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Actress and director Penny Marshall dies at age 75

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Jake Coyle, The Associated Press


Published Tuesday, December 18, 2018 1:57PM EST


Last Updated Tuesday, December 18, 2018 8:43PM EST

NEW YORK — Penny Marshall, who indelibly starred in the top-rated sitcom “Laverne & Shirley” before becoming the trailblazing director of smash-hit big-screen comedies such as “Big” and “A League of Their Own,” has died. She was 75.

Michelle Bega, a spokeswoman for the Marshall family, said Tuesday that Marshall died in her Los Angeles home on Monday night due to complications from diabetes. Marshall earlier fought lung cancer, which went into remission in 2013. “Our family is heartbroken,” the Marshall family said in a statement.

In “Laverne & Shirley,” among television’s biggest hits for much of its eight-season run between 1976-1983, the nasal-voiced, Bronx-born Marshall starred as Laverne DeFazio alongside Cindy Williams as a pair of blue-collar roommates toiling on the assembly line of a Milwaukee brewery. A spinoff of “Happy Days,” the series was the rare network hit about working-class characters, and its self-empowering opening song (“Give us any chance, we’ll take it/ Read us any rule, we’ll break it”) foreshadowed Marshall’s own path as a pioneering female filmmaker in the male-dominated movie business.

“Almost everyone had a theory about why ‘Laverne & Shirley’ took off,” Marshall wrote in her 2012 memoir “My Mother Was Nuts.” “I thought it was simply because Laverne and Shirley were poor and there were no poor people on TV, but there were plenty of them sitting at home and watching TV.”

Marshall directed several episodes of “Laverne & Shirley,” which her older brother, the late filmmaker-producer Garry Marshall, created. Those episodes helped launch Marshall as a filmmaker. When Whoopi Goldberg clashed with director Howard Zieff, she brought in Marshall to direct “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” the 1986 comedy starring Goldberg.

“Jumpin’ Jack Flash” did fair business, but Marshall’s next film, “Big,” was a major success, making her the first woman to direct a film that grossed more than $100 million. The 1988 comedy, starring Tom Hanks, is about a 12-year-old boy who wakes up in the body of a 30-year-old New York City man. The film, which earned Hanks an Oscar nomination, grossed $151 million worldwide, or about $320 million accounting for inflation.

The honour meant only so much to the typically self-deprecating Marshall. “They didn’t give ME the money,” Marshall later joked to The New Yorker.

Marshall reteamed with Hanks for “A League of Their Own,” the 1992 comedy about the women’s professional baseball league begun during World War II, starring Geena Davis, Madonna and Rosie O’Donnell. That, too, crossed $100 million, making $107.5 million domestically.

More than any other films, “A League of Their Own” and “Big” ensured Marshall’s stamp on the late ’80s, early ’90s. The piano dance scene in FAO Schwartz in “Big” became iconic. Hanks’ reprimand from “A League of Their Own” — “There’s no crying in baseball!” — remains quoted on baseball diamonds everywhere.

On Tuesday, Marshall’s passing was felt across film, television and comedy . “Big” producer James L. Brooks praised her for making “films which celebrated humans” and for her helping hand to young comedians and writers. “To many of us lost ones she was, at the time, the world’s greatest den mother.”

“She had a heart of gold. Tough as nails,” recalled Danny DeVito, who starred in Marshall’s 1994 comedy “Renaissance Man.” “She could play round ball with the best of them.”

Marshall’s early success in a field where few women rose so high made her an inspiration to other aspiring female filmmakers. Ava DuVernay, whose “A Wrinkle in Time” was the first $100 million-budgeted film directed by a woman of colour, said Tuesday: “Thank you, Penny Marshall. For the trails you blazed. The laughs you gave. The hearts you warmed.”

In between “Big” and “A League of Their Own,” Marshall made the Oliver Sacks adaptation “Awakenings,” with Robin Williams and Robert De Niro. The medical drama, while not as successful at the box office, became only the second film directed by a woman nominated for best picture.

Carole Penny Marshall was born Oct. 15, 1943, in the Bronx. Her mother, Marjorie Marshall, was a dance teacher, and her father, Anthony, made industrial films. Their marriage was strained. Her mother’s caustic wit — a major source of material and of pain in Marshall’s memoir — was formative. (One remembered line: “You were a miscarriage, but you were stubborn and held on.”)

“Those words are implanted in your soul, unfortunately. It’s just the way it was,” Marshall once recalled. “You had to learn at a certain age what sarcasm is, you know? When she says it about somebody else, you laughed, but when it was you, you didn’t laugh so much.”

During college at the University of New Mexico, Marshall met Michael Henry, whom she married briefly for two years and with whom she had a daughter, Tracy. Marshall would later wed the director Rob Reiner, a marriage that lasted from 1971 to 1981. Tracy, who took the name Reiner, became an actress; one of her first roles was a brief appearance in her mother’s “Jumpin’ Jack Flash.” Marshall is also survived by her older sister, Ronny, and three grandchildren.

Marshall’s brother Garry, already established as a writer, coaxed her to move out to Los Angeles in 1967. She studied acting while supporting herself as a secretary — a role she would later play on “Happy Days.” Her first commercial was for Head & Shoulders opposite a then-unknown Farrah Fawcett.

“I just cannot bring myself to accept that the homely person on the screen is me,” Marshall told TV Guide in 1976. “I grew up believing an actress is supposed to be beautiful. After I saw myself in a ‘Love American Style’ segment, I cried for three days. I’ve had braces put on my teeth twice, but they did no good.”

Marshall never again matched the run of “Big,” “Awakenings” and “A League of Their Own.” Her next film, the Army recruit comedy “Renaissance Man,” flopped. She directed “The Preacher’s Wife” (1996) with Denzel Washington and Whitney Houston. Her last film as director was 2001’s “Riding in Cars With Boys,” with Drew Barrymore. Marshall also helmed episodes of ABC’s “According to Jim” in 2009 and Showtime’s “United States of Tara” in 2010 and 2011, and directed the 2010 TV movie “Women Without Men.”

Marshall, a courtside regular at Los Angeles Lakers games, left behind a long-in-the-making documentary about former NBA star Dennis Rodman. When the project was announced in 2012, Marshall said Rodman asked her to do it.

“I have a little radar to the insane,” explained Marshall. “They seek me out.”



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Ottawa Tourism temporarily halts marketing in China

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Ottawa Tourism has hit the pause button on new marketing efforts in China—at least for now.

This comes amid increasing tensions between Canada and China.

On Monday, a Chinese court re-sentenced Canadian Robert Schellenberg to death in a sudden retrial of a drug-smuggling case.

It follows the detention of two Canadians in China that many believe was triggered by the December arrest of Huawei’s chief financial officer.

It says “Desination Canada and Ottawa Tourism are continuing to monitor the situation.”

An estimated 41,000 Chinese visitors came to Ottawa in 2017.

Ottawa Tourism launched an incentive program to try and attract Chinese tourists to the Capital.  It says it plans on resuming marketing efforts in China but there’s no date as of yet.

China is the third largest inbound market to Canada and the third-largest international market for Ottawa after the U.S. and U.K.



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Reel justice prevails: This B.C. man won a 30-year battle to fish in a public lake

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Rick McGowan started fishing in Stoney Lake and Minnie Lake in B.C.’s Interior in the 1960s when he was 14 years old. The lakes were a good stopping point along Stoney Lake Road, a gravel route the McGowan family travelled almost daily from Merritt to a fishing resort on Paradise Lake owned by Rick’s parents, Hughie and Ruby.

The province stocked both lakes with rainbow trout, and Minnie Lake was the place to catch a fish to brag about, five or even eight pounds. “Minnie Lake has always had a great ecosystem for providing big fish,” says McGowan. “It had a lot of shrimp and invertebrates for the fish to feed on.” The lakes were surrounded by land owned in part by the Woodward family, founders of an eponymous department store chain, but were themselves Crown property and a popular spot for residents, including neighbouring First Nations.

One day—McGowan figures around 1988—the family found the gate to Stoney Lake Road closed and padlocked. It was the start of a 30-year dispute, pitting local anglers against wealthy landowners, public interests against private, and culminating in a recent court decision that could set a precedent for public access to Crown-owned waters.

Today, the owner of that gate is American billionaire Stan Kroenke, who owns a stable of professional sports teams including the NBA’s Denver Nuggets and the NHL’s Colorado Avalanche, and who is married to a Wal-Mart heir. He bought the Douglas Lake Ranch in 2003 and has been snapping up adjacent land ever since. He’s now the largest private landowner in B.C., with rights to almost 500,000 hectares of deeded and Crown grazing land under his Douglas Lake Cattle Company.

RELATED: What it feels like to go lobster fishing in P.E.I.

After years of disputes over access, which included RCMP arrests for trespassing and a failed petition from the Nicola Valley Fish and Game Club—of which McGowan is a member—the Douglas Lake Cattle Company sued the club. Lawyers asked a judge to clarify whether Stoney Lake Road is public, whether the public should be permitted access to the lakes and who owns the fish.

Douglas Lake Cattle Company did not get the answers it wanted when B.C. Supreme Court Justice Joel Groves rendered his decision in early December. Stoney Lake Road is public; the lakes must be reopened for catch-and-release fishing; and the fish are wild, even if the lakes are stocked, the judge found.

More than a mundane court ruling, the decision is being received as a declaration affirming public rights to cherished water bodies at a time when private interests are rapidly closing them off. The court heard that the company dammed Stoney and Minnie lakes to make them bigger, partially flooding the road in the process. The company, which operates several private fishing lodges, argued that the new expanded borders of the lakes were private. The ranch also put large rocks and logs on the road “to make it impossible to pass,” writes Groves.

All the while, the province knew. In 1996, the district highways manager wrote a letter to Douglas Lake ranch manager Joe Gardner, asking him to remove the locked gate and install a cattle guard. Gardner did not comply. “Mr. Gardner has acted, as manager of the DLCC, as someone who is above the law,” writes Groves.

RELATED: As the Arctic Ocean melts, the fishing talks begin

Groves had harsh words for the province, the second defendant in the case: “The province did not respond to this apparent unlawful act. Over 20 years, a privately held corporation, owning a large swath of land, prohibited the public from driving on the public road and the province did nothing.”

The government came in for even greater rebuke in a scathing epilogue to the decision—a rare document Groves presented in court after his ruling. In it, Groves writes that “it makes no sense to me that the Crown would retain ownership of the lakes, only for there to be no access.” He urges the province to re-examine its trespassing laws and “guarantee access to this precious public resource.”

Christopher Harvey, lawyer for the Nicola Valley club, says he hopes this ruling will spur the province to protect right of access to public lands. “It is the easiest thing in the world for a landowner to put up a private property sign and just lock a gate over a public road,” Harvey says. “Ninety-nine per cent of the public will assume it is private property.”

B.C.’s natural resources ministry says it’s reviewing the judgment before deciding its next steps, while a lawyer representing Kroenke’s company says it is considering all options, including appeal. Neither Kroenke nor ranch manager Gardner agreed to an interview.

The gate to Stoney Lake Road isn’t the only one with a lock. There is legal action in the works over access to Corbett Lake, another Crown lake partially on Douglas Lake Cattle Company property. McGowan, now 66, sees this as his fight to ensure his eight-year-old granddaughter can fish in Crown lakes, just like he did as a boy. “The locking and blocking access to public lakes all over B.C. is escalating like an epidemic,” he says. “If we don’t stop it, you’re not going to go off the blacktop without paying someone to go there.”



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B.C. First Nations leaders lend their support to Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs at Smithers rally

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First Nations leaders from communities across B.C. gathered in Smithers Wednesday in support of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary leadership following last week’s RCMP enforcement of an injunction to allow access to their territory by a pipeline company.

“You are in charge of your land, make no mistake about it. We are in charge of our land. And at times, we need to rely on each other for support,” said Murray Smith from Lax Kw’alaams near Prince Rupert.

Smith and others from the Tsimshian nation said they came to show support after the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs stood with them, in their territory, when they were standing in opposition to the Pacific Northwest LNG project on Lelu Island.

“Today’s show of support from our neighbours and allies… proves the Wet’suwet’en do not stand alone,” said Wet’suwet’en hereditary chief Na’Moks.

“We the hereditary chiefs are the title holders and maintain authority and jurisdiction to make decisions on our unceded lands.”

Wet’suwet’en hereditary Chief NaMoks speaks to media following their meeting with RCMP members and Coastal GasLink representatives in Smithers, B.C., on Jan. 10. (Chad Hipolito/Canadian Press)

The First Nations leaders spent Tuesday in closed door meetings with the hereditary leadership to talk about what happened at the Gidimt’en checkpoint last week. It was one of two checkpoints that was established on a remote stretch of forest service road in the nation’s traditional territory to prevent access by Coastal GasLink workers.

14 arrested

Fourteen people were arrested Jan. 7 when the RCMP moved in to enforce an interim injunction to allow pipeline workers access through the checkpoint.

Coastal GasLink, owned by TransCanada Corp., says it needs access to the road and bridge in order to meet construction deadlines on a natural gas pipeline from the northeastern part of the province to the coast. Coastal GasLink said it turned to the courts for an injunction as a last resort to get access on the territory where the Unist’ot’en have long operated a checkpoint.

TransCanada has made agreements with elected chiefs and councils along the route of the pipeline and the company has stated in court filings that it has all the necessary approvals to go ahead with its work.

The hereditary chiefs acknowledge that agreements have been signed with elected leadership but say they are the ones that need to consent to this kind of project being built on their traditional territories, according to their own laws, and that band councils only have jurisdiction over the reserve lands.

Agreement made under duress, says chief

At Wednesday’s rally, leaders from other B.C. nations expressed their support for the hereditary leaders to continue asserting themselves on the land, saying the approvals for these projects happen according to laws and rules that are not of their making.

“We’re playing with their rule book, the rule book that they change all the time,” said Ronnie West, from the nearby Lake Babine Nation.

Reconciliation cannot be done at the end of a gun.– Wayne Christian

“So how do we do it? How are we going to win this game?”

The hereditary chiefs spent three days in meetings with the RCMP last week to come to an agreement about next steps with the injunction. Chief Na’Moks said at Wednesday’s rally that agreement was made under duress, to protect the people at the Unist’ot’en checkpoint and settlement from experiencing the kind of enforcement action seen at Gidimt’en.

“Reconciliation cannot be done at the end of a gun,” said Wayne Christian, a chief from the Secwepemc nation.

“The world is watching what’s going on here. Our way of life is being attacked.”

Wayne Christian, a chief from the Secwepemc nation, attended meetings in Smithers this week to show support for the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs. (Shuswap Tribal Council)

Earlier this week, the RCMP said it will be conducting a review of its enforcement action at Gidimt’en and has since established a temporary detachment on the land to keep a presence in the area.

As it stands, the interim injunction for Coastal GasLink remains in effect. Further court documents are due for filing at the end of January and the matter has yet to go to trial.

Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs maintain they are opposed to the pipeline going through the territory and have not yet announced what their next moves might be.



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