Back in 1991 I was standing with two friends outside the Cooper Inn watching a helicopter flying overhead. There was a surreal feeling to the situation because we knew a potentially big-time movie was being filmed here. I joked that perhaps it was filming a panoramic view of the village and we would appear in the opening of the movie (it wasn’t and we didn’t). Whatever was happening, it was exciting to have a production company in Cooperstown.
The movie in question turned out to be “A League of Their Own,” a fictional tribute to the women’s professional baseball league that was organized during World War II. The film was a true original, dealing with a subject that hadn’t been dealt with before. With a cast that included Tom Hanks, Geena Davis, Madonna and Rosie O’Donnell, and a hit theme song (“This Used to be My Playground”), the movie became an all-time sports classic.
The director of the movie was Penny Marshall. Marshall is best known for appearing as Laverne DeFazio in the hit comedy series, “Laverne & Shirley,” from 1975-83. That show was inspired by her appearance on “Happy Days” with her co-star, Cindy Williams. For those of us old of enough to remember, Marshall first burst onto the scene as Jack Klugman’s ditzy secretary in “The Odd Couple” in the early ‘70s.
The thing is that Marshall’s comedic characters, her distinctive Bronx accent, and her public persona (also kind of goofy) made her the last person you would expect to be a successful director of comedies or dramas. I saw her profiled on some show back in the ‘70s (Barbara Walters, perhaps?) with her equally ditzy-sounding then-husband, Rob Reiner, from “All in the Family.” It turns out they both ended up becoming highly acclaimed directors.