by Herbie J Pilato
Actress/director Penny Marshall passed away on Monday, December 17, 2018, but certainly not before making her mark in the world, particularly in the entertainment world.
Marshall was best known for her role opposite actress Cindy Williams with Laverne & Shirley, the hit ABC sitcom of the 1970s and early 1980s. Essentially, Marshall and Williams were “Frick and Frack” without the Swiss connotation or the ice; and Lucy and Ethel for a new generation.
Set in the late 50s and early 60s, but presented with a 70s state of mind, Laverne & Shirley featured Marshall as Laverne Dafazio, and Williams as Shirley Feeney in a series spinoff of another one of ABC’s other popular period sitcoms of the day: Happy Days, which starred Ron Howard (once the lovable little tyke Opie on The Andy Griffith Show; CBS, 1961-1968) as the All-American Richie Cunningham, best friend to Henry Winkler’s Arthur Fonzarelli, AKA “The Fonz” or “Fonzie”—the hood-with-a-heart.
For an early episode of Happy Days, the show’s writer/producer Garry Marshall, older brother to Penny, was in need of two women to play “fast girls” as dates for Fonzie and Richie. Garry, who died in 2016, explained it all during an interview in 2015 with The Tolucan Times, published in Toluca Lake, California, where he owned and operated the prestigious and popular Falcon Theatre (now under management by his daughter, following his death).
As the elder Marshall explained it, “I wanted to do a show about girls from the other side of the tracks; we needed Fonzie’s friends… and Richie needed it! Penny and Cindy were a writing team. I asked them to do one episode and they were good together….”
Herbie J Pilato is the Founder and Executive Director of The Classic TV Preservation Society and author of several classic TV companion books. He has been part of TVWriter™ for 20 years and is Contributing Editor Emeritus. Learn more about Herbie J HERE.