Penny Marshall: 11 of Her Most Memorable Films and TV Shows

12:48 PM 12/18/2018

by Lexy Perez

The 'League of Their Own' director and 'Laverne & Shirley' star has died at the age of 75.

Penny Marshall, star of both the big and small screen, died Monday night at the age of 75.

Marshall, a Bronx native, started as an actress in television but went on to shatter records as a top-grossing female director in Hollywood. She first rose to fame for playing Laverne DeFazio on Laverne & Shirley, the Happy Days spinoff created by her brother Garry. Laverne & Shirley aired for eight seasons from 1976-83, and Marshall then went on to helm films such as Big (1988), Awakenings (1990), A League of Their Own (1992) and The Renaissance Man (1994). With Awakenings, she became the second woman ever to direct a best picture Oscar nominee, while Big is recognized as the first film helmed by a woman to gross more than $100 million.

From being a TV star to a leading female director, here is some of Marshall's most memorable work in film and television. 


  • 'Paul Sand in Friends and Lovers'

    From left: Michael Pataki, Penny Marshall and Paul Sand on 'Paul Sand in Friends and Lovers'
    From left: Michael Pataki, Penny Marshall and Paul Sand on 'Paul Sand in Friends and Lovers'

    Along with guest stints on series such as The Bob Newhart Show and The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Marshall starred in a recurring role on the short-lived sitcom Paul Sand in Friends and Lovers. The sitcom was created by James L. Brooks and Allan Burns and followed the personal relationships of a musician in Boston. Friends and Lovers, which marked Sand's only starring role in a series, first aired in 1974 and ended a year later. 

  • 'Laverne & Shirley'

    Marshall appeared on the Happy Days spinoff Laverne & Shirley from 1976-83, playing Laverne DeFazio, the best friend of Shirley Feeney (Cindy Williams), who worked as a bottle-capper at the fictitious Shotz Brewery in Milwaukee. The show ran for eight seasons and went on to become the highest-rated series for the 1977-78 and 1978-79 seasons. Laverne & Shirley was nominated for two Golden Globe Awards and a Primetime Emmy Award in 1979.

  • 'More Than Friends'

    Marshall starred opposite Rob Reiner in the 1978 ABC telefilm More Than Friends, co-written by Reiner and based on the early days of their courtship. Earlier, Reiner had played her fiance, named Sheldn (they forgot the “o” on his birth certificate, as the gag went), on The Odd Couple.

  • 'Jumpin' Jack Flash'

    Whoopi Goldberg starred in Marshall’s 1986 feature directing debut Jumpin' Jack Flash, an action-comedy about bank office worker Terry Doolittle (Goldberg), who connects with a mysterious computer user (Jonathan Pryce) by the name of Jumpin' Jack Flash. Doolittle learns he is a British secret agent and aims to help him. The pic featured two versions of the title song, by both The Rolling Stones and Aretha Franklin. 

  • 'Big'

    Marshall directed Tom Hanks in 1988's Big, a comedy that centers on a 12-year-old who makes a wish “to be big” and then magically ages into adulthood overnight. The film, which also starred Elizabeth Perkins and Robert Loggia, was co-produced by James L. Brooks, who brought the script to Marshall. Big was recognized as the first movie directed by a woman to gross more than $100 million (about $198 million in today’s dollars) domestically.

  • 'Awakenings'

    After helming comedies, Marshall dramatically changed course with her 1990 film Awakenings, which starred Robert De Niro as a middle-aged man who has been catatonic for 30 years and Robin Williams as a painfully shy doctor determined to "awaken" him. With the pic, Marshall became the second woman ever to helm a best picture Oscar nominee. She also is one of only seven to achieve that accomplishment without landing a best director nomination as well. De Niro received a best actor nomination for his role, and the film also received a nom for best adapted screenplay at the 1991 Academy Awards.

  • 'A League of Their Own'

    Marshall directed the 1992 comedy-drama A League of Their Own, which centers on the real-life All-American Girls Professional Baseball League organized during World War II. The pic, which starred Tom Hanks, Geena Davis, Rosie O’Donnell and Madonna, topped the $100 million threshold at the box office and was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress in 2012. 

  • 'Renaissance Man'

    Marshall’s 1994 comedy Renaissance Man was toplined by Danny DeVito as a divorcé who lands a gig as an English teacher at a U.S. Army base to teach underachieving students from poor backgrounds. It is there that he takes on a method of using quotes from Hamlet to further enhance their education. Mark Wahlberg made his feature debut in the film, which also starred Gregory Hines, James Remar and Cliff Robertson.

  • 'The Preacher's Wife'

    Marshall directed The Preacher's Wife, a 1996 family film that she once described as "the first black Christmas movie." The remake of 1947's The Bishop’s Wife starred Denzel Washington, Whitney Houston and Courtney B. Vance. It centered on a cleric visited by an angel to help him save his church and family. The movie received an Academy Award nomination for best music, with Houston and Lorette Devine also scoring two Image Awards for best actress and supporting actress. 

  • 'Riding in Cars With Boys'

    Marshall’s final feature as director was 2001’s Riding in Cars With Boys, starring Drew Barrymore. The film told the true story of writer Beverly Donofrio, chronicling more than two decades of her life from age 15 to 35, and also starred Brittany Murphy, Adam Garcia, James Woods and Desmond Harrington.  

  • 'United States of Tara'

    Taking her directing skills to television, Marshall helmed a couple of episodes of Showtime’s United States of Tara, a comedy-drama created by Diablo Cody. The series, which aired for three seasons from 2009-11, took place in Kansas and followed the life of Tara (Toni Collette), a suburban housewife living with dissociative identity disorder. Throughout its run, United States of Tara received several Emmy, Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild Award nominations.