BetteBack Thursday, December 1, 1988: The Man Behind “Beaches”

Tyrone Dally Herald
Brother-Sister Winners Behind The Camera
Thursday, December 1, 1988

HOLLYWOOD (UPI) – There has never been a brother-sister pair of motion picture directors to compare with Garry and Penny Marshall.

Over the years there have been numerous successful acting siblings – the Barrymores, Shirley MacLaine and Warren Beatty, and the Fondas to name a few – but not in memory has Hollywood spawned a family of distinguished directors.

Penny became history’s most successful woman director at the box office earlier this year with “Big,” starring Tom Hanks, which so far has grossed $110 million.

A couple of years ago her older brother Garry directed Hanks in “Nothing in Common,” an impressive hit, but not nearly as big as ”Big.”

It is remarkable that two members of the same clan should share the multi-faceted talents implicit in the c omp l i c a t ed b u s i n e ss of f i lm directing.

The Marshalls are part of a closeknit Italian family who help each other, ex-officio, with their screen projects.

Garry, at Disney Studios putting the finishing touches to “Beaches,” a drama starring Bette Midler and Barbara Hershey, said he and Penny consult regularly.

“We show up on each other’s sets at least three times when a film is shooting to make sure everything is going all right,” he said. “We give one another a lot of support.

“On weekends we’re on the telephone discussing problems and ideas. When our pictures are finished, we spend time in the editing room together. I helped her with a dozen cuts on ‘Big’ and she has helped me with the sound work on ‘Beaches.’

Garry says he and Penny think alike, and he gives the credit to their mother.

“Our mother taught all three of us – including my sister Ronnie who is a producer in her own right – to appreciate gentle humor and how to make exciting things happen visually.

“Mother was a dance teacher, so in a lot of Penny’s and my work you see dancing and music. We make it part of the storytelling. Who can forget that dance scene with Hanks and Robert Loggia on the piano keys in “Big”

Garry, Ronnie and Penny established the Northwestern University dance school in their mother’s name, the Marjorie Ward Dance Center.

“I attended Northwestern and when I went back to give a speech to the alumni, 1 was proud to discover that Penny is the subject of a woman’s studies course,” he said. “What really blew me away is that my daughter is going to school there and is taking that class.”

Garry first made his Hollywood mark in television. His productions included “Happy Days” and “Mork and Mindy.” But “Laverne & Shirley,” starring sister Penny and Cindy Williams, best prepared him for “Beaches.”

Most of the cast of “Beaches” is female. So were the author of the book, the screenwriter and all four producers.

“Bette and Barbara are two of the best stars you could ever ask to work with,” he said.

‘There were a lot of women to work with each day, i n c l u d i ng Mary Agnes Donahue, who wrote the script with the book’s author, Iris Ranier Dart. The producers were Terry Schwartz, Bonnie Bruckheimer, Margaret Jennings South and Ann Martell. We had plenty of women in the crew, including the first assistant director.

“I’ve been accustomed to being around women all my life – my mother, my two sisters, my wife and two daughters. What the heck, I’m I t a l i an and a Scorpio, a horoscope sign that means I get along with females.

“It was kind of u n u s u al for Disney to employ so many women on a project. I t h i nk I was brought in as an interpreter because I have a reputation for working well with women. So 1 guess I was a go-between for Disney and the producers,” Marshall said.

“Bette is one of the producers. It was her project. We discussed who would be ideal to play the co-starring role with her. The part calls for a glamour girl and we tested some people before deciding on Barbara, who isn’t noted for glamour parts.

“I like offbeat casting. It was an emotional decision to choose a classy beauty. We looked at the tests by actresses acting t h e ir hearts out and couldn’t make up our minds.

“Then I turned off the sound and watched them in silence. Barbara was the only one who seemed to be close friends with Bette.

“I also liked her ability not to fall apart in adversity. The day of her first test, Bette had to be somewhere else, so I asked Barbara to test with my secretary. Barbara hesitated a moment before saying OK. Then she acted the hell out of the scene.

“Barbara has done a good deal of drama. Bette and I are from comedy. So Barbara kept us honest. ‘Beaches’ is a drama a b o ut f r i endship, l o y a l ty and female bonding.”

Marshall said he o f t en t u r n ed to his actresses for advice when he was in trouble, and
f ou nd them h e l p f u l.

‘There were other t imes when they’d be h a v i ng fun and I wo u ld have to play the adult,” he s a i d.

‘They always rose to the occasion with a minimum of temperament”

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4 thoughts on “BetteBack Thursday, December 1, 1988: The Man Behind “Beaches”

  1. Love Garry Marshall. Everytime I see his name I think about him recalling the first time he listened to wind beneath my wings… “and I just criiiiiiied and said yeah that wasn’t so bad, that last one”… lol…

    1. Well then…././I’m hoping ya’ll are liking these history lessons/articles since Bette is not doing anything right now. I know I am enjoying reliving the past a little

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