Garry Marshall On His 'Happy Days' Director Garry Marshall talks to NPR's Scott Simon about his career, his relationship with his own family, and his new memoir.

Garry Marshall On His 'Happy Days'

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Garry Marshall has made you laugh - with one of his signature sit-coms: "The Odd Couple," "Happy Days," "Laverne and Shirley," or "Mork and Mindy" - with one of his movies: "The Flamingo Kid," "Pretty Woman," "The Princess Diaries." Chances are, he made your parents and grandparents laugh too, writing material for Jack Paar, Joey Bishop or the old Dick van Dyke Show. He's now written a memoir of his life and times that opens in the Bronx, not on the Walk of Fame. His book is called: "My Happy Days in Hollywood: A Memoir." Garry Marshal joins us from our studios in Culver City, California, not all that far from Hollywood. Thanks so much for being with us.

GARRY MARSHALL: I'm here. It's good to hear you, Scott. It's nice to be with you.

SIMON: Nice to be with you. Your mother sounds more vivid than almost any character I've seen in a Broadway musical. Do you still cast back to what she told you about the business every now and then?

MARSHALL: Well, she said the worst thing is to be boring when I was little. And I said what is boring, ma? And she said your father. She always had a shot for everybody. And my mother was the influence really that got us into show business, both my two sisters and I. My sister Ronny, not many people know, she worked with us and she produced all our stuff. And Penny was Laverne, so she got us all into comedy.

SIMON: Well, you've worked with so many famous personalities - Tom Hanks, Robin Williams, Tony Randall, Jack Klugman, Jack Parr, Jackie Gleason.

MARSHALL: Lot of Jacks, yes.

SIMON: Well, just reading your memoir, we have the impression - and you're very kind to everybody - that almost the toughest show business personality you worked with - we're going to play a clip of that person and get your reaction.


SHARI LEWIS: (as Lamb Chop) What do you want from me, Charley Horse?

(as Charley Horse) Nothing, nothing. You know, you always ask me if we can play together and so I always say, no, you know. And so today I thought I'd say yes and...

(as Lamb Chop) Yeah, yeah, yeah. But what do you want from me, Charley Horse?

Dear, Charley Horse just wants to play with you.

MARSHALL: Lamb Chop, Shari Lewis. I haven't heard that sound in a long time, Scott. You dug that one out.

SIMON: Tell us about working with Lamb Chop.

MARSHALL: Well, it was my first writing job with my partner Fred Freedman, and Shari Lewis was a delightful lady. She, hello, would you like some tea? And Lamb Chop wasn't so nice. Suddenly, Lamb Chop came out and said, boys, you don't write so well. Well, two grown men talking to a lady's hand with puppets. A piece of cloth was yelling at us. It's not every day you get yelled at by cloth. But we learned that, you know, funny people seem to have quirks.


CHORUS: (Singing) Sunday, Monday, happy days. Tuesday, Wednesday, happy days. Thursday, Friday, happy days. The weekend comes, the cycle hums, ready to race to you.

SIMON: "Happy Days" - when did you figure out Fonzie was the breakout character?

MARSHALL: Well, it sounds like I was very bright and clever. The truth was everybody figured it out at the same time. The gate guard at Paramount said I'm watching the show. I like the tough guy, played wonderfully by Henry Winkler. He wasn't at all like Fonzie, Henry Winkler, but he could act. And he just made guttural sounds. And whoa-whoa and hey and a lot of them Henry made up himself. Whoa and hey.


UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (as character) One burger, one Coke.

HENRY WINKLER: (as Fonzie) Ay.



UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Oh, I'm sorry. Too much ice in the Coke and not enough ketchup on the hamburger. I'll be right back.

WINKLER: See, now that's called the big CC - cool communications. Through the eyes, huh?

RON HOWARD: (as Richie) Yeah, but you did throw in a couple of ays.

WINKLER: Ay, ay's my lingo.

MARSHALL: And then slowly he became Richie's best friend and the character developed and it went on.

SIMON: How did "Mork and Mindy," this visitor from another planet, grow out of "Happy Days?"

MARSHALL: Well, one other thing that I think is important is when you are in entertainment is to please the people in your house, your family. And I had the show "Happy Days," my daughters loved it, but my son did not like it very much. He didn't want to watch that. And I said why don't you like it? He said, well, there is no space people. He wanted "Star Wars." He wanted aliens. I said, well, it's in the '50s. How could there be space? There's no space in the '50s. And only, you know, a seven-year-old could think this way. It could be a dream.


WINKLER: (as Fonzie) All right, all right, all right. Who's going wee, wee, wee. I said who's going wee, wee, wee. Hey, Ralph, if you're out there. This is a bad joke. I'll give you 30 seconds to find out how much I don't enjoy wee, wee, wee. Whoa, whoa, whoa.


ROBIN WILLIAMS: (as Mork) (Ork language spoken) Remember me? Mork from Ork? You once called me the nutzo from outer space?


WINKLER: (as Fonzie) I must be dreaming or something like that you know?

WILLIAMS: (as Mork) Sorry, real thing. I had to zap your mind to make you forget. Didn't want you to go bozo city.

WINKLER: (as Fonzie) I think I want to wake up now.

MARSHALL: This dream, so funny. It suddenly wasn't a dream anymore. We decided to make a show based on Mork. And finding Robin Williams was my sister Ronny's work. And it did come about mostly 'cause my son wouldn't watch. And when he saw Mork, he watched.

SIMON: Speaking of your own house, you love your sister, Penny Marshall, but I gather you found it hard to work together.

MARSHALL: Well, it was the toughest project I ever did, was "Laverne and Shirley," mostly because it's my sister's. So, you can't hide from your sister. Other stars, some days I would say I'm not home today. And Penny often would come to my house and stay at the gate and say the second act is no good. And we'd have to open the gate 'cause otherwise she would climb over. Penny was very athletic. But we tried and she was always making the show better. But in a lot of ways, she was the success as I watched, not just through my sister but so many other boys and girls, actors and actresses. A big success, you know, you get a little insecure, you don't think you deserve it and you go through all those psychological things that Penny went. I saw her become a stunt girl is what she started out, and suddenly she was Laverne and she was in the number one show. So, it was difficult for me 'cause I said in the book, pride myself on being able to make people happy. And one person I couldn't seem to make happy was my sister Penny on "Laverne and Shirley."

SIMON: One of the things that I think would strike anyone was you seemed to have made a lot of room for your family. I mean, you're in a highly competitive business and yet you seem to make career choices based on what's best for families, including the families of the people who worked with you.

MARSHALL: Well, that's true. I always felt it was, the whole key to it was to get a balance between, you know, family life, real life and the make-believe life of an entertainment - movie, TV, theater. When you work with me, you can bring your kid and if they cry, it's not the end of the world. We'll take two and we'll work it out. 'Cause I think, you know, when all is said and done, that's who you're usually working for. It's nice, you get a prize, you get a statue - but I think if your family is happy and you can take them on a vacation, that's better than a plaque.

SIMON: "Pretty Woman" - you made a star, helped Julia Roberts to get a...

MARSHALL: I helped. You never make a star. They have to have some talent going in. I don't want to fool people. But she was cute.

SIMON: So, when you began shooting "Pretty Woman," you didn't know how you'd get the lovers back together?

MARSHALL: It didn't really have an ending. So, I figured out we were doing a fairy tale and that gave us the idea that he should climb up the tower to rescue her and what he did. Only when you do it with a guy who's a director from the Bronx, he climbs up a fire escape. So, that was part of the ending that I had finally figured out.


RICHARD GERE: (as Edward) So, what happened after he climbed up the tower and rescued her?

JULIA ROBERTS: (as Vivian) She rescued him right back.

MARSHALL: To kick it a little, to make it a little more the sense of a fairy tale is what everybody thinks Hollywood is, and we had the guy walk the part. So it's everybody's dream.


ABDUL SALAAM EL-RAZZAC: (as Happy Man) Welcome to Hollywood. What's your dream? Everybody comes here. This is Hollywood.

SIMON: Garry Marshall. His new book, written with his daughter, Lori Marshall, "My Happy Days in Hollywood." Thanks so much.

MARSHALL: Thank you.


ROY ORBISON: (Singing) Pretty woman, walking down the street, pretty woman, the kind I'd like to meet, pretty woman, I don't believe you, you're not the truth...

SIMON: Mercy. This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.

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