Garry Marshall was a director, producer, writer, and actor who created some of the most iconic movies and television shows of all time. On Tuesday, May 12, ABC is broadcasting a special called The Happy Days of Garry Marshall, which features some of his beloved collaborators reflecting on his life and his work now that he has passed away.
Here’s what you need to know about Marshall’s death.
1. Marshall Passed Away After Suffering A Stroke in 2016
In July 2019, Marshall, who was 81 years old at the time, suffered a stroke and was hospitalized. According to his son, Scott, the immediate family was able to see him while he was still conscious.
“I was at my son’s little league game when my mom called and her voice cracked a little and she said dad’s in the hospital and he had had a stroke,” Scott recalled in the documentary. “On Friday, my three kids came to see him and they threw the ball with him, and then the next day, he didn’t wake up. He was still alive, but he was in a coma.”
Marshall’s daughter Kathleen said that when things took a turn, they just started calling people. Dozens of Marshall’s friends and collaborators were able to come to the hospital to say goodbye.
“Heather, his assistant, called and said, ‘Hey, you wanna come and visit Garry?’ and I said, ‘You know, I’m just finishing, how ’bout if I come tomorrow?’ And she said, ‘I think you should come today,'” said Henry Winkler, who starred on one of Marshall’s biggest hits, Happy Days. “I would talk into his ear and I just repeated over and over again thank you and I love you. I hope you can hear me. Thank you and I love you.”
Scott got choked up and said, “They all showed up. They all came. All of them, from wherever they were, they dropped whatever they were doing to see him.”
2. Marshall Was Survived by His Three Children and Wife Barbara
Marshall married Barbara Wells in 1963. In the ABC special, she recalled their first date, saying, “He started being funny and telling a few jokes and entertaining me. And I remembered a joke I’d heard on The Jack Paar Show, so I thought I’d show him I could be funny too. So I started telling a joke and I couldn’t remember the ending and he picked it right up and finished it. And I said, ‘Oh, that’s great, you saw the same joke I saw on TV!’ and he said, ‘No, I wrote it.'”
It was practically love at first sight. Garry and Barbara went on their first date in September, got engaged in December, and were married the following March. In December 1964, they had their daughter Lori. In 1967, they welcomed daughter Kathleen, and in 1969, they had their son, Scott.
Several of Marshall’s stars and collaborators said he would not have been the man he was without Barbara and Marshall himself says in the special, “I feel like your personal life has to take precedence over your professional life for you to have success in both.”
“Garry used to say life is more important than show business because family life was the most important thing to him,” recalled Barbara. “We didn’t move to Beverly Hills. We didn’t want to do the show biz thing that everybody was doing. And we still maintained our sense of family.”
Garry once said, “If you can get out of bed each day and go to a job you love and return home to a family you love, that is the key to life.”
When he died, Barbara said the hardest thing was that she couldn’t do anything to help him.
“When you’ve lived with a hypochondriac for 50 years and he finally has something bad, that’s hard. My pain was that I always saved him and I didn’t save him this time,” said Barbara.
3. Marshall Was Honored With a Star-Studded Memorial Four Months Later
In November 2016, Marshall was memorialized in Northridge, California. The reason it took place four months after he died, on what would have been his 82nd birthday, is probably because it was such a grand affair. Over 1000 people from inside and outside the entertainment industry, from studio moguls to secretaries to his college roommates to retired Dodgers announcer Vin Scully, gathered in the Northridge Performing Arts Center to honor his legacy, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Bette Midler, star of Marshall’s movie Beaches, sang. Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts, who starred in several Marshall films, gave eulogies. The audience included Winkler, John Stamos, Richard Gere, Dick Van Dyke, Hector Elizondo, and many more. His alma mater, Northwestern University, even flew out its marching band to give a parade.
After the ceremony, Marshall’s family announced that the Falcon Theatre in Burbank would be renamed in his honor.
4. Marshall’s Sister Penny Passed Away Three Years Later
Marshall also had a famous sister, Penny Marshall, whose career he helped launch by casting her as Laverne DeFazio on Happy Days, a character she took to its own spinoff called Laverne & Shirley. Penny passed away in December 2018 at the age of 75 from complications with diabetes. According to The Blast, Penny is interred with her brother in Forest Lawn Memorial-Park in Hollywood.
“I wouldn’t have a career if it wasn’t for my brother. Let’s be honest, he’s the one that pointed me in this direction, he got me parts. I didn’t know at the beginning they hired me so that he would rewrite or punch up a script. I didn’t know that at the time,” she said in a 2016 interview about her brother.
But Garry saw talent in his sister and encouraged that, saying in the ABC special, “Laverne & Shirley broke new ground, something I had never been accused of that often. Like Lucille Ball, Penny and Cindy were both fearless performers. I admire them for that.”
5. So Many Hollywood Stars Credit Marshall For Giving Them Careers
Marshall’s Happy Days and its spinoffs, Laverne & Shirley and Mork & Mindy launched some of the biggest careers in entertainment: Ron Howard, Henry Winkler, Penny Marshall, Pam Dawber, Robin Williams — and they say it’s because Marshall treated everyone like family.
“Garry was like the godfather. The people that worked for Garry could go to Garry with their problems. He would listen, he would try to fix, you felt like you were part of a cohesive family unit,” said Dawber.
“I think Garry Marshall, at heart, was a teacher. I think he really loved to teach and inspire. He loved finding some magic in you that you didn’t see,” said Anson Williams, who starred on Happy Days.
“The breadth of people who credit Garry with giving them their first jobs — for supporting them, for standing up for them — is unbelievable,” says Rob Lowe, who co-starred with Marshall on Brothers & Sisters.
Princess Diaries star Anne Hathaway says, “He made us. For so many of us, we have careers because of him. Our greatest dreams came true because of him.”
Yvette Nicole Brown, who starred on Marshall’s updated Odd Couple, summed it up best by saying, “A light like that does not go out. It lives on in his kids, it lives on in his shows, it lives on in his movies. That is a life well-lived.”
The Happy Days of Garry Marshall airs Tuesday, May 12 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.