Posts Tagged ‘Lori Marshall’

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.”
Garry Marshall 
My Happy Days in Hollywood Days (written with Lori Marshall)
Page 19 

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.”
Garry Marshall
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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Scott W. Smith

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“My first movie for Garry [Marshall] was Garry’s first movie. It didn’t take me long to realize that he’s a master of comedy and a natural mentor to budding talent. I’ve watched him time and time again inspire young people who showed an aptitude and zeal for the work, whether it was writing, acting, or producing—and always with humor and kindness.

A brief but important moment for me as an actor was when I needed an angle on the character Barnard Thompson, the hotel manager in Pretty Woman. I went to Garry. He paused for a moment and said, ‘Just create the guy you’d like to work for.’ Simple as that. No long discussion. No deep analysis. A slight suggestion and I made it my own. We’ve done 17 movies that way.”
Hector Elizondo
Forward to My Happy Days in Hollywood by Garry Marshall with Lori Marshall 

P.S. Yes, after two weeks of blogging about Gary’s 1995 book Wake Me When It’s Funny, I purchased his book that came out this year—so you can expect more wisdom from a long time successful and respected producer/director of movies and television.

Scott W. Smith 

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The spike in views keep coming so I’m going to stay on this Garry Marshall gravy train a little while longer. The funny thing about Marshall’s book Wake Me When It’s Funny is it’s not really that funny of a book. I don’t mean that in a bad way. It has its humorous moments, but it’s more part of his story and experiences of working for decades in TV and movies, and part of it is just rock solid practical advice. In fact, today directing insight from Marshall is not only something I never heard taught in film school—but I’ve never heard anyone else ever mention it in regards to filmmaking.

“I saw Michelle Pfeiffer at the catering truck ordering a bagel on Frankie and Johnny. When she discovered they were all out of bagels, she started to cry. I was ready to run to the nearest deli to buy her a dozen bagels, but she said it wasn’t that important. It turned out she was having her period and everything made her cry. I didn’t try to cheer her up but made it a positive thing because she had several crying scenes in the movie. After lunch, we sat down with the production schedule and, with Michelle’s approval, plotted the crying scenes around her menstrual cycle. This made these scenes easier for everyone, especially Michelle. Yes, I’m a filmmaker and I chart menstrual cycles. Later I saw Michelle walking around the set with a sign she had pinned on the back of her bathrobe that read BEWARE PMS.

I originally learned the importance of women’s cycles from Debbie Reynolds on How Sweet It Is. We were sitting in our big production meeting with Debbie and ten others talking about a swimming sequence. Suddenly, Debbie secretly passed me a note that said, ‘Garry, ask me when my period is.’ Now, I was a first-time producer who knew nothing and I wanted to impress the others, but didn’t know what to make of this note. Was she coming on to me in the height of the meeting? I looked at Debbie and she gave me an encouraging nod. ‘Errrr…Debbie,’ I said, ‘when is your period?’ She smiled and said, ‘Oh, what a bright producer Garry is. That’s such a smart question to ask. You all should know my menstrual cycle so you can schedule the swimming sequences around my period.'”
Garry Marshall
Wake Me When It’s Funny (written with Lori Marshall)
Pages 201-202

Now some other film director  may have given that advice, but I don’t recall reading Ford, Capra, Hitchcock, Kazan, Coppola, Spielberg, Soderbergh—or even the female directors like Nora Ephron or Kathryn Bigelow—mentioning anything about menstrual cycles in terms of directing. Doesn’t mean no one else has, but regardless, it’s good practical advice. The book was published back in 1995 back in a slightly less politically correct time, and I can’t imagine Marshall getting some negative flack if he wrote that today. (And I imagine I’ll get some. )

But the fact that book was co-written by Garry’s daughter, and the two main sources are Michelle Pfeiffer and Debbie Reynolds, I hope show this isn’t some sexist and misogynistic thought.

P.S. Debbie Reynolds, most famous for her role in Singing in the Rain, is now 80 and still singing and has a website—debbiereynolds.com

Scott W. Smith

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“Just when I thought I understood how to write  a good line, Phil Foster headed me in a different direction. He was one of the first comedians to break out of the traditional one-line joke format and venture into personal narratives. He would talk about his wife, his childhood, politics—anything he could put his personal spin on. Through his tales of family and friends, Phil taught us that the best way to write comedy was to view everyday life with a comic eye. He encouraged us to abandon our sophomoric gag humor and said, ‘Look at people and pick up on their mistakes and inadequacies. Watch human behavior. Telling the truth about people will make them laugh.'”
Producer/Writer/Director Garry Marshall (Pretty Woman
Wake Me When It’s Funny (written with Lori Marshall)

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“Be prepared at all times for rejection, even after you break in. One night I was backstage at Jack Silberman’s International Nightclub in New York City. I nervously handed a page of jokes I had written to a famous veteran comedian. He read my jokes without laughing or even cracking a smile, removed a silver monogrammed cigarette lighter from his coat pocket, and set my page of jokes on fire. He then very nonchalantly tossed the burning page into a small metal trash can and walked away. Unable to speak, I simply stood there staring at the can as the bright red flames turned my jokes into ashes. It was my first flaming rejection. I went home that night to my apartment feeling like quitting the business.”
Garry Marshall
Wake Me When It’s Funny (written with Lori Marshall)

Of course, Garry Marshall didn’t quit the business, though he did eventually leave New York and head to Hollywood. There he would write and produce some of the most watched TV in the decade of the 70s, including The Odd Couple, Laverne & Shirley, Mork & Mindy, and Happy Days. In the 80s he starred directing feature films including Pretty Women, Runaway Bride, and mostly recently New Year’s Eve.

Hang in there folks.

P.S. I found Marshall’s book at a used bookstore last week when I was in Texas for shoot and will be pulling a lot of quotes from it—good stuff from somebody with six decades of entertainment experience.

Scott W. Smith

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