Penny Marshall and Rob Reiner – two Hollywood legends who came together only to be split apart by career envy. However, their mutual admiration, respect, and love never evaporated.
How Did Penny Marshall and Rob Reiner Meet?
When asked if her teenage self had any idea what she wanted to be when she grew up, Penny Marshall humorlessly answered in the affirmative and added, “Married!” But Marshall would have to wait sometime before meeting Reiner and exchanging vows with him – despite the fact they grew up on opposite sides of the same Bronx block. In mock seriousness, she recalled, “We weren’t allowed to cross the street.”
Instead, they first made the other’s acquaintance while attending The Committee, a repertory group. Reiner chuckled, “I discovered we had the same kinds of little things in our pockets.”
However, despite Marshall’s immediate attraction to Reiner, there were a plethora of complications. “I liked him but he didn’t like me. He was going through an identity crisis and I thought it was my fault because I’d told him I liked him.”
And even though the pair began to tentatively court, Reiner still planned on moving in with another female companion. Luckily, after one of the couple’s many dates, they retired to Marshall’s apartment and all thoughts of co-habituating with another left Reiner’s mind.
Auditions, Collaborations, and Marriage
In late 1970, both Reiner and Marshall auditioned for roles on the CBS sitcom All in the Family – he read for Michael “Meathead” Stivic and she tested to play his on-screen wife Gloria Bunker.
Reiner was hired and Marshall was passed over in favor of Sally Struthers. Though they never played reel-life spouses, the real-life duo did portray besties-turned-lovers in the made-for-television film More Than Friends and served as hosts for the third episode of Saturday Night Live.
Some 18 months after their first meeting, the two decided to make their relationship official. The impromptu ceremony was held on April 10, 1970 right after Reiner finished taping the 13th episode of his now-hit sitcom.
In his vows, Reiner promised, “I’ll always be your best friend.” Marshall promised to “try not to make you nervous.” The bride was 27, the groom 23 and the postnuptial meal was Chinese takeout.
Subsequently, Marshall won some acclaim for playing secretary Myrna Turner on her brother Garry Marshall’s new show The Odd Couple – a comedy (based on the Neil Simon play) in which Reiner guest-starred as a potential beau. Stardom was finally achieved when her popular Happy Days character, Laverne DeFazio, was spun off into the series Laverne & Shirley.
Ten Years Too Late
Even though the couple seemed perfectly suited to one another and Reiner was by all accounts the perfect father to Tracy Henry – the only daughter of Marshall and her first husband John Henry – whom Reiner legally adopted – inevitable trouble brewed.
Upon the cancellation of All in the Family, Reiner struggled to find creative (and worthy) outlets while Marshall continued to creatively soar, thanks to the success rendered by her hit series. After 10 years of marriage, they filed for divorce in 1981.
Penny Marshall and Rob Reiner Reflect
Rather than grow bitter and distant like some exes, Marshall and Reiner remained on extremely good terms – forever linked by Tracy – and they even turned to one another for advice following their parallel transitions from actor to director.
“It’s still sad that Rob and I didn’t work it out,” Marshall once shared with The Hollywood Reporter, “but he’s happily married with three kids – my grandson went to school with his kids.” In a later interview, she claimed that “We always thought we would get back together when we were much older.”
When informed of Marshall’s passing, which occurred on December 18, 2018, Reiner took to Twitter with an initial post that read, “So sad about Penny.” Later, he added a much longer tribute: “I loved Penny. I grew up with her. She was born with a great gift. She was born with a funnybone and the instinct of how to use it. I was very lucky to have lived with her and her funnybone. I will miss her.”
I loved Penny. I grew up with her. She was born with a great gift. She was born with a funnybone and the instinct of how to use it. I was very lucky to have lived with her and her funnybone. I will miss her.
— Rob Reiner (@robreiner) December 18, 2018