Penny Marshall, the Bronx-born director of such movies as A League of Their Own and Big, passed away at her home in California on Monday night. She was 75 years old.
Marshall’s publicist Michelle Bega confirmed the Hollywood star’s death.
Marshall, also known for her character Laverne in ’70s sitcom Laverne and Shirley, battled and overcame brain and lung cancer in the late ’00s.
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She was known as a trailblazer for women in the industry, and was the first female director to make a movie that grossed over $100 million (Big in 1988). Four years later, she repeated the feat again with fan-favourite A League of Their Own.
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After those two successes, Marshall retreated from the spotlight, only making brief cameos in movies here and there.
Born Carole Penny Marshall in New York City on Oct. 15, 1943, she was surrounded by art right from the beginning of her life. Her father, Tony, was a film director and producer, while her brother Garry was a comedy writer, so she had close influences.
She was an aspiring actor as a child, but suffered because she didn’t have the “typical” Hollywood look — she even appeared once as a “before” photo, with Farrah Fawcett as the “after” photo — for a beauty product ad.
For a while, she appeared in bit roles until she landed a recurring part on The Odd Couple and popped up on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Her big break came when her brother cast her as Laverne DeFazio on his show Happy Days.
Her character (along with Cindy Williams’ Shirley Feeney) was so popular, they made spinoff show Laverne and Shirley, which successfully ran from 1976 until 1983. Fearing the dreaded typecasting, Marshall took a step behind the camera instead.
Her directorial debut, Jumpin’ Jack Flash in 1985, was released to mediocre reviews, but then came her two huge successes.
Celebrities were quick to share their condolences on social media.
She was married to fellow director Rob Reiner in 1971, and they were married for 10 years. Marshall leaves behind her sister, Ronny, a daughter, Tracy, and three grandchildren: Bella, Spencer and Viva.
“Our family is heartbroken,” the Marshall family said in a statement.
“I led an oddly charmed life for someone who thought she was not a charming person,” she once said about herself.
As of this writing, there are no details available regarding a funeral or burial services.
— With a file from The Associated Press