Garry Marshall left the world today before completing his wish to cover every Holiday with a romantic comedy. For a generation growing up in his post Pretty Woman work, it’s easy to slam a director that seemed old and out-of-touch. That’s when you need to step back and look at Marshall’s pioneering television work. Starting with the adaptation of The Odd Couple for TV, Marshall would lead into Love, American Style and then Happy Days. Happy Days hit right at that peak nostalgia moment in the Zeitgeist. That first time when the wave broke and society realized that they could repackage the not-too-distant past for Baby Boomers. Riding the wave of American Graffiti, America and the world came to love Richie Cunningham, Ralph Malph and The Fonz.
In quick succession, the Marshall creative machine spat out Laverne & Shirley, Mork and Mindy and the mess that was Blansky’s Beauties. Feeling the need to expand into feature film, Marshall offered up the underrated one-two punch of Young Doctors in Love and The Flamingo Kid. The Flamingo Kid was Marshall’s first movie hit, as it gained a bit of notoriety for being the first American feature film to get the PG-13 rating. Red Dawn, Dreamscape, and Dune hit theaters first, but Flamingo Kid got the MPAA stamp first. Scheduling film releases had been a pain for decades. It was a simple time, young fandom. A time when you could score a hit against Dune and Red Dawn by having Matt Dillon learn Gin Rummy from Richard Crenna.
In these early films, Marshall showed particular favor towards the acting talents of Hector Elizondo. The duo worked on 17 films together, but it felt like 80. Everyone will have a memory of when they first encountered the work of Marshall. Whether you’re a young lady of the night having a rich older man snap a jewelry case on your fingers or being a young gawky girl suddenly becoming a Princess; his work captured the beauty of our lives. This fan would prefer to remember Marshall for his animated role as Larry Kidkill. The zoo tycoon who thought imprisoning eight Indian American infants in a zoo would create hilarity. While he had to rely on the crutch that was Butch Patrick, he was right. He was right.