Penny Marshall: Breaking Ground for Female Directors

Introduction: A Stellar Influence

Penny Marshall was an incredible American actress, producer, and most notably, a director, who paved the way for many women in the film industry. Born in New York City in 1943, Marshall rose to fame with her role as Laverne on the beloved sitcom “Laverne & Shirley.” However, it wasn’t just her acting career that made waves – it was her shift to the director’s chair.

Penny made history in 1988 when she became the first female director to helm a film that grossed over $100 million at the box office – “Big,” starring Tom Hanks. This achievement was just the beginning of a fruitful directing career that would forever change the landscape for women in Hollywood.

Paving the Way: An Unforgettable Path

Marshall transitioned to directing effortlessly; she had a knack for comedy and a keen eye for visuals. Her first film was “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” in 1986, but her biggest hit came two years later with “Big.” This film not only stood out for its tremendous box office success, but for its ingenuity and charm.

Following “Big,” Marshall directed “Awakenings” in 1990 featuring Robert De Niro and Robin Williams. The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture. Other films directed by Marshall include “Renaissance Man,” “The Preacher’s Wife,” and “Riding in Cars with Boys.” Her work has been celebrated for its narrative depth and character-driven storytelling.

Legacy: A Game Changer in Hollywood

Marshall was a game changer in a male-dominated industry. She opened doors for female directors and affirmed that women can helm successful and critically acclaimed films. Her fearlessness and determination have inspired countless women in Hollywood to pursue their own directorial dreams.

Sadly, Marshall passed away in 2018, but her legacy continues to reverberate in the film industry. Even today, she serves as an inspiration for up-and-coming female directors who aspire to make their mark in Hollywood. Her impact and contributions to the film industry remain indelible and continue to inspire and influence new generations of filmmakers.

A Lasting Influence

Penny Marshall wasn’t just an actress and director–she was a pioneer. She shattered the glass ceiling in Hollywood, demonstrating that women could direct profitable, creative, and critically acclaimed films. She broke down barriers and made significant strides for gender equality in Hollywood.

Penny Marshall’s influence continues to live on, her spirit and accomplishments continue to inspire a new generation of female directors, reminding them that they too can make their dreams come true.


1. – Penny Marshall
2. Britannica – Penny Marshall
3. The Hollywood Reporter – Penny Marshall
4. New York Times – Penny Marshall Obituary
5. The Guardian – Remembering Penny Marshall