“Gentle Hilarity” is not a movie but rather a filmmaking philosophy of Garry Marshall, the director of Frankie and Johnny, The Flamingo Kid, Nothing in Common, and Pretty Woman. A philosophy that’s helped him work with a wide range of talented actors including Julie Roberts, Richard Gere, Tom Hanks, Jackie Gleason, Hector Elizondo, Matt Dillion, Michelle Pfeiffer and Al Pacino.
“I always wanted to direct positive, uplifting films that reached for the heart rather than the mind, the emotions rather than the intellect. I liked romantic and sentimental film and movies that could be classified under the heading ‘Gentle Hilarity.’ I knew I wasn’t cut out to be a great stunt director who made films filled with never before-seen-special effects or or an avant-garde director who shot Freudian moments or used snow as an existential metaphor. I wanted to make films that celebrated the human spirit and highlighted the good in human beings through both comedy and drama.”
Wake Me When It’s Funny (written with Lori Marshall)
P.S. It also explains why Marshall made changes to an already super script by J.F. Lawton that would become the movie Pretty Woman. Changes that without question had a huge box office payoff (and helped make Julia Roberts a star), but changes that didn’t necessarily make a better script—or truly reflect the vocation of prostitution. Less grit, more fairy tale. Call me crazy, but I like both Marshall’s version and Lawton’s original script. Call it a head and heart battle. More on the writing and re-writing of 3000/Pretty Women this week.