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My Happy Days in Hollywood

My Happy Days in Hollywood

4.2 23
by Garry Marshall

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With the television hits The Odd Couple, Happy Days, Laverne & Shirley, and Mork & Mindy, and movies like The Flamingo Kid, Beaches, Pretty Woman, and The Princess Diaries under his belt, Garry Marshall was among the most successful writers, directors, and producers in America for more than five decades. His work on the small and big screen


With the television hits The Odd Couple, Happy Days, Laverne & Shirley, and Mork & Mindy, and movies like The Flamingo Kid, Beaches, Pretty Woman, and The Princess Diaries under his belt, Garry Marshall was among the most successful writers, directors, and producers in America for more than five decades. His work on the small and big screen delighted audiences for decades and has withstood the test of time. 

In My Happy Days in Hollywood, Marshall takes us on a journey from his stickball-playing days in the Bronx to his time at the helm of some of the most popular television series and movies of all time, sharing the joys and challenges of working with the Fonz and the young Julia Roberts, the “street performer” Robin Williams, and the young Anne Hathaway, among many others. This honest, vibrant, and often hilarious memoir reveals a man whose career was defined by his drive to make people laugh and whose personal philosophy—despite his tremendous achievements—was always that life is more important than show business.

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal - Audio
Marshall is familiar to movie and TV fans as the producer and director of Happy Days, Pretty Woman, and other hits. However, his roots in the entertainment industry run deep; in TV’s fledgling days, Marshall was a top writer for just about every comedy show on the air, often scripting several at the same time under different names. He recalls his early life growing up a sickly kid in the Bronx and later gravitating toward both comedy and writing, going to college, doing a stint in the army, and breaking into show business. He reads his life story in a New York accent from hell that perfectly matches the material. A charmer from beginning to end. (LJ 9/15/12)

(c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Andy Webster
…[Marshall's] affable personality infuses the book. You can almost hear the Bronx accent.
—The New York Times Book Review
Publishers Weekly
Film and television producer Marshall expands on his previous memoir, Wake Me When It’s Funny (1997), for another look back at his life and multifaceted career. After a sickly childhood growing up in the Bronx with sisters Ronny and Penny, he studied journalism at Northwestern, where he played drums in a band, wrote comedy skits and “only dated girls with cars because I didn’t have one.” Joining the army, he performed in Korea as a drummer and a comedian. Back in New York, he became a Tonight Show staff writer, heading west in 1961 to do sitcoms. Teaming with Jerry Belson, he churned out scripts for Joey Bishop, Lucille Ball, Dick Van Dyke, and others: “In one year my entire family moved to California and I was the only one working.” At age 36, his big breakout came in 1970 when he and Belson coproduced TV’s The Odd Couple, both a critical and popular success: “One well-respected show, and suddenly I was a player in show business.” After mounting more TV hits (Happy Days; Laverne & Shirley, which starred his sister Penny; Mork & Mindy), he turned to directing movies (Pretty Woman, Beaches) and acting, including a recurring role on Murphy Brown. Marshall draws the reader in with a disarming manner and a casual, easy-to-read writing style, detailing early self-doubts as well as later triumphs. The result is an engaging and entertaining blend of honesty and humor, punctuated throughout with show business insights and anecdotes. (Apr. 24)
From the Publisher
 “Garry Marshall is walking entertainment. He is smart, insightful, funny…and so is his book.” ―Henry Winkler

"Even though he speaks slowly with a distinctive New Yorkese Bronx accent, he has managed to quickly create, write, and produce a raft of beloved television series that speak 'American'. I am happy that he gifted us with a witty memoir (about his Happy Days in Hollywood).” ―Carl Reiner

“Thanks to my brother I have a life.  I’m sorry I almost ruined his during Laverne & Shirley.” ―Penny Marshall

"I never thought my fairy godmother would look―or sound―like Garry. He is a gift of a human being, and this book is wicked sweet." ―Anne Hathaway
“Garry Marshall is one of the most beloved and talented people I know…and maybe the most normal guy in the business. This wonderful biography will allow readers to discover for themselves the decent and kind man who writes and directs with such a huge heart—all grounded from humble beginnings in The Bronx. This is a must-read book.” —Julie Andrews
“Garry Marshall is quite simply one of my favorite people. He is loving, loyal, and hilarious! Having made movies with Garry when I was 20, 30, and 40…I guess you could say Garry and Barbara have raised me! In a time where people have lost touch with things to laugh about, this book is sure to be a cure.” —Julia Roberts

Library Journal
Marshall offers fascinating and funny behind-the-scenes glimpses of the hit TV shows and movies that he produced, wrote, acted in, or directed, including the TV series The Odd Couple, Happy Days, Laverne and Shirley, and Mork and Mindy. He describes the atmosphere on those sets, commenting candidly, for example, on the contrast between the positive experience of working on Happy Days and the vibe on the set of Laverne and Shirley, which, even though it starred his sister, Penny Marshall, was unhappy. After segueing into movies, Marshall directed such hits as Pretty Woman, The Princess Diaries, and Valentine's Day, and he tells many great stories featuring stars such as Julia Roberts, Julie Andrews, and Ron Howard. VERDICT Similar in feel to Carol Burnett's This Time Together, Marshall's memoir has an engagingly honest tone and an easy-to-read style. Highly recommended for those who like entertainment and arts autobiographies and anyone interested in 1970s TV shows, directors, and writers.—Sally Bryant, Payson Lib., Pepperdine Univ., CA
Kirkus Reviews
Happy days are here again, in the autobiography of a director who "always wanted to be remembered as the Norman Rockwell of television." As the producer, writer and/or director of Happy Days, The Odd Couple and Laverne & Shirley on TV, and the director of hit movies including Pretty Woman, Runaway Bride and The Princess Diaries, Marshall seems like a nice guy for a man who has enjoyed such Hollywood success, and a loving family man (married once, now with six grandchildren) within an industry not generally known for such stability. Unfortunately, for a writer whose previous book was titled Wake Me When It's Funny: How to Break Into Show Business and Stay There (1995) and who got his start writing jokes for comedians, he isn't very funny. Or at least this book isn't. Nor is it serious, mean, scandalous or particularly revelatory. It's just nice. Marshall has gotten along fine with some difficult actors--including his sister, Penny, and the beleaguered Lindsay Lohan--and has apparently remained friends with everyone with whom he has ever worked. He rarely asserts his ego and occasionally takes less credit than he might be due. He knows that Julia Roberts did more for him than he did for her; he writes of Pretty Woman, "If a movie can change a man's life, this would be that movie for me." Marshall also knows that such hits couldn't inoculate him against a series of stiffs, and he gives nearly every project (long-forgotten movies as well as recent bombs such as New Year's Eve) equal space in its own chapter. His philosophy might best be expressed in his remarks on the generally dismissed Raising Helen: "It was never going to be the kind of picture that made big money or took home prizes, but it would turn out to make audiences smile, and I like making audiences smile." Marshall writes that he combats stress with an "ice-cream sandwich or a Fudgsicle." This is a Fudgsicle of a showbiz memoir.

Product Details

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Read an Excerpt


Growing Up Allergic to Everything but Stickball

Marjorie Ward Marshall, my mother, was the first director I ever met.

Wearing an apron and teaching tap in the basement of our Grand Concourse apartment building, she was a Bronx housewife and a tap dance teacher you didn’t want to mess with. She ran a tight ship, and little girls never dawdled in putting on their tap shoes and costumes in front of Mom. She believed that dancing and performing were good for children because they gave them self-esteem and a purpose all their own.

My mother taught us that the best thing in life was to entertain people and make them laugh. The biggest sin in life was to bore people.

“Beware of the boring,” she said.

“What is boring, Ma?” I asked.

“Your father,” she said.

Mom was a born entertainer who thought performing was not just a hobby or even a profession but a way of living that was as essential as breathing or eating. She was a five-foot-six-inch slacks-wearing perky blonde with a dancer’s body and a comedian’s mouth. Mom was always “on” from her hyper-cajoling of her dance students to her late-night intensity when she would type out the songs, dance routines, and skits for her dance recital. I would be in my bed and still hear her typewriter as I went to sleep. Her typing sounded like rain. Always working, she would go to Broadway shows, steal the routines, and come back and type them up for her students to perform. I knew right from the beginning that if I could make my mom laugh, then I could make her love me.

If Mom had been born at another time in history, she could have become a stage performer or actress herself. Born in 1910, Mom just missed the feminism movement and was faced with raising three children in the Bronx during the 1940s. Her goal in life was to teach as many kids as possible—including her own children, Garry, Ronny, and Penny—to tap dance. There was Ronny, the middle child, and nice daughter Penny, the youngest child, whom my mother seemed to crown “troublemaker” the moment she came out of the birth canal. And I, of course, was the oldest child and the one who was always sick.

Mom’s students adored her because she was funny and irreverent whether she was charming your pants off or hurting your feelings. She commanded a kind of power and respect as a director that even Orson Welles and Martin Scorsese would find enviable. She could be encouraging to the students with talent, but spoke with a bite to those who didn’t show potential.

“You—the pretty girl with the fat legs. You should play an instrument instead of dancing.”

Or she might move someone behind the scenes altogether.

“Hey, Zelda, or whatever your name is. You have two left feet. You can pull the curtain for the show.”

Traditional motherhood duties took a backseat to the curtain, the audience, and showtime. Since we were always running low on milk, Mom invented the family drink “Pepsi and milk” to make our dairy supply last longer. When she didn’t have time to simmer and cook fresh tomato sauce, she told us that Campbell’s tomato soup with noodles was just as Italian as spaghetti. If we were rushing to get down to the basement to make our curtain calls, she might squirt ketchup on our pasta and call it a night. My mom could make us smile, laugh, and cry all in the same hour. On my birthday one time she said, “Garry is celebrating eleven years of being round-shouldered.” When my sister Penny had an overbite, she said, “When I want to open a Pepsi bottle, I do it with Penny’s teeth.” She taught us that to dwell on our problems was a waste of time and to make entertainment for others was supreme.

This did little to impress my dad. My father, Anthony W. Marshall, a good-looking suit- and tie-wearing art director and advertising executive who invented his middle name, Wallace, because he thought it made him sound more distinguished. Born Anthony Masciarelli, he looked like a character from the television show Mad Men. He liked to wear suits, carry a monogrammed briefcase, and drink martinis in hotel bars. We rarely saw him drink at home, but sometimes he would stagger in and look like he’d had a few too many someplace else. My father was not the kind of dad who would throw a ball in the street with you like the Jewish dads, Catholic dads, or even other Italian dads in our melting pot neighborhood. Throwing a ball might mess up my father’s tie. He didn’t talk very much but instead wrote us notes like “Sorry you had to get a tooth pulled. It’s over now.” When he did talk he told stories of business trips where he met men who were working on a new device called television. He traveled for business to Florida and California and brought home oranges for us. For a long time my sisters and I imagined that both states were filled with fruit instead of people. He instilled in us the idea that there was a world outside the Bronx and that we should set sail for it as soon as we were old enough.

I was born November 13, 1934, Garry Kent Marshall, and we lived for most of my childhood along the Grand Concourse. First opened to traffic in 1909, the Grand Concourse was modeled after the Champs-Elysées in Paris. It was four miles long and populated by Jewish and Italian families when I lived there. My apartment was in a five-story building, with empty lots on either side. We were on the first floor. It was called Argonne Manor and housed mostly Jewish families and my family. We were Italian and Christian. Most of the other Italian families lived on Villa Avenue across the street. Because I was Italian, I fit in both neighborhoods easily.

My address was 3235 Grand Concourse. My favorite number has always been thirteen, and the numerals of my Bronx address added up to it, too. Like my father, I was given an arbitrary middle name, Kent, to give me dignity. My first name, with the rare two-r spelling, came from a sportswriter named Garry Schumacher. My parents didn’t know him personally, but my mother liked the spelling.

My happiest moments of growing up in the Bronx were when my mom would bring home a new sports magazine from the candy store. I would jump out of bed and grab it from her. Then I’d rip the front cover right off and tape it to my bedroom wall. I would reposition myself comfortably in bed and look up at all of the athletes who floated above me like heroes and angels.

Often I would turn on the radio, lie in my bed, and listen to the Yankees baseball game. I’d dream about my hands-down favorite player, Joe DiMaggio, and the day when I might be able to have a job that I could do well, too. There were many baseball players who were just as famous but who didn’t impress us, like Billy Martin and Ted Williams. To be able to make a living playing a sport you loved was what made Joe our favorite. I didn’t know what job I might be destined for, but my dad told me it better be something I could do with a headache or a toothache, because the whole family agreed I was not destined for good health. As a child I was often sick, plagued by some ailment or allergy, or my ability to hang on to a perpetual sniffle or wheeze from one winter to the next. My baby book read like a list of the greatest diseases of all time. I once heard a doctor say that if we didn’t move to Arizona, I might die. I packed my bags. The next day I woke up to see if anyone was packing their bags. No one was.

“Dad, when do we leave for Arizona?”

“Don’t be silly,” he said. “We’re not going anywhere. We can’t afford it.”

I thought they were trying to kill me.

Despite being sick all the time, I seemed to be destined for a career in show business. My mother sent my three-year-old baby picture to a contest in the Bronx Home News. I won the prize for cutest kid in my age division, and received a check for fifteen dollars. This encouraged my mom to think I could go on to become a child model. I auditioned and got cast in a milk commercial. Unfortunately, I spit up all over the director, and my modeling career was short-lived.

When I was five years old my parents gave me a drum set for Christmas. My mom played the piano, and Dad played the saxophone badly. But that Christmas morning I remember we all played together and I thought it was the greatest day ever. We were a band, and I imagined us practicing and performing as a family band for years to come. Unfortunately, Dad never played the saxophone with our band again. That Christmas morning remains imprinted in my mind as one of the few times we all got along. In general my dad thought entertainment was a waste of time and did little to support my mother’s dance studio or our performing aspirations.

Dad’s ambivalence, however, did not stop my mother or us. One day Dad was at work and Mom had a show to put on but she didn’t have a babysitter. Her mother, Margie, whom we called Nanny, used to watch my sisters and me when we were small. She was an Irish-German rail-thin brunette with a mild New England accent. As we got older, Nanny became blind and refused to go to the doctor. Without her sight it became difficult for her to mind us and us to mind her. Sometimes Penny would sneeze and then trick Nanny by saying, “It was Garry.” The girls blamed me for many things because I was often too sick to put up a fight. With all of my sneezing and wheezing and pneumonia not once but twice, Nanny didn’t know how to help me. I once fell down in the street and hit my head, and she said, “I’ll give you a dollar if you stop bleeding.” Her reluctance to go to the doctor helped make me a hypochondriac. Nanny didn’t even know what to feed me because I seemed to be allergic to everything under the sun, including the sun.

I was lying in bed one day, covered in compresses and trying to feel better, when my mom came into the room.

“Get up. Let’s go to the cellar. You’re going to be in the show,” she said.

“But Mom, I’m sick. I should stay in bed and get better,” I said. I was six years old at the time, and I carried the perpetual smell of mustard plaster.

“Nonsense. Nanny can’t watch you anymore and I have a show to put on. So let’s go,” she said, pulling the covers off my bed.

“But Mom, I’m too tired to stand up and dance,” I begged.

“I know,” she said, getting fresh clothes from my dresser.

“Then what am I going to do down there in the cellar?” I asked.

“Sit down.”

“In the dressing room?” I asked.

“No. Onstage. You’ll play the drums,” she said.

“But Ma, I just started the drums. You know I’m not very good yet.”

“Don’t worry. You’ll follow my lead on the piano,” she said. “You’re smart and quick. You’ll learn.”

So we would sit onstage and she would play the piano with one hand and pat me on the back with the other. That’s how I learned to keep a steady rhythm.

I became the official drummer for the Marjorie Ward Marshall School of Dance. I would perform in the basement and then travel with the troupe when they did shows in other towns and churches around New York. My mother didn’t join a church based on religion. She joined whatever church had the biggest stage to dance on. Our religion was entertainment. Going to church to pray or even to read the Bible seemed secondary to delivering a great joke and making people in the congregation laugh out loud.

Ronny and Penny were reluctant performers, too, but none of us had a choice. Acting was the family pastime. However, I soon found that I liked playing the drums. Mom was right. They were a good instrument for me because they came with their own seat. From the security of my drum set, I would watch show after show of dancing, skits, and humor, and I noticed something quite amazing: Some of the skits my mother wrote got laughs and some did not. When they got a laugh I felt happy and proud for her, but when they didn’t get applause I tried to figure out why. By the time I was seven years old, I was getting the hang of things. I figured out that the point was to induce them all to laugh, not just a few. If a skit didn’t work, I would try to rewrite it for her to make it better. With tissues stuffed up my sleeves and a drumstick in each hand, I was becoming a self-taught producer right there onstage. I didn’t know it then, but I was also figuring out just how I might be able to make a living while sick, seated, and nauseous.

When I wasn’t playing the drums I tried to get my energy up to play baseball, basketball, or stickball. Otherwise, I spent a lot of time in my bed feeling too sick and too skinny to do much of anything. I lived in 1-H, and I made friends with a boy named Gideon Troken, a dark-haired short kid with glasses, more interested in girls than playing ball, who lived in 1-O. He was the first intellectual I ever met. He read a lot of books, went to Hebrew school, and knew how to play the piano. He even taught me to play chess. He suggested I start collecting stamps because it was something I could do from my bed that would be worldly and important. He told me that for some small countries, stamps were the biggest export and advised me that I might make some money to fall back on from stamp collecting if my life didn’t turn out. In exchange, I took him around the neighborhood and introduced him to some of the guys, who befriended him instead of beating him up because he was a friend of mine. I never got beaten up because I was a wisecracking jokester. I could make a bully laugh before he delivered a punch.

Meet the Author

GARRY MARSHALL was a veteran producer, director, and writer of film, television, and theater. He learned his craft writing jokes for Lucille Ball, Dick Van Dyke, and Danny Thomas. He created and produced some of television’s most beloved situation comedies and directed some of America’s favorite romantic comedies. Marshall was married to his wife, Barbara, for close to fifty years, and had three children and six grandchildren. He wrote with his daughter Lori; acted in movies directed by his son, Scott; and produced plays at the Falcon Theatre in Burbank, California, with his daughter Kathleen. 
LORI MARSHALL has written eleven produced children’s plays for the stage, co-written two books, and contributed to the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and the Chicago Tribune. Like her father, she is a graduate of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. She has been writing with her father since the eighth grade, when he helped her punch up an English paper on Franz Kafka. She lives in San Francisco and is the mother of twin girls, Lily Camille and Charlotte Grace.

From the Hardcover edition.

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My Happy Days in Hollywood: A Memoir 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 23 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
As soon as I saw the book in my local B&N I knew I had to get it. Being a fan of Mr. Marshall's and his work for many years, I just had to read this book. And I knew I would not be disappointed. Full of great stories and anecdotes from his long and illustrious history. It was truly a pleasure getting to know more about this truly wonderful person. I loved reading his story and went through it in two days. A sign of a great read is not wanting to put it down and this memoir definitely was that and more. A great read about a great guy from Da' Bronx Loved it! Mark Ortiz
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Garry Marshall is first and foremost a writer. His book is a great glimpse into the wonderful career and creations of Garry Marshall, told with the flair of a writer who knows what he is doing. If you have ever enjoyed any of Garry Marshall's shows or films, this is for you. And if you are too young to have enjoyed them the first time around, this will show you the wonderful "Happy Days" that are part of our world still today!
Karynlk More than 1 year ago
If you grew up watching these shows, this book is a must have! Mr. Marshall gives you the back scoop (without being mean or vicious) on the happenings behind your favorite shows. I couldn't put this book down.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Garry Marshall is quite an interesting person. I really enjoyed this book so much. It's one of those books you don't want to put down until you finish reading it...then you wish there were more to read. I highly recommend this to anyone who likes biography. This is a good one!
harrysKY More than 1 year ago
I always thought I liked Garry Marshall's works, from what little I knew about him. Now I like him even more. From Happy Days, to Pretty Woman, to Princess Diaries, he knows how to mix sometimes serious issues with good humor. You will learn how he came up through the ranks in show business to become a comedy writer, an actor, and more importantly a director. You will learn about his friendships and acquaintances, how he overcame an enormous bad investment, and how much friendship and family mean to him. I also like that he tries to make his sets fun, often filled with practical jokes. He tells both the good and the bad in a simple and honest way. He describes how he mediated problems with the actors and crew on the sets. I found this book both interesting and informative. Thanks Garry. You are someone I would have liked to have been friends with.
DeloresM More than 1 year ago
This book seemed to me to be an honest and amusing account of Garry Marshall's life and times. There were parts that made me laugh out loud and others that I found touching. I would definitely recommend it.
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DDFAN More than 1 year ago
Love this book. Very down to earth and informative.
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Text back if yall r
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you grew up in the 70's or just enjoy shows like Happy Days and Laverne and Shirley you will like this book. This ,book, written in Garry Marshalls own voice, chronicals his writting, producing and acting credits and is also funny. From the Odd Couple to New Years Eve to movies such as Beaches and The Princess Diaries, he talks about behind the scenes stuff in a positve manner. Very enjoyable book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved reading about how Garry's showbiz life began and how my favorite tv shows and movies were put together. I also love his humor and knack for pranks. I'm inspired by his desire to keep working even when he faced major health problems. Basically, I enjoyed reading his story about how a sickly kid made his way from the streets of New York to Hollywood never losing his great attitude.
cindyfrompa More than 1 year ago
Fascinating look at behind-the-scenes of television and film. Funny, sincere, humble -- Garry Marshall is an American treasure!
CandyDG More than 1 year ago
Wonderful book for anyone from the Bronx, who loves Movies.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved reading this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Iliked the bookit was great it keeps you enterrained i hope he writes another one .
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Gave it to my Mom for Mother's Day. She really enjoyed it. She said it was a fun read and not boring like some other autobiography's. It was well written.
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TessSH More than 1 year ago
Garry Marshall is a very nice man and this is a very nice book. He's gracious to everyone he's worked with and their families. He shares his career and family highlights with a humbleness. I must say that it has always distressed me that he, Julia Roberts and Richard Gere had a blockbuster hit with the storyline of Pretty Women. I just wish there would be some insight into the plight of people on the fringes of society that are exploited by the sex trade. Yes, it the oldest profession-but is it a deplorable existence. Sanitizing the story of those who trade their bodies for food, shelter, drugs and money is horrid. I just hope that they all pull out their checkbooks for those very people that struggle because it isn't pretty and they should have known better.