Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Penny Marshall Merges With the Infinite

According to numerous press sources, director and actor Penny Marshall has passed.

Like everyone else my age, I grew up with Laverne & Shirley, where Marshall played a working class girl cohabitating with her best pal, Shirley, as they had weekly misadventures for years on network TV. 

She disappeared briefly, only to re-emerge as a director of a number of movies I saw and liked in formative years, including Jumping Jack Flash and Big.  Honestly, I've thought of her more as Director Penny Marshall for decades at this point, and it's a remarkable two-part career she was able to pull off.

I don't walk about it a lot, but the last couple of years I've realized, based on re-watchability and how often I'll watch half an hour here or there as the movie plays endlessly on basic cable, is A League of Their Own, the 1992 Geen Davis starring baseball movie.  What's funny is - because I only watch the movie in snippets - much how I watch, say, Christmas Vacation or Miracle on 34th Street - it never gets a write up on this site.  But I've probably watched the movie twice this year alone (they show it a lot on the MLB channel, FYI). 

While I like Marshall's other works just fine, A League of Their Own is the one with the most heart, the best drawn characters with the most going on, and it all just works.  In no small part because, to a character, the movie is perfectly cast, sure.  But there's a steel foundation beneath the soft focus haze of yesteryear the movie also casts.  I'll just say, it probably wasn't bad for me to see and process the content of the film and the experiences of the characters - knowing it was all based on reality.  As a 40-something dude, I appreciate what a statement the movie was making at the time all the more - it's a movie that bears an occasional rewatch if it's been a while.

In October I finally watched Hocus Pocus, in which Garry and Penny Marshall (real life siblings) appeared together, and was thinking about how much people liked just seeing Marshall show up in movies and TV shows, and about the same time one of my cable channels was showing reruns of Laverne & Shirley, which I started rewatching, and was delighted to find how well that show holds up.  I'd supposed the reason I hadn't seen Marshall or heard from her in a while was that she was, deservedly, taking it a bit easier these days and just enjoying herself. 

Like everyone else who had just a handful of channels and grew up with Laverne De Fazio on their screens, who showed up for her transition to director and has enjoyed her work over the years, I'm very sad to hear she passed.  But I'm grateful for what she made and what she left for us. 

Here's to Ms. Marshall. 

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