Actress, producer and director Penny Marshall has died at age 75 from complications with diabetes. In addition to starring in the iconic 1970s sitcom "Laverne and Shirley", Marshall was a trailblazer as a female director who broke barriers by helming big studio productions that became major boxoffice hits. Among them: "Big", "A League of Their Own" and "Awakenings". Comedy played a major element in Marshall's life. Her career was jump-started when she was cast as Oscar Madison's secretary in "The Odd Couple" television series. She and Cindy Williams introduced the characters of Laverne and Shirley on the "Happy Days" TV series. The lovable but unsophisticated blue collar ladies became so popular that a spin-off series was created for them to star in. The show proved to be a ratings smash, running for eight seasons. It was the brainchild of Marshall's brother Gary Marshall, who was a major force in the entertainment industry. Marshall gradually fulfilled her dream of becoming a director at a time when doors were largely closed to females who wanted to enter the profession. However, she proved she could bring in big budget productions on time and her direction was instrumental in making them major boxoffice hits. Marshall was once married to Rob Reiner, himself an actor and director who had become popular on an iconic 1970s sitcom, "All in the Family". For more on her life and career, click here.
Actress and director Sondra Locke has died at age 74. She passed away in November but for reasons unknown, her death wasn't reported until six weeks later. Locke first gained attention in the film industry when she received a Best Supporting Actress nomination for the 1968 film "The Heart is a Lonely Hunter". She worked steadily in films and television in supporting roles until 1976 when she co-starred with Clint Eastwood in "The Outlaw Josey Wales". The film formed the basis of a long-time working and personal relationship between Locke and Eastwood. They would go on to co-star in five more films together but their relationship was an increasingly tumultuous one, complicated by the fact that although Locke was living with Eastwood, she was married to another man in what she described as a platonic marriage. Ultimately, the couple's personal troubles resulted in their breakup and a high profile palimony suit against Eastwood by Locke. It all became fodder for the gossip columns with Locke publicly accusing Eastwood of mistreating her both emotionally and financially and claiming he pressured her into getting two abortions. The palimony suit was eventually settled when Eastwood arranged for Locke to get a deal at Warner Brothers to direct and act in films she would develop. However, this, too, resulted in lawsuit when Locke claimed that the one feature released under the deal, the 1986 film "Ratboy", was virtually buried by the studio, which never gave the green light to any of her other projects. Locke filed suit accusing Eastwood of concocting a phony production deal with Warner Brothers that was designed to ensure that none of her films went into production. After a high profile trial in which Eastwood was compelled to give testimony, he made an undisclosed financial settlement with Locke. Although Locke claimed to take satisfaction from a woman prevailing over one of the industry's most powerful men, her career never recuperated, though she did present her side of the story in her autobiography titled "The Good, the Bad and the Very Ugly". In recent years, she had been battling bone and breast cancer. The official cause of death was cardiac arrest related to the illnesses. For more click here.
Ken Berry, who rose to fame in the 1960s as one of the stars of the "F Troop" TV series, has died at age 85. Berry entered show business thanks to the efforts of Leonard Nimoy, who was Berry's sergeant in the U.S. Army. After Nimoy left the service and entered the acting profession, he helped find opportunities for Berry, who went on to stardom in the mid-1960s as Captain Parmenter, the likable but inept commanding officer of U.S. Cavalry post in the old West that was populated by con men and incompetents. Forrest Tucker and Larry Storch co-starred with Berry in the show that ran from 1965 to 1967. When Andy Griffith decided to retire from his immensely popular sitcom, he created a spin-off series, "Mayberry R.F.D" that featured Berry as the male lead. The show defied expectations and began a ratings hit, thanks in no small part to Berry's pleasant, "guy next door" persona. Despite this, "Mayberry R.F.D" was a casualty of CBS's infamous cancellation of its most popular sitcoms because they skewed towards older, rural audiences. Berry went on to co-star in a spinoff of "The Carol Burnett Show", "Mama's Family" in the 1980s. He was also occasionally seen in feature films such as Disney's "The Cat from Outer Space" and "Herbie Rides Again". For more click here.