Penny Marshall

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For the British journalist, see Penny Marshall (journalist).
Penny Marshall
File:Penny Marshall 1976.png
Marshall in 1976
Born Carole Penny Marshall
(1943-10-15) October 15, 1943 (age 75)
The Bronx, New York City, New York, U.S.
Occupation Actress, director, producer
Years active 1968–present
Spouse(s) Michael Henry
(1961–1963; divorced)
Rob Reiner
(1971–1981; divorced)
Children Tracy Reiner

Carole Penny Marshall[1] (born October 15, 1943)[1] is an American actress, director, and producer. After playing several small roles for television, she was cast as Laverne DeFazio on the sitcom Laverne & Shirley, which ran from 1976 until 1983, during which Marshall was nominated for a Golden Globe award for her performance three times.[2]

She progressed to directing films such as Big (1988), the first film directed by a woman to gross in excess of $100 million at the U.S. box office; Awakenings (1990), which was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture; and A League of Their Own (1992). She produced Cinderella Man (2005) and Bewitched (2005), as well as episodes of According to Jim (2009).

Early life

Carole Penny Marshall was born in New York City, New York, in 1943, to Marjorie Irene (née Ward; 1908-1983), a tap dance teacher who ran the Marjorie Marshall Dance School, and Anthony "Tony" Masciarelli (1906-1999), later Marshall, a director of industrial films and later a producer.[3] She is the sister of actor/director/TV producer Garry Marshall[4] and Ronny Hallin,[5] a television producer. Her birth name, Carole, was selected because her mother's favorite actress was Carole Lombard. Her middle name was selected because her older sister, Ronny, wanting a horse in the Bronx, was saving her pennies; her mother chose the middle name in an attempt to console her.[6]

Her father was of Italian descent, his family having come from Abruzzo,[7] and her mother was of German, English, and Scottish descent;[8][9][10] her father changed his last name from Masciarelli to Marshall before Penny was born.[11][12] Religion played no role in the Marshall children's lives. Garry Marshall was christened Episcopalian, Ronny was Lutheran, and Penny was confirmed in a Congregational Church, because "[M]other sent us anyplace that had a hall where she could put on a recital. If she hadn't needed performance space, we wouldn't have bothered."[13]

She grew up at 3235 Grand Concourse, the Bronx, a street that also spawned Neil Simon, Paddy Chayefsky, Calvin Klein, and Ralph Lauren.[14] She began her career as a tap dancer at age three, and later taught tap at her mother's dance school. She graduated from Walton High School and attended the University of New Mexico. In 1967,[15] she moved to Los Angeles to join her older brother Garry Marshall, a writer whose credits at the time included TV's The Dick Van Dyke Show (1961–1966).


One of her first jobs was for a TV commercial for a beautifying shampoo. She was hired to play a girl with stringy, unattractive hair, and Farrah Fawcett was hired to play a girl with thick, bouncy hair. As the crew was lighting the set, Marshall's stand-in wore a placard that read "Homely Girl" and Fawcett's stand-in wore a placard that said "Pretty Girl". Farrah Fawcett, sensing Marshall's insecurity about her looks, crossed out "Homely" on the Marshall stand-in placard and wrote "Plain".[16] She and another actress Billie Hayes were the only two auditioned for the role of Witchiepoo for H.R. Pufnstuf, produced by Sid and Marty Krofft. Marshall thought that she wasn't right for the part. Hayes got the role.

Marshall first gained prominence as a television actress with a recurring guest role of Myrna Turner on The Odd Couple (1971–1975). In Marshall's ultimate appearance as Myrna Turner, Myrna married her boyfriend, Sheldn ("They forgot the 'o' on his birth certificate; legally, it's 'Sheldn'"), played by her then-real-life husband, Rob Reiner, and briefly introduced her brother and sister, Werner Turner and Verna Turner (played by, respectively, Marshall's real-life siblings, Garry and Ronny). Before appearing on The Odd Couple, Marshall was considered to play the role of Gloria Bunker Stivic on All in the Family. She ultimately lost the part to Sally Struthers while her husband, Rob Reiner, was cast as Gloria's husband, Michael "Meathead" Stivic.

In 1974, James L. Brooks and Allan Burns, executive producers of the hit situation comedy, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, cast Marshall as Janice Dreyfuss, sister-in-law to Paul Dreyfuss (played by actor Paul Sand) in the series, Paul Sand in Friends and Lovers. It aired on CBS-TV Saturday nights beginning September 14, 1974, as part of the powerhouse lineup of All in the Family, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Bob Newhart Show, and The Carol Burnett Show. Despite good reviews and decent ratings, it was canceled mid-season. Brooks and Burns, along with studio head Grant Tinker were so impressed with Marshall's comedic talent that the following season, they hired Marshall and actress Mary Kay Place to play Mary Richards' new neighbors (Paula and Sally Jo, respectively) on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, after Mary moved into her new apartment in a high-rise. Then Garry Marshall, creator/part-time writer for Happy Days, cast his sister, Penny, and Cindy Williams to guest on an episode of that show. The installment, titled "A Date with Fonzie",[17] aired on November 11, 1975 and introduced the characters LaVerne DeFazio and Shirley Feeney (played by Marshall and Williams, respectively). In that episode, Laverne and Shirley were a pair of wise-cracking brewery workers, who were dates for Fonzie (played by Winkler) and Richie (played by Howard). The pair were such a hit with the studio audience that Garry Marshall decided to co-create and star them in a hit spin-off, Laverne & Shirley (1976–1983).[18] The characters of Laverne and Shirley also appeared in five more episodes of Happy Days. In 1982 at the beginning of the eighth season, Williams left Laverne & Shirley because of her pregnancy, while Marshall stayed till the end when the series was canceled. It would take a few years before both actresses reconciled.[19]

In 1983, while still filming Laverne and Shirley, Marshall guest-starred on Taxi in a cameo appearance as herself. In the Taxi episode "Louie Moves Uptown",[20] Marshall is turned down for residency in a new high-rise condo in Manhattan. The Laverne and Shirley episode "Lost in Spacesuits"[21] is referenced in the scene.

She lent her voice to Ms. Botz aka Ms. Botzukowski, the "babysitter bandit", on the first produced episode of The Simpsons, and played a cameo role as herself on the HBO series Entourage. She also made a cameo appearance alongside her brother Garry in the Disney Halloween-themed movie Hocus Pocus as husband and wife.

She was reunited with her Laverne & Shirley co-star Cindy Williams on a November 2013 episode of Sam & Cat.[22][23][24]

Directing career

At the encouragement of her brother, Marshall became interested in directing. She directed four episodes of Laverne and Shirley[25] and other TV assignments. She soon moved on to theatrical films, her first film being Jumpin' Jack Flash (1986) starring Whoopi Goldberg.

Marshall has directed several successful feature films since the mid-1980s, including 1988's Big starring Tom Hanks (the first film directed by a woman to gross over US$100 million), Awakenings (1990) starring Robin Williams and Robert De Niro, A League of Their Own (1992) with Geena Davis, Tom Hanks, Madonna and Rosie O'Donnell, and The Preacher's Wife (1996) starring Denzel Washington and Whitney Houston. In 1991, she was awarded the Women in Film Crystal Award.[26]

In 2010-2011, she directed three episodes of the Showtime series United States of Tara.

In 2013, Women in Film and Video presented her with the Women of Vision Award.

In 2014 she announced she was developing a biopic on Effa Manley entitled Effa.[27]

Personal life

While attending the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, Marshall met Michael Henry, a football player. She left college to marry him in 1961; they had a daughter, Tracy. Marshall worked as a secretary and later as a tap dance teacher. The marriage lasted 3 years.[15] On April 10, 1971,[28] Marshall married actor/director Rob Reiner, who adopted her daughter and gave her his last name. Her marriage to Reiner lasted until 1981.[29]

Marshall had a brief relationship with singer Art Garfunkel in the mid-1980s, and he credits her with helping him through his depression. Their friendship stayed strong even after their romantic relationship ended. Garfunkel would later say of Marshall, "Everything changed. Penny is a sweet human being who can bring anybody down to earth. We had a lot of laughs, great sex, and a ton of party nights."[30]

In 2010, it was reported that Marshall had been diagnosed with lung cancer that had metastasized to her brain, but she revealed in 2012 that she was in remission.[31]

Marshall has five grandchildren through her daughter, Tracy Reiner.



As director

As actress


As actress


  1. 1.0 1.1 Born Carole Penny Marshall in 1943, as per My Mother Was Nuts, a Memoir, p. 10; ISBN 978-0-547-89262-7. Copyright 2012
  2. Laverne and Shirley (TV series) awards at IMDb
  3. Comedy On Tap – Garry Marshall Interview
  4. Biography for Garry Marshall at the Internet Movie Database
  5. Biography for Ronny Hallin at the Internet Movie Database
  6. "A Penny for your Horsey ?". Kentucky New Era. June 24, 1977. p. 10. 
  7. LaSalle, Mick (May 26, 2006). "This Jewish boy's life will make you laugh (and get a bit verklempt?)". The San Francisco Chronicle. 
  8. An Interview with the Cast of Keeping up with the Steins Archived April 18, 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  9. Ancestry of Penny Marshall at Archived July 14, 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  11. Peter Canavese. "Groucho Reviews: Interview: Garry Marshall—Keeping Up With the Steins—05/05/06". GrouchoReviews. 
  12. "...Anthony "Tony" Masciarelli", a handsome, athletic young man majoring in advertising at New York University ... To better his chances, he changed his last name from Masciarelli to Marshall and forevermore denied that he was both Italian and Catholic". My Mother Was Nuts, a Memoir, p. 4; ISBN 978-0-547-89262-7. Copyright 2012.
  13. My Mother Was Nuts, a Memoir, p. 18.
  14. Abramowitz, Rachel (2000). Is That a Gun in Your Pocket? Women's Experience of Power in Hollywood. New York: Random House, ISBN 0-679-43754-1, p. 289
  15. 15.0 15.1 Abramowitz, p. 290
  16. Abramowitz, pp. 290–91
  17. ""Happy Days" A Date with Fonzie (TV Episode 1975)". IMDb. 
  18. "Laverne & Shirley (TV Series 1976–1983)". IMDb. 
  20. ""Taxi" Louie Moves Uptown (TV Episode 1983)". IMDb. 
  21. ""Laverne & Shirley" Lost in Spacesuits (TV Episode 1982)". IMDb. 
  22. Bibel, Sara (June 26, 2013). "Penny Marshall and Cindy Williams to Reunite on Nickelodeon's 'Sam & Cat'". TVbytheNumbers. Retrieved June 26, 2013. 
  23. "'Laverne & Shirley' stars reunite on Nick comedy". June 26, 2013. 
  24. "Laverne & Shirley Stars Penny Marshall, Cindy Williams To Reunite on Nickelodeon's Sam & Cat". Yahoo!TV. June 26, 2013. 
  25. Abramowitz, p. 295
  26. "Past Recipients: Crystal Award". Women in Film. Retrieved May 10, 2011. 
  27. Yamato, Jen. "Penny Marshall Back To Baseball With Biopic Of First Female Hall Of Famer". Retrieved 24 December 2014. 
  28. California Marriage Index, 1960–1985, marriage of Carole P. Marshall and Robert Reiner, Los Angeles
  29. Abramowitz, p. 291
  30. "". Retrieved November 21, 2011. 
  31. Gostin, Nicki (2012-10-04). "Penny Marshall talks cancer, abortion, reconciling with 'Laverne & Shirley co-star in new memoir". Fox. Retrieved 2015-09-20. 

External links