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Penny Marshall Went through the Worst Period of Her Life after She Got Pregnant in Her 40s

Oyin Balogun
Jan 20, 2022
01:40 P.M.
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Penny Marshall's personal life was packed with more than a dozen ups and downs. But, she went through the most dreadful period in her 40s after getting pregnant.


Penny Marshall has been a famous name in the movie industry since the 1970s. The actress whose role on the hit 1976 sitcom "Laverne and Shirley" catapulted her to prominence, maintaining her life of glitz and glamour till her last days.

However, away from the screen, Marshall's life was filled with many difficulties. From dealing with the heartbreaks of her broken relationships to having a pregnancy that only added to her disarray, Marshall had a troubled life that could keep anyone busy for a lifetime. However, despite the difficulties in her life, Marshall's career continued to thrive.

Stars of the TV series "Laverne and Shirley," actresses Penny Marshall and Cindy Williams [left]. Penny Marshall and co-stars on the set of "Laverne and Shirley" [right] | Photo: Getty Images | Photo:



Before becoming an acclaimed director and producer, Marshall starred on "Laverne and Shirley" as Laverne DeFazio, earning her three Golden Globe Award nominations for Best Actress – Television Series Musical or Comedy.

Although Marshall became successful and more famous following her role as Laverne, the actress decided to explore her skills in directing after her friend co-movie star Whoopi Goldberg convinced her to try that genre of entertainment.

As a result, she launched her new career in the movie "Jumpin' Jack Flash." She also directed "Big" and "Awakenings." 


Director Penny Marshall in Central Park. | Photo: Getty Images

However, before taking to Hollywood, she was an ordinary girl who grew up in the Bronx with parents Tony Marshall, a director and producer, and Marjorie Marshall, a dance teacher. After graduating high school in 1960, she decided to explore the world and ventured west to the University of New Mexico.


While in college, she studied maths and psychology but later hooked up with Michael Henry, a campus football player. When Marshall became pregnant with their daughter Tracy, she dropped out of school and married Henry. 

After quitting college, Marshall worked as a tap dancer and secretary to support her young family. Still, the marriage crumbled, and Marshall subsequently moved to Los Angeles to try to break into show business.

Laverne, played by actress Penny Marshall, from the TV series Laverne and Shirley. | Photo: Getty Images


Years after she gave birth to her daughter Tracy, the "How Sweet, Is It" actress spoke candidly about the circumstances surrounding her daughter's birth in an interview. According to Marshall, Tracy was conceived because her father was sad after being dropped from his football team.


The "Staten Island Summer" actress divorced her college sweetheart and married director Rob Reiner, who adopted Tracy. She and Reiner had no children before their marriage went down the drain.

Reiner and Marshall met when their careers had attained a reasonable amount of success. A friend of Reiner once said that as the son of a famous man, Reiner believed he had to become "more multitalented—a terrific actor, a terrific director, and a terrific writer."


Garry Marshall and Penny Marshall on June 8, 2008 in Santa Monica, California | Photo: Getty Images

Reiner may have been Marshall's first love as the two grew up in the Bronx. Despite living opposite each other, Marshalls and Reiners weren't allowed to associate due to the wide Grand Concourse in the Bronx.


However, the two eventually hooked up and even started dating. Reiner and Marshall walked down the aisle in 1971 after being together for 18 months. After their marriage, Marshall and Reiner lived together with the actress's daughter Tracy. 


The celebrities called it quits after a few years, and at the time of their split, Marshall, who wasn't in a rush to dissolve her marriage, revealed she didn't hold up her part. As a result, the couple ended their marriage after about nine years of being together.

Penny Marshall and Garry Marshall in Beverly Hills, California | Photo: Getty Images


After their split, Marshall opened up about how hard it was being single among friends who were couples. Once speaking during an interview, the actress revealed she sometimes felt jealous whenever she saw people who cared for each other.

But, despite missing her life having a spouse, Marshall did say she was done falling in love, but she has had a few dates. The "Getting Away with Murder" actress was spotted with some of Hollywood's finest actors on several occasions after her divorce. 


Although Tracy is Marshall's only child, the actress did get pregnant twice. Marshall discovered she was pregnant while working on one of her dramas.


Actress Penny Marshall poses for a portrait in 1979 in Los Angeles, California. | Photo: Getty Images

According to the movie star's statement during an interview, she wasn't aware of the change in her body until a colleague pointed out the apparent differences and asked if she was pregnant.


Marshall, who had doubts about the child's paternity, became confused about what to do with her pregnancy. The actress believed Artie, who she had dated and broken up with before the pregnancy, could be its father. But she also didn't know if Artie wanted a child.

Marshall shared her problem with a few friends who offered different ideas and advice. Joe Pencil even offered to be the baby's father, but Marshall said she couldn't let him. Meanwhile, after discussing with her brother and his wife and also talking to her daughter, Marshall said she decided to have an abortion. 


The actress revealed she went for the operation with a heavy heart. Marshall said she had the support of her friend Carol as she dealt with the difficult time she described as a "blue period." 

Many years after Marshall terminated her pregnancy, she talked about her decision to remain a mom of one in a clip uploaded on YouTube. On the abortion she had, Marshall revealed she was in her 40s at the time.


The entertainment icon died at 75 after a long-standing career in Hollywood. Reports showed that she passed away from complications caused by diabetes.


After her painful passing, the actress's "Happy Days" colleagues said their final goodbyes by reflecting on her hilarious character and lovable nature. Marshall is survived by her sister, Ronny Hallin, her only child, Tracy, and grandchildren. 

Marshall's daughter, Tracy, became a talented woman like her mother. She is an actress who started her career with appearances on episodes of "Laverne and Shirley" alongside her mother. However, she is better known for movies such as "When Harry Met Sally…" and "Masque of the Red Death."


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