Yesterday I did a shoot in downtown Chicago and thought I’d take brief detour from giving some of Garry Marshall’s directing tips and focus on his own detour to Chicago as he journeyed from the Bronx to Hollywood.
“Academically, Northwestern opened many new doors for me. It was the first place I learned that words mattered and could lead to a real job. I knew that sportswriting was a possibility, but at college I was exposed to so many different kinds of writing. I loved Hemingway but didn’t understand Faulkner. I remember reading The Grapes of Wrath for the first time and was fascinated that Steinbeck composed a whole scene in which words were written to the beat of a square dance. I was amazed at the power of words. And while I knew I couldn’t write as well as Steinbeck, I was convinced I could write material that made people laugh. It was my hope for the future.
In addition to Steinbeck, I read a lot of plays by Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller (who along with Paddy Chayefsky and Neil Simon had gone to my high school, DeWitt Clinton.) But my favorite book of all time proved to be Peter Wagner’s recommendation, J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye. Like Peter and many of my peers, I made a connection to Holden Caulfield because he was a misfit like me. I was like a fish out of water trying to make it at Northwestern. The winters were brutally cold, and I was sick all the with asthma and allergies. But come springtime, when the snow thawed and the weather turned warm, Northwestern looked to me like the most beautiful campus ever.”
My Happy Days in Hollywood Days (written with Lori Marshall)
While on the Evanston campus Marshall not only wrote about sports in The Daily Northwestern, but wrote skits that were performed on campus (sometimes by a fellow student named Warren Beatty), developed his niche for comedy writing, played intramural sports, and earned a little money as a dishwasher at Kappa Delta & playing drums in a band that performed at sorority parties and Chicago nightclubs. But his most invaluable lesson learned there was, “how to write on a deadline.”
“Sometimes we attended three-hour newswriting labs. We would sit at a typewriter trying our best to write our stories and professors would throw obstacles in our way. A typewriter would break. A siren would occur. A bell would go off. A new person would be murdered in our story assignments. I loved that class because it helped me learn to write under pressure. From graduation onward I could pretty much write any place, any time. I was trained to be a reporter. It didn’t matter that I was not going to be the next investigative reporter. It was an asset to be able to write quickly and concisely, whether it was a joke, a line or a comedy skit. I wasn’t going to stare into space and struggle with writer’s block, I could put paper in the typewriter and deliver the goods.”
My Happy Days in Hollywood
While Marshall failed to become a sportswriter, his Chicago detour turned out to be a turning point in his life which would eventually lead him to his happy days in Hollywood that including writing for the hit TV program The Odd Couple, creating the TV show Happy Days, and directing the films Pretty Woman and Runaway Bride.
P.S. Garry’s daughter, Lori (who helped Garry write both his books) also graduated from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. And after his success in Hollywood, Marshall paid tribute to his mother by building a dance studio at Northwestern in her memory. Garry is also in the Northwestern University Medill—Hall of Achievement.
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