Northwestern alum’s documentary celebrates life of fellow alum Garry Marshall


Courtesy of ABC Digital

Director Garry Marshall (Medill ’56) works on the set of one of his films. Marshall was the mastermind behind Hollywood blockbusters like “The Princess Diaries.”

Rebecca Aizin, Assistant Arts & Entertainment Editor


In his days at Northwestern, Garry Marshall (Medill ‘56) played with his friends in Deering Meadow, was a reporter with The Daily and wrote for the Waa-Mu Show. His experiences at NU led the Bronx native to become one of the most celebrated and beloved directors of blockbusters, from “Pretty Woman” to “The Princess Diaries.”

After Marshall’s death in 2016, John Scheinfeld (Communication ‘78) decided to make a documentary celebrating the life of the man who touched so many Hollywood stars’ careers, including Anne Hathaway and Julia Roberts. Scheinfeld’s specialty lies in documentary filmmaking; he has been nominated for an Emmy, Grammy and Writers Guild Award for his work.

His latest project, “The Happy Days of Garry Marshall,” premieres May 12 on ABC. According to a press release, the documentary will provide “an evening full of laughs and heartfelt memories about a man who put family first and spent his life and career making us laugh.”

Scheinfeld said Marshall’s time at Northwestern was profoundly impactful, guiding him into his career and influencing many decisions for years to come.

“The Northwestern experiences impacted the way we went about doing our work,” Scheinfeld said. “The lessons we both learned there gave us great opportunities to experiment, take risks and get us on the right path.”

However, Northwestern was much more to Marshall than the jumpstart to his career. His daughter, Lori Marshall (Medill ’86,’88), said the school was a part of the family. All three of his kids attended the school, as well as two of his grandkids and his sister.

In his movies, he incorporated purple in the clothes and backgrounds, and he even hung the Northwestern flag in his show, “Happy Days.” Lori said if someone graduated from NU, they were immediately a friend to her father.

“Northwestern taught him to be a well rounded person,” Lori said. “You could be in Waa-Mu, you could be on the sports team, you could do it all because it was possible.”

Scheinfeld said he attempted to encompass Marshall’s spirit in his documentary by incorporating the heart, humor and humanity that was a signature of both Marshall’s work and life.

Marshall had a needlepoint outside the door of his office that said “being nice matters,” a value he lived by. Lori said his kindness is what drew stars like Roberts and Kate Hudson to work with him multiple times.

“A lot of people say [being nice matters], but not a lot of people work it,” Lori said. “For him, it wasn’t just working with these big stars, it was about being nice to them. Finding out about their kids, finding out about their interests, finding out about who they’re dating — he always wanted people to be in a happy relationship.”

Scheinfeld said it was essential to him that the documentary lived up to the life its subject led. He didn’t want it to be an investigative report or tabloid piece on Marshall, but a celebration of the life that touched so many with his talent and personality.

While it is not unusual for people in show business to say snarky things about others, Scheinfeld said Marshall was loved by everyone he worked with.

“It was remarkable that in researching this documentary and interviewing all the stars, no one had a bad word to say about Garry,” Scheinfeld said. “That speaks mightily to his character and his personality.”

One of the most emotional parts of the documentary for Scheinfeld was the section about the end of Marshall’s life. Marshall experienced a stroke in 2016, and soon it became clear that he would not recover.

The family made calls to those who loved Marshall and they appeared by his bedside to thank him and share their love despite his not being able to reply in his comatose state. Scheinfeld said this adoration was a reflection of the life Marshall lived.

Scheinfeld hopes for his documentary to do what Marshall did during his career — bring light to the world during gloomy times.

“Our documentary can be the perfect antidote to COVID-19,” Scheinfeld said. “This is a show that, very much like Garry’s work itself, it’ll make you laugh, it’ll touch your heart and it’ll make you feel good — and all of us need to be feeling good these days.”

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Twitter: @rebecca_aizin

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