Big director Penny Marshall dead at 75

PENNY Marshall, the star of ABC’s Laverne and Shirley” who became one of the most successful female directors in history at the helm of Big, A League of Their Own and a string of other hit movies, has died. She was 75.

The filmmaker died peacefully in her Hollywood Hills on Monday due to complications from diabetes, her publicist told AFP.

Marshall’s family released a statement saying her death had left them “heartbroken” and describing her as a “tomboy who loved sports, doing puzzles of any kind, drinking milk and Pepsi together and being with her family.”

Born in New York’s Bronx borough, Marshall was the daughter of producer Tony Marshall and his tap dance teacher wife Marjorie, and a sister to legendary comedy director Garry Marshall (Pretty Woman), who died in 2016.

She made her name as Laverne DeFazio on the TV sitcom Laverne and Shirley (1976–1983), earning three Golden Globe nominations, before making her directorial debut with Jumpin’ Jack Flash (1986).

She is probably best known in the movie world for directing Tom Hanks in his breakout role in Big (1988), which became the first film made by a woman to gross more than US$100 million at the domestic box office.

She went on to direct Robert De Niro and Robin Williams in medical drama Awakenings (1990), which was nominated for a best picture Oscar, before helming A League of Their Own (1992), starring Hanks alongside Geena Davis and Madonna.

Marshall had a short-lived marriage with a football player she met at university in Albuquerque, with whom she had a daughter.

She was married to Hollywood actor and director Rob Reiner for a decade, from 1971.

The family statement described Marshall as “a comedic natural with a photographic memory and an instinct for slapstick.”

“We hope her life continues to inspire others to spend time with family, work hard and make all of their dreams come true,“ it said.

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