over a hundred million dollars at the box office. Marshall then directed "A League Of Their Own," about the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League during World War II.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: (As character) I seem to remember last week somebody throwing a rosin bag in my face telling me to get my fat ass back behind the plate. Was that you or the umpire?

MARY MOORE: Oh, it (laughter) meant the world to me and all of our people.

LIMBONG: Mary Moore was a player for the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League in 1951 and '52. She said before "A League Of Their Own," people didn't pay much attention to women's baseball.

MOORE: It just started a whole new world for almost all of us and for the women to know that, you know, they could do something like that.

LIMBONG: Tributes online also came in from many of the people Penny Marshall worked with and loved, including her ex-husband Rob Reiner, Robert DeNiro and Rosie O'Donnell. Andrew Limbong, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF YOUTH LAGOON'S "17") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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