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Pretty Woman director Garry Marshall dies aged 81

Published 20/07/2016

Garry Marshall, whose TV hits included Happy Days and box-office successes included Pretty Woman, has died aged 81 (AP)
Garry Marshall, whose TV hits included Happy Days and box-office successes included Pretty Woman, has died aged 81 (AP)

Writer and director Garry Marshall, whose hits included Happy Days on TV and Pretty Woman on the big screen, has died aged 81.

He died on Tuesday in hospital in Burbank, California of complications from pneumonia after having a stroke, his publicist Michelle Bega said.

The former journalist had three of the top five comedies on the air in 1979 with Happy Days, Laverne & Shirley - starring his sister Penny Marshall - and Mork And Mindy with Robin Williams.

His first big success had been in 1970, when he and his then-writing partner Jerry Belson turned Neil Simon's Broadway hit, The Odd Couple, into a sitcom starring Jack Klugman and Tony Randall. It ran for five seasons and proved the beginning of a TV sitcom empire.

After cranking out what Marshall once estimated to be 1,000 sitcom episodes, he switched his focus to the big screen with 1984's The Flamingo Kid, a coming-of-age story starring Matt Dillon, which Marshall wrote and directed.

He concentrated on directing with his later films, including 1986's Nothing In Common, with Tom Hanks, Overboard (1987) starring Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell and Beaches (1988) with Bette Midler.

In 1990 Pretty Woman with Julia Roberts and Richard Gere was a smash hit, and the pair were reunited for Runaway Bride in 1999, which was also a huge success.

The Princess Diaries in 2001 was another winner, although Marshall suffered a flop with Georgia Rule (2007), starring Jane Fonda and Lindsay Lohan.

The director also had an on-screen presence, using his New York accent and gruff delivery in colourful supporting roles that included a casino boss in Lost In America and a crass network executive in Soapdish.

"In the neighbourhood where we grew up in, the Bronx, you only had a few choices," Marshall said in a 1980s interview. "You were either an athlete or a gangster, or you were funny."

Marshall earned a degree in journalism and worked at the New York Daily News. But he found he was better at writing punchlines.

He began his entertainment career in the 1960s selling jokes to comedians, then moved to writing sketches for The Tonight Show with Jack Paar in New York and then sitcoms, including The Lucy Show and The Dick Van Dyke Show.

Marshall and his wife, Barbara, had three children, Lori, Kathleen and Scott.

The funeral service will be private, but a memorial is being planned for his birthday on November 13.

Henry Winkler, who starred as Fonzie in Happy Days, saluted Marshall in a tweet as "larger than life, funnier than most, wise and the definition of friend".

AP

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