Trailblazer director Penny Marshall dead at 75

Published: 19 December, 2018 15:57 IST | IANS | Los Angeles

Penny Marshall, star of US TV series Laverne and Shirley and director of hit films Big and A League of Their Own, has died at the age of 75

Penny Marshall, star of US TV series "Laverne and Shirley" and director of hit films "Big" and "A League of Their Own", has died at the age of 75, her publicist has said. She was 75. Marshall died of complications from diabetes on Monday at her home in Hollywood Hills, California, her publicist said, the BBC reported.

The success of "Big" made Marshall the first woman to direct a film that made more than $100 million at the US box office. She was also the first woman to direct two films that made more than $100 million, and was only the second woman director to see her film Oscar-nominated for best picture, Variety reported. In 2004, she was honoured with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, along with her "Laverne and Shirley" co-star.

Described a pioneer in the film-making industry, Marshall and co-star Cindy Williams starred in the 1970s "Happy Days" TV spin-off about two single, working women in late 1950s Milwaukee, which was a huge success.

After "Laverne and Shirley", Marshall went on to become a producer and director whose films included box-office successes such as "Big", starring Tom Hanks, and women's baseball comedy "A League of Their Own".

Her first film was the 1986 Whoopi Goldberg comedy "Jumpin' Jack Flash". She also directed Robert De Niro and Robin Williams in "Awakenings", which was nominated for three Academy Awards including best picture.

"She did commercial movies at a time when women weren't doing studio films. And so, she was a pioneer in the studio-movie world," Melissa Silverstein, founder of the advocacy group Women and Hollywood, told the BBC.

"She laid the groundwork for women to make commercial movies with her success. Her legacy is going to be "Laverne and Shirley" -- it was a groundbreaking sitcom and was just revolutionary.

"And she transitioned from acting into directing and became a director - a full-time director; the sad thing is she didn't have a longer career because of her success.

"I think that's a testament to how hard it was for women to get opportunities…you can count them on one hand.

"I just think that all the women who have come after have built their careers and their success on the pioneers of Penny Marshall, Nora Ephron, Penelope Spheeris -- those are the women who blaze the trail."

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