On Tuesday, Hollywood lost a pioneer and supreme talent with the passing of film and TV legend Penny Marshall. The former star of Laverne and Shirley was a woman of many talents. Her skills as a director were perhaps the most significant and underappreciated.
Marshall was the first female to direct a film that grossed $100 million at the box office. In totality, she helped to change the way the world sees females in the film industry. While she directed a variety of projects, here is a list of MY top 5 films directed by Marshall, in case you’re unfamiliar and want to get acquainted with her work.
1. Big, 1988 (starring Tom Hanks)
Marshall directed some of the top talents of her generation, not least of which was all-world actor Tom Hanks. In 1988, the magical film Big was released in theaters and it is still to this day, my favorite of all of Marshall’s projects. It’s almost like It’s A Wonderful Life, only different, because the person making the wish, wants to an adult, not non-existent.
Here is a trailer:
The film was done on an $18 million budget, but it grossed over $153 million globally. It helped launch Hanks’ career as a megastar and it inspired me to pursue a career that allows me to play with toys (video games in my case) only to share my opinions and get paid for it. It’s a beautiful thing. Thanks, Josh and Penny.
2. Awakenings, 1990 (starring Robert DeNiro and Robin Williams)
As I said, Marshall directed true legends. Two years after Big, Marshall dropped another gem on us with the marvelous Awakenings. DeNiro and Williams are fantastic in a film about a doctor who takes a job at a clinic with patients who are in a semi-catatonic state.
There is humor, drama and all the emotional stuff that makes for a great movie.
It came out on Christmas in 1990 and did what was an impressive $417,000 on opening weekend. It also earned a nod for Best Picture.
3. A League of Their Own, 1992 (starring Hanks, Rosie O’Donnell, Geena Davis, Virginia Madsen, and Madonna)
Every two years, Marshall seemed to deliver a classic. She was on fire in the late 80s and 90s. ALOTO is one of the greatest baseball movies ever made. Partly because of the way it was shot. The scenes were a perfect mix of cinema and sport, and the cast was fantastic.
It’s the story of the ill-fated all-women’s baseball league with characters based on real-life people, including hall-of-famer Jimmie Foxx. Marshall turned a $40 million budget into a film that grossed $132 million worldwide.
4. Preacher’s Wife, 1996 (starring Denzel Washington and Whitney Houston)
This film has a special place in my heart because there is a scene that is special to members of my family. It’s also a notable piece because Marshall showed diversity in directing an almost entirely African-American cast in a film based on the Bishop’s Wife.
Washington plays an angel who helps to save a couple’s troubled marriage. The film did a solid $4.7 million during the opening weekend, but tailed off a bit after that and barely passed the break-even point of the $40 million budget. It’s kinda corny, but a good movie to watch with your wife or husband.
5. Renaissance Man, 1994 (starring Danny DeVito and Gregory Hines)
What can I say? DeVito is one of my favorites and I used to crush hard on Stacey Dash. The movie is about a businessman hired to help a group of misfit soldiers pass army basic training.
This isn’t a masterpiece by any stretch, but it’s a movie you can get a few laughs from on an afternoon if you happen to notice it’s on cable. Don’t be surprised if you see it airing sometime soon in light of Marshall’s passing.
This one did not do well at the box office. It carried the same $40 million budget but only grossed $24.3 million in the United States.
Oh well, no one delivers 100 percent winners, but it doesn’t dim the light Marshall helped to shine in Hollywood.