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Posts Tagged ‘My Happy Days in Hollywood’

“Kindness is free.”
Garry Marshall

Garry Marshall survived bad health as a child. He survived long cold winters in Chicago as a college student. He survived a tour of duty in Korea as an Army soldier. He survived producing stressful TV shows. He survived bad investments that almost forced him into bankruptcy. He survived making a few bad films to make a few more good ones. He survived critics, cancer, and canned laughter.

He did all of that and lived to tell about it. In two books actually (Wake Me When It’s Funny, My Happy Days in Hollywood).

Garry Marshall is a survivor.

I’m not sure why of all of filmmakers in the last 100 plus years Marshall became the first one that I spent an entire month writing about on this blog, but I suspect it has something to do with his incredibly long run as a producer, director, writer, and actor spanning stand-up, radio, television, books and theater. (What no blog? Garry call me—we can play some basketball and then grab lunch at Bob’s Big Boy in Burbank and talk blogging.)

If you look at the peaks (The Odd Couple, Pretty Woman, Happy Days, Fonzie, Julia Roberts, Robin Williams) and the longevity of his career—it’s been an amazing run. Factor in how he was able to balance all of that with his personal and family life and you have one amazing life well lived. A true Hollywood survivor.

“The truth is that I always wanted a more stable life than my intellectual idols had. People like Arthur Miller, Roman Polanski, Woody Allen, Sylvia Path, Anton Chekov and Albert Camus all had unconventional family life. I was a product of the 50s and was charmed by The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, Father Knows Best, and the drawings of Norman Rockwell. Whether they were true or not didn’t matter. I wanted to come home to a wife, children, and a sane family dinner hour. This is probably why I have been married for forty-nine years and have three children and six grandchildren.
Garry Marshall
My Happy Days in Hollywood (written with Lori Marshall)

And he’s not done yet, he just sold a new TV show. As I was looking for a fitting way to end a Month of Marshall (technically started these posts last month) with an exclamation point, I came across the clip below where Marshall is brilliant—though less than kind—as a TV executive giving Louis C.K. a little Hollywood pep talk.

P.S. In light of the Frankenstorm damage to Marshall’s hometown of New York City (and the surrounding areas) it is a good time to be reminded that “kindness is free.”

Halloween P.S.—Here’s a scary picture for you. This is an old Nikon lens that’s older than two of my interns this semester. It had been in retirement for many years until I had a need for it last year when shooting a video project. I originally bought it in Miami or L.A. back in the ’80s. It’s seen its share of battles, but it still captures sweet images. Talk about a survivor…

Related links:

Flaming Rejection
Screenwriting Quote #171 (Garry Marshall)
Garry Marshall’s Directing Tips (Part 1)
Writing & Rewriting “Pretty Woman” (Part 1)

Scott W. Smith

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 “Happy Days was for me the quintessential television success story. I had followed my instincts, and they had turned out to be right.”
Garry Marshall

The early 70s were not happy days. A sweeping snapshot of the United States during that time might look like this; Viet Nam, Watergate, oil crisis, rising drug use, Taxi Driver. Gritty stuff. Of course, the 70s weren’t all dark days—but it wasn’t best time to launch an upbeat show about the happy days of the 1950s. In fact, Garry Marshall’s original pilot for Happy Days died after it first aired in 1971.

But it now only found new life three years later, but the series ran from 1974-1984 for a total of 225 episodes. Here’s what changed to bring a dead project to life.

“My friend from Korea Fred Roos was producing a film with George Lucas called American Graffiti about the 1950s. They wanted to see my 1950s pilot because they were thinking of casing Ron Howard as the lead of their movie. They liked Ron, cast him, and American Graffiti was a big hit. Then a play called Grease hot Broadway, and it further reinforced the popularity of the 1950s. The executives at ABC called Eisner, and he remembered my pilot about the 1950s. Happy Days was repitched as a midseason replacement and given a second life three years after it appeared on Love, American Style.
Garry Marshall
My Happy Days in Hollywood (written with Lori Marshall)

Of course, I should point out that when Marshall was picking a setting for quintessential America in the 1950s he picked the Midwest— Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

“Knowing that Happy Days appealed to people from eight years old to eighty makes me smile even today. I always wanted to be remembered as the Norman Rockwell of television, Happy Days represented the part of me that wanted to make mainstream America laugh. If television was the education of the American public, then Happy Days was recess. And I always loved recess best.”
Garry Marshall
My Happy Days in Hollywood

Happy Days not only had an emotional and creative payoff for Garry, but when he went through some financial difficulties later in his career that put him on the edge of bankruptcy there was a thing called cable TV that came along and not only exposed Happy Days to a whole new audience (including his own grandchildren), but it brought him a whole new income stream. Happy days indeed.

Scott W. Smith

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“The original writer [of The Flamingo Kid] Neal Marshall, no relationship to me, had written a solid script based on his youth spent in the Catskills. Neal and I rewrote the script with notes from the producers, then the screenwriter Bo Goldman took a pass at a rewrite but would not ask for screenwriting credit for it. Bo let Neal and me share credit because he said he didn’t change enough to warrant credit. He did however, tell me that while the dialogue was essential, the actors’ reactions to things were even more important. So I never forgot that while directing the movie. Later, when I met director Blake Edwards, he said the same thing. “The reaction to the action is critical.” To have a great line is nice, but to have a strong and memorable reaction is even better.”
Garry Marshall
My Happy Days in Hollywood Days (written with Lori Marshall)
Pages 127-128

Here are a couple of clips I found on You Tube from The Flamingo Kid that feature reaction shots—and very little dialogue:

Note: If you watch Charlie Chaplin’s old silent films, and Robert De Niro in everything from The Godfather to Meet the Parents, right up to through Connie Britton in the Movie/ TV show Friday Night Lights and in the pilot of the TV show Nashville, you will see how powerful reaction shots have been used in the past 100 years of motion picture and television.

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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