Penny Marshall: TV's Laverne DeFazio Was A Filmmaking Force

By | November 12, 2018

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Left: Cindy Williams and Penny Marshall on 'Laverne & Shirley.' Right: Penny Marshall at the 31st Annual Primetime Emmy Awards circa 1979 in Pasadena, California. Sources: IMDB; Barbara Rosen/IMAGES/Getty Images

On TV, Penny Marshall was Laverne DeFazio of the duo Laverne & Shirley, but the Bronx-born star was more than an actress; as director of such films as Big and A League Of Their Own, she became one of the most successful female filmmakers in male-dominated Hollywood. 

The daughter of a tap dance teacher and a film director and the sister of a casting director and scriptwriter, Penny Marshall was destined to make her mark on the entertainment world. But in the early 1960s, she was a divorced single mom working as a secretary while waiting for her big break to come. With the help of her well-connected family, that break came, turning Penny Marshall into a household name and an icon of the 1970s. 

When she died in 2018, she left behind a legacy as a gifted comedic actress and a trailblazing filmmaker.

Show Business Runs In The Family

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Penny Marshall with her brother, Garry Marshall

Tony Marshall, Penny’s father, has a successful career as a film director and producer, but not nearly as successful as his son Garry Marshall. Penny’s older sister, Ronny, worked in the industry, too, as a casting director. With her sister’s help, Penny landed a few commercial roles and bit parts on television, but it was her brother Garry who helped her make her own name in television.