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Northwestern Archives Acquires Garry Marshall Papers

Thanks to a generous gift, Northwestern is now home to a one-of-a-kind collection documenting the life and work of an American film and TV icon.

Portrait of Gary Marshall from Northwestern’s 1956 Syllabus yearbook.
A photo of Marshall as a student from Northwestern’s 1956 Syllabus yearbook.Image: Syllabus Yearbook/Students Publishing Co.

Winter 2024
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With his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and storied career as a writer, actor, director and producer, Garry Marshall ’56 made an indelible mark on American film and TV. Best known for creating a slew of hit sitcoms — including The Odd Couple, Happy Days, Laverne & Shirley and Mork & Mindy — Marshall also directed popular feature films such as Pretty Woman and The Princess Diaries. 

Throughout his career and up until his death in 2016 at age 81, Marshall — a proud Northwestern alum, parent and grandparent — stayed connected to his alma mater. His legacy lives on at Northwestern with the donation of the Garry Marshall Papers to University Archives. 

A draft script from Runaway Bride

The collection includes original scripts from film, TV and live performances — often with handwritten notes in the margins. It contains personal scrapbooks that Marshall drew upon for writing projects as well as correspondence, photos, business records, storyboards and memorabilia, including awards and movie posters. 

University historian Kevin Leonard ’77, ’82 MA played a major role in bringing the materials to Northwestern. The collection was organized for research use last summer and opened to library patrons in the fall, Leonard says. In all, the collection spans about 70 linear feet of shelf space — the length of two school buses. 

As an undergraduate student in the Medill School of Journalism (now the Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications), Marshall wrote for The Daily Northwestern and performed in The Waa-Mu Show. His early career featured stints as a writer for The Lucy Show and The Dick Van Dyke Show. Marshall’s papers include material he wrote for comedians Joey Bishop, Vaughn Meader and Jack Paar, among many others, in the early days of late-night TV. The collection also contains routines penned for celebrity roasts of Dean Martin and former presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson. 

Pretty in Pictures

Pretty woman storyboard A
Storyboard illustrations from "Pretty Woman" are part of the newly acquired collection.
Pretty woman storyboard B
Storyboard illustrations from "Pretty Woman" are part of the newly acquired collection.
Pretty woman storyboard C
Storyboard illustrations from "Pretty Woman" are part of the newly acquired collection.

Even as his fame grew, Marshall visited his alma mater often as a speaker and served as a trustee. For more than 25 years he was a member of the Northwestern University Leadership Circle, which recognizes donors who make cumulative annual gifts of $1,000 or more. He helped create and support several campus spaces as well — including the Barbara and Garry Marshall Studio Wing in John J. Louis Hall, the Marjorie Ward Marshall Dance Center (named for Marshall’s mother, who ran a tap dance school in the basement of her New York City apartment building) and the Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Center for the Musical Arts. 

One of many handwritten jokes Marshall penned for Tonight Starring Jack Paar

Leonard believes Northwestern’s acquisition of the papers will provide a treasure trove for scholars, students, fans and future biographers interested in American comedy from the 1950s to the early 2000s. 

“Performing arts is one of the collecting areas I’ve been chasing after because of Northwestern’s stature in the arts and the stature of many alumni in those professions,” Leonard says. “It’s a curricular and research strength of the University.” 

All three of Marshall’s children are Northwestern alumni. Two of his grandchildren have also studied at the School of Communication. Marshall’s family, including his wife, Barbara, strongly supported the effort to organize and house the materials at the University, Leonard notes. 

“It is a great record of American comedy from a much-admired son of Northwestern,” he says. 

Alumni interested in contributing archival materials to Northwestern can email Kevin Leonard.

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Reader Responses

  • When I worked at Northwestern University, Mr. Marshall visited and wanted to tour his fraternity house, Alpha Tau Oméga. Sadly it was closed at the time, but I was able to walk him through it. He was friendly and gracious.
    Several years later I had moved to LA and went to see a black box theater’s performance of "Big: The Musical." There were two empty seats on the aisle next to me, and after the lights went down, he came in and sat next to me. He didn’t want to be a distraction for the cast in such a small (three rows if I remember) theater.
    During intermission I introduced myself again, and he remembered details of the tour I gave him years before at NU.
    He had loaned the small black box theater some props from the original movie to use in the play. They are on display at his theater in Burbank.
    And after the show, he stayed forevermore talking with the cast and greeting each of them and their families and friends.
    A truly remarkable alumnus that Northwestern should be proud of.
    I’m so happy his legacy lives on at his alma mater!

    Steve Dealph Los Angeles, via Facebook

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