AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
A lot of people got a lot of laughs from Garry Marshall. He made some of the biggest TV sitcoms of the 1970s and '80s and some of the biggest movies of the '80s and '90s. Garry Marshall died yesterday at the age of 81. NPR's Ted Robbins has this appreciation.
TED ROBBINS, BYLINE: Gary Marshall didn't write the theme songs to these shows - Maybe the only creative role he didn't fill - but give a listen.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HAPPY DAYS")
PRATT AND MCCLAIN: (Singing) These days are ours. Happy and free. Happy days.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MAKING OUR DREAMS COME TRUE")
CYNDI GRECCO: (Singing) Doing it our way.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "MORK AND MINDY")
ROBIN WILLIAMS: (As Mork) Nanu nanu (ph).
ROBBINS: "The Odd Couple," "Happy Days," "Laverne and Shirley," "Mork and Mindy" - Garry Marshall developed the shows, produced them, wrote episodes and directed. A generation grew up on The Fonz and Mork, the oddball alien played by Robin Williams.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "MORK AND MINDY")
WILLIAMS: (As Mork) I am Mork from Ork, sent by my superiors to observe your primitive civilization and report back. Nanu nanu (ph).
WILLIAMS: Garry Marshall was born Garry Masciarelli in the Bronx. He got a journalism degree from Northwestern. He told WHYY's Fresh Air it was the pressure of daily news that taught him to write.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)
GARRY MARSHALL: I was quite able to write very good things while a person was screaming at me. I learned that at school. Jacob Scher used to yell at me a lot, and while he was yelling, I would be rewriting it.
ROBBINS: On the side, he began writing jokes for nightclub comics. He got his break when "The Tonight Show with Jack Paar" hired him. He moved into producing and adapted Neil Simon's hit play "The Odd Couple" for TV. His biggest TV hit came with "Happy Days," which fed off nostalgia for the 1950s. Audiences lived with Fonzie and the gang for 11 years.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "HAPPY DAYS")
HENRY WINKLER: (As Fonzie) Hey.
ROBBINS: Garry Marshall pretty much owned the network TV sitcom during the 1970s and '80s, but eventually he went on autopilot, so he decided to make movies.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
MARSHALL: I lost my concentration on it, and I wanted to go someplace where I was frightened again. And, boy, was I scared into movies. There's a frightening business.
ROBBINS: Especially if you're a TV producer trying to direct Hollywood movies, but Garry Marshall did it - "The Flamingo Kid," "Beaches" and his biggest movie, "Pretty Woman." It teamed Richard Gere as a wealthy businessman with an actress playing a prostitute who goes from crass to sophisticated - an ingenue named Julia Roberts.
(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "PRETTY WOMAN")
JULIA ROBERTS: (As Vivian Ward) This is a hot car.
RICHARD GERE: (As Edward Lewis) It's a little - a little temperamental.
ROBERTS: (As Vivian Ward) Yours?
GERE: (As Edward Lewis) No, it isn't.
ROBERTS: (As Vivian Ward) Stolen.
GERE: (As Edward Lewis) Not exactly. What's your name?
ROBERTS: (As Vivian Ward) What do you want it to be?
GERE: "Pretty Woman" was at the comedy of 1990. It made a ton of money and earned Julia Roberts an Oscar nomination. A decade later, Garry Marshall made a star of another young actress. "The Princess Diaries" starred Julie Andrews and a teenage Anne Hathaway.
(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE PRINCESS DIARIES")
ANNE HATHAWAY: (As Mia Thermopolis) I can't talk to you right now. I'm late for a meeting guidance my counselor.
JULIE ANDREWS: (As Queen Clarisse Renaldi) I'm late for a meeting with Spain and Portugal.
ROBBINS: Garry Marshall also had an acting career himself. Here he is a couple of years ago on "Louie." He plays a fictional head of CBS who's negotiating with Louis C.K.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "LOUIE")
MARSHALL: (As Lars Tardigan) I'm from the Bronx.
LOUIS C.K.: (As Louie) Oh, yeah, the Bronx? I have - I have - I haven't spent - I haven't much.
MARSHALL: (As Lars Tardigan) Whatever. You were very funny last night on "The Tonight Show."
C.K.: (As Louie) Thank you.
MARSHALL: (As Lars Tardigan) Very funny.
ROBBINS: Garry Marshall knew funny, especially a kind of comedy and romance that might best be called, well, comfortable and humane - exactly what a mainstream audience wanted. He leaves behind a wife, three children and his sister, actor and director Penny Marshall. Ted Robbins, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.