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Garry Marshall Dies At 81

BURBANK, CALIFORNIA (CelebrityAccess)–Garry Marshall, the legendary writer and director who created the wildly popular television programs "Happy Days," "The Odd Couple," "Laverne & Shirley" and "Mork & Mindy" has died at the age of 81.

Publicist Michelle Bega told NBC News that Marshall died Tuesday at a hospital in Burbank, California, of complications from pneumonia after having a stroke.

Funeral services will be private, his publicists said in a statement. "A memorial is being planned for his birthday on November 13."

Marshall, born Garry Kent Maschiarelli in the Bronx in 1934, began his career as a writer but went on to create some of the biggest hit shows of the 1970s and directed bigscreen blockbuster "Pretty Woman" and other films.

"In the neighborhood where we grew up in, the Bronx, you only had a few choices," Marshall said in a 1980s interview. "You were either an athlete or a gangster, or you were funny."

Marshall also directed the films "The Flamingo Kid" in 1984, "Beaches" in 1988, and "The Princess Diaries" in 2001, among others.

Marshall said in an interview that he began writing as a young man "because I was sick all the time … when you're sick in bed there's not much you can do. So I would write things." He also worked as a reporter for the New York Daily News before getting into television writing.

Marshall later recalled that the show that made him interested in television was the variety show "Caesar's Hour," which ran in the 1950s. "Caesar's Hour was the most influential show 'cause then I looked, I said, 'I could do that,'" Marshall said in an interview with the Archive of American Television.

In 1970 Marshall had a substantial hit when he developed and produced an adaptation of Neil Simon's play "The Odd Couple" for ABC. The show earned four Emmy nominations and wins for stars Jack Klugman and Tony Randall.

Marshall created the hit show "Happy Days," which ran for 11 seasons through 1984. During its peak, "Happy Days" was the No. 1 show on television during the 1976-77 season, No. 2 in 1977-78 and No. 4 the following year, and Henry Winkler's the Fonz became a cultural touchstone, with his leather jacket eventually landing in the Smithsonian.

Winkler on Twitter Tuesday called Marshall "larger than life, funnier than most, wise and the definition of friend." -Staff Writers/NBC News