Penny Marshall, star of US TV series Laverne & Shirley and director of hit films Big and A League of Their Own, has died at the age of 75, her publicist has said.
Big’s success made Marshall the first woman to direct a film that made more than $100m (£79m) at the US box office, reports BBC.
In 2004, she was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, along with her Laverne & Shirley co-star. She’s been described as a pioneer in the film-making industry.
Marshall and co-star Cindy Williams starred in the 1970s Happy Days TV spin-off about two single, working women in late 1950s Milwaukee, which was a huge success.
After Laverne & Shirley, Marshall went on to become a producer and director whose films included box-office successes such as Big, starring Tom Hanks, and women’s baseball comedy A League of Their Own. Her first film was the 1986 Whoopi Goldberg comedy Jumpin’ Jack Flash.
She also directed Robert De Niro and Robin Williams in Awakenings, which was nominated for three Academy Awards including best picture.
“She did commercial movies at a time when women weren’t doing studio films. And so, she was a pioneer in the studio-movie world,” Melissa Silverstein, founder of the advocacy group Women and Hollywood, told the BBC.
“She laid the groundwork for women to make commercial movies with her success.
“Her legacy is going to be Laverne & Shirley; it was a groundbreaking sitcom and was just revolutionary. And she transitioned from acting into directing and became a director – a full-time director; the sad thing is she didn’t have a longer career because of her success.
“I think that’s a testament to how hard it was for women to get opportunities…you can count them on one hand.
“I just think that all the women who have come after have built their careers and their success on the pioneers of Penny Marshall, Nora Ephron, Penelope Spheeris – those are the women who blaze the trail.”
That success is recognised in some of her fellow celebrities and fans’ comments.
Actor James Wood said he was devastated by her passing.