Carole Penny Marshall (October 15, 1943 – December 17, 2018) was an American actress, director, and producer. She came to notice in the 1970s for her role as Laverne DeFazio on the television sitcom Laverne & Shirley (1976–1983), receiving three nominations for the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Television Series Musical or Comedy for her portrayal.
Marshall made her directorial debut with Jumpin’ Jack Flash (1986) before directing Big (1988), which became the first film directed by a woman to gross more than $100 million at the U.S. box office. Her subsequent directing credits included Awakenings (1990), which was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture, A League of Their Own (1992), Renaissance Man (1994), The Preacher’s Wife (1996) and Riding in Cars with Boys (2001). She also produced Cinderella Man (2005) and Bewitched (2005), and directed episodes of the TV series According to Jim and United States of Tara.
Carole Penny Marshall was born in the Bronx, New York City, New York, on October 15, 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 Anthony Wallace Marshall, a director of industrial films and later a producer. She was the sister of actor/director/TV producer Garry Marshall and Ronny Hallin, 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.
Marshall first appeared on a television commercial for Head and Shoulders 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”. Fawcett, sensing Marshall’s insecurity about her looks, crossed out “Homely” on the Marshall stand-in placard and wrote “Plain”.
In 1968 Marshall accepted an offer from her brother to appear in a movie he had written and was producing, called How Sweet It Is (1968). She landed another small role in the film The Savage Seven (1968), as well as a guest appearance on the hit television series That Girl, starring Marlo Thomas.
In 1970, Garry Marshall became the executive producer of the television series The Odd Couple. The following year, Marshall was added to the permanent cast to play a secretary, Myrna, and held the role for four years. In Marshall’s final appearance on The Odd Couple, her character married her boyfriend, Sheldn (“they left the “o” off the birth certificate”, she explains), played by Rob Reiner, her real-life husband. The episode included Marshall’s real-life siblings, Garry and Ronny, as Myrna’s brother and sister.
Garry Marshall, creator and then part-time writer for Happy Days, cast Marshall and Cindy Williams to guest on an episode of the show. The installment, titled “A Date with Fonzie”, 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 wisecracking brewery workers who were dates for Fonzie (Henry Winkler) and Richie (Ron Howard).
The pair were such a hit with the studio audience that Garry Marshall decided to co-create and star them in a successful spinoff, Laverne & Shirley (1976–1983). The characters of Laverne and Shirley appeared in five more episodes of Happy Days. In 1982 at the beginning of Laverne & Shirley‘s eighth season, Williams left the show due to her pregnancy. Marshall continued with the show, but it was canceled after the season’s final episode aired in May 1983.
Penny’s charitable endeavor for those who’d like to donate was PETA. “Penny Marshall, a great friend to animals, was determined in her last years to end Wayne State University’s cruel experiments on dogs, including one named Laverne in her honor. PETA will pay tribute to her legacy of kindness by urging the school to retire these dogs and end the experiments, as she wished.” – 19 Dec 2018