Penny Marshall, the director of the 1996 musical drama The Preacher’s Wife, deemed the recent death of Whitney Houston a “very sad” loss.
“She was a great girl, and we got along fine,” the television star turned movie director said about guiding Whitney Houston through the 1996 musical drama The Preacher’s Wife opposite Denzel Washington.
“She sang beautifully, but like a baseball player doesn’t pitch every day, you had to schedule certain things at certain times. You have to take the actors into consideration.”
Penny Marshall also took the use of Whitney Houston’s vocal talents seriously: “I went to her mom’s church in Newark [N.J.] and I went to Denzel’s church out here [in Los Angeles], and we auditioned choirs. I had never done anything with music of the current time, because most of the movies I did were period pictures. Awakenings was, certainly A League of Their Own was, and so was Riding in Cars With Boys.”
With Big and Jumpin’ Jack Flash also on her resume, Penny Marshall cut her directing teeth on several episodes of the classic ABC sitcom Laverne & Shirley, now seen on The Hub. Along with Cindy Williams and their co-stars, she’ll be honored for the show with the Fan Favorite Award as the 10th-anniversary TV Land Awards are televised by that network Sunday, April 29.
Laverne & Shirley was run by Penny Marshall’s brother Garry, who would become a noted movie director himself (Pretty Woman, Beaches), and she says pretty much anyone who worked on the show had the opportunity to direct. “It’s hard to do a series,” she reflects.
“You do a show a week, and sometimes, we didn’t love the dialogue so much … so we found physical ways around it. It became about behavior.”
Lately, Penny Marshall has been directing television again, with Showtime’s United States of Tara and ABC’s According to Jim among those credits.
“All they do is watch monitors now,” Penny Marshall says.
“They don’t know everything that’s in front of an audience. We didn’t have video feeds back then. It was, <<A camera, you got it? B camera, you got it? C camera, you got it? Fine.>> And they’d tell you the truth.”
Calling the shots on more TV shows isn’t out of the question for Penny Marshall.
“I don’t do vampires, I don’t do car crashes, and I don’t do people in big metal outfits,” she reasons.
“That’s what they spend the money on now in features, and with any movie you want to do, you have to shoot them fast and they don’t pay enough. I’d rather direct television.”