Hollywood sells the American dream to the whole world, a clear example of that is the movie Pretty Woman, which ends the modern Cinderella fable with the line “This is Hollywood, the land of dreams.
Some dreams come true, some don’t, but keep on dreaming”. If you were to ask all the people that come to Los Angeles, both from United States and from overseas, one out of two would respond that that line was very influential in their decision to follow their dream.
The man behind that line is Garry Marshall, beloved director who also created one of the post popular series on American television, Happy Days. Funny how one of the most significant proponent of the American way of life to the world is in reality Italian. Marshall revealed a few years ago that his father real name was Antonio Masciarelli, but he had decided to legally change it into Marshall so not to be pigeon-holed into labor jobs usually reserved for immigrants. He wanted to have the same opportunities for himself and for his children that were given to any other American citizen. 
In fact, he made a career in directing industrial films and in advertising. The thing is that he kept his Italian heritage hidden to his children, son Garry and younger sisters Ronny and Penny (who would all have successful careers in entertainment). He told them the family came from England on the Mayflower, while in all honesty they came from San Martino sulla Marrucina in Abruzzo. What helped the lie was that they lived in a mostly Jewish six story apartment building in the Bronx and they were of protestant faith. 
But Garry and his sisters, as kids, would often spend time at their grandpa and grandma’s house where pasta and tomato sauce were always a staple at big Sunday lunch. Also the grandparents spoke broken English and predominantly Italian, having come to the States through Ellis Island. It was indeed Garry who through photographs and the stories told by the grandparents started putting two and two together.
He was the one who broke the news to his sisters. The importance of photographs later became a sort of fixation for Garry who developed a tradition of taking pictures of himself with every member of the cast and crew for all the movies he directed. All those mementos would then be collected into a photo album of the shoot. 
The Italian culture served as an inspiration also for creating the character of the Fonz on Happy Days. Upon accepting the National Italian American Foundation (NIAF) Career Achievement Award in 2002, Marshall revealed that the famous character was supposed to be called Arthur Masciarelli, just like his real family name. In short he would have become Mash, “But there was already a TV show and we ended up changing it to Fonzarelli”, he said. 
Marshall followed the huge international success of Pretty Woman with a streak of movies that made him a master of romantic comedies. Among those big box office hits, Runaway Bride, which teamed him up with Julia Roberts and Richard Gere for the second time; The Princess Diaries which made Anne Hathaway a star; Valentine’s Day which gathered together a huge cast of stars. One of my favorites is The Other Sister, which told the story of a mentally challenged girl and the equally disabled boy who falls in love with her. That movie showed a different side of the formulaic love story. 
Garry has become so successful as a director that people tend to forget how good he can be as an actor. He was the casino owner in Lost in America SoapdishLife after Beth
Good-hearted and always wanting to help family and friends, he has employed his friend Hector Elizondo (he was the Hotel concierge in Pretty Woman) in every movie he’s ever made. Marshall was also responsible for discovering the talent of Robin Williams, who we all know by now has left us, taking matters into his own hands. Mork and Mindy was Marshall’s creation and Williams brought his comedic genius to it. Marshall gave Williams his breakout role which is a testament to his creativity and generosity.
Receive more stories like this in your inbox