If you're in the entertainment business, particularly TV and movies, the name Garry Marshall means success and longevity. Success is always a long shot in Hollywood. But longevity -- that, as the Wizard would say, is a horse of a different color. When you read, or much better listen to, Marshall's book, My Happy Days in Hollywood - A Memoir, I guarantee you will come away with a fine appreciation of how to achieve lasting success in any business -- whether making movies or matzos.
This story is set in Hollywood and Marshall thoroughly covers his days as a comedy writer for the less-than-charming Joey Bishop, a writer on The Jack Parr Tonight Show, Dick Van Dyke, The Danny Thomas Show and The Lucy Show; his hit TV series Happy Days; and his challenging and not-so-happy days with his sister, Penny Marshall, throughout Laverne and Shirley's 7 years. He also takes us through his 18 directorial jobs including Overboard, Runaway Bride, The Princess Diaries and Pretty Woman, the one that changed his career and made Julia Roberts a star. He takes the listener up to the recent Valentine's Day and New Year's Eve. There is a the yet-to-be released Merry Christmas, which is not covered in this book. Failures are here, too. Do you remember Exit to Eden or The Other Sister?
One of the primary takeaways from Marshall is that life is not so much about what you do but how you do it. The word 'happy' in his memoir is not just a play on Happy Days. Marshall's default mode is 'fun.' He is determined to have congeniality, fun and well-orchestrated pranks reign on whatever project he's working on.
His is a world filled with large egos and unpredictability. After weeks of shooting Beaches, co-star Barbara Hershey came to the set one day having done a lip-plump without telling anyone. (And plump is being kind. The word Ubangi comes to mind.) When Marshall bawls someone out, like Hershey and later misbehaving Lindsay Lohan on Georgia Rule, it's done with such humor and gentleness that the stars get the point without feeling scolded or humiliated. And his creative soul always seems to find a way to reshoot or restage a scene and work around the problem. Always with humor.
Like many directors, Marshall does tend to blame his flops on outside forces, particularly the marketing department. He also isn't hesitant to talk about his considerable financial problems, which may have helped to fuel his creativity. Or as he puts it, "Creativity is a great place to hide from the real world."
This is definitely one of those books that's so much better heard than read. Marshall narrating Marshall is like a bell that calls many to church -- well, a cracked bell, to be sure. It invites you in on the fun -- because he's having fun telling you in his gravel-heavy Brooklyn accent that drops all 'Gs' from words like 'reco-nize' as he often abandons the letter 'R' from the alphabet so 'sporty' comes out as 'spawty.'
Summing up this joyous man and his career in this highly engaging audiobook, Garry Marshall is a continuum of legendary directors like George Cukor, the original women's director, and Frank Capra, who also believed in uplifting, happy endings. Marshall adds a third component to these entertainment masters: quintessential humor. Happy for him -- and us.