By Anita Gates
Dec 18. 2018
Penny Marshall, the nasal-voiced co-star of the slapstick sitcom "Laverne & Shirley" and later the chronically self-deprecating director of hit films like "Big" and "A League of Their Own," died on Monday at her home in Los Angeles. She was 75.
Her publicist, Michelle Bega, said the cause was complications of diabetes. Ms. Marshall had in recent years been treated for lung cancer, discovered in 2009, and a brain tumor. She announced in 2013 that the cancer was in remission.
Ms. Marshall became the first woman to direct a feature film that grossed more than $100 million when she made "Big" (1988). That movie, a comedy about a 12-year-old boy who magically turns into an adult (Tom Hanks) and then has to navigate the grown-up world, was as popular with critics as it was with audiences.
The Washington Post said it had "the zip and exuberance of a classic romantic comedy." The Los Angeles Times described it as "a refreshingly grown-up comedy" directed "with verve and impeccable judgment." Mr. Hanks received his first Oscar nomination for his performance.
Four years later she repeated her box-office success with "A League of Their Own," a sentimentally spunky comedy about a wartime women's baseball league with an ensemble cast that included Madonna, Geena Davis, Rosie O'Donnell and Mr. Hanks.
In between, she directed "Awakenings" (1990), a medical drama starring Robert De Niro as a patient coming out of an encephalitic trance and Robin Williams as the neurologist who helps him. "Awakenings," based on a book by Oliver Sacks, was only moderately successful financially, but Mr. De Niro received an Academy Award nomination.
A writer for Cosmopolitan magazine once commented that Ms. Marshall "got into directing the 'easy' way - by becoming a television superstar first." That was a reference to her seven seasons (1976-83) as Laverne DeFazio, the brasher (yet possibly more vulnerable) of two young roommates, brewery assembly-line workers, on the hit ABC comedy series "Laverne & Shirley," set in 1950s and '60s Milwaukee.
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