Fans are paying tribute to Penny Marshall today after the comedic actress-turned-powerhouse-director passed away at the age of 75. Marshall rose to fame as one half of the 1970s sitcom duo Laverne & Shirley before going on to direct big-budget Hollywood movies at a time when few women did. Thirty years ago, her comedy Big, starring Tom Hanks, went on to become the first female-helmed movie to gross more than $100 million at the box office. (It also happens to be the best of the body-switch genre that became all the rage in the late 1980s.)
As Twitter tributes to the pioneering director poured in this afternoon, one image shared by the Film Society of Lincoln Center seemed to especially resonate. In it, a young Marshall is seen posing with Carrie Fisher, her good friend, who died almost exactly two years ago. “Our crazy lives have meshed perfectly,” Fisher said of Marshall, according to the post. “We’ve always said it’s because we never liked the same drugs or men, but I know there’s more to it.”
“Our crazy lives have meshed perfectly. We’ve always said it’s because we never liked the same drugs or men, but I know there’s more to it.” – Penny Marshall on her friendship with Carrie Fisher pic.twitter.com/ClFWLTedOx
— Film Society of Lincoln Center (@FilmLinc) December 18, 2018
According to Vanity Fair, Marshall and Fisher first became friends in the 1970s after an introduction by Fisher’s then husband, Paul Simon, and Saturday Night Live creator Lorne Michaels. The two forged a special friendship—which Marshall wrote about in some detail in her 2012 memoir, My Mother Was Nuts—and even began a tradition of cohosting star-studded joint birthday parties every October, their shared birth month. Jezebel has an interesting anecdote from the book about the year David Bowie and Imam crashed the famous Fisher-Marshall bash. Other notable guests included Robin Williams, Jack Nicholson, and Anjelica Huston.
Like a lot of people weaned on sitcoms, I’ll always have fond memories of Laverne & Shirley, in particular the hilarious comic chemistry Marshall shared with her costar Cindy Williams. But it’s her career as a director and talent for finding true philosophical heft in high-concept Hollywood comedies that make her a hero in my eyes.