HomeAmerican EntertainmentTVClassic TV‘Laverne and Shirley’: The Brother-Sister Duo Who Brought the Show to Life

‘Laverne and Shirley’: The Brother-Sister Duo Who Brought the Show to Life

by Caitlin Berard
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(Photo by Vince Bucci/Getty Images)

Garry and Penny Marshall each have a wealth of experience in Hollywood. Garry Marshall is the award-winning director behind beloved films such as Pretty Woman, Never Been Kissed, and A League of Their Own, in addition to a variety of other films and classic TV series. His sister, Penny Marshall, is the actress behind Happy Days character Laverne DeFazio, and has a long list of cameo appearances to her name.

That said, the brother-sister duo is most famous for their work on the Happy Days spinoff, Laverne and Shirley, the top-rated show from 1977 to ’78. While Garry Marshall was hard at work behind the camera as director of the series, Penny Marshall held one of the show’s titular roles, Laverne.

Unfortunately, the show’s massive success didn’t make things easier for the siblings, as you might expect. Instead, Garry Marshall calls Laverne and Shirley the “toughest show, or project” he ever did. “Mostly because it’s my sister, and you can’t hide from your sister,” the director told NPR.

According to Garry, his sister Penny had many ideas to improve the show. And though some of them benefitted the series, Garry didn’t find all of them useful.

“Suddenly, she was Laverne and she was in the number one show,” Garry recalled. “And it was difficult for me, because I do… pride myself on being able to make people happy. And the one person I couldn’t seem to make happy was my sister, Penny, on Laverne and Shirley.”

‘Laverne and Shirley’ Star Penny Marshall Credits Garry Marshall for Her Hollywood Career

According to Garry Marshall, as a child in the Marshall family home, the worst thing you could be was boring. As such, he and his sister Penny worked hard to entertain – and succeeded, both enjoying lengthy careers in Hollywood.

After working on a few classic TV series in the 60s, Garry Marshall hit his stride, pairing with Jerry Belson to create The Odd Couple. He then brought his sister Penny along for the ride, giving her the role of Myrna on the show.

From there, Garry built upon his growing success with the beloved series Happy Days, in which he cast his sister once again. Finally, Laverne and Shirley was born, a spinoff of Happy Days, the series for which many remember the late actress.

Though, like any siblings, they had their occasional spats, Garry and Penny Marshall remained close until Garry’s passing in 2016. “My brother gave me a life,” Penny told Entertainment Tonight after the loss of her brother. “It’s not many people who have a brother who give them a life. He gave me a life and I appreciate it and I tried to not let him down.”

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