Hollywood director Garry Marshall, whose hit films included Pretty Woman, Runaway Bride and Beaches, died Tuesday at age 81.

Publicist Michelle Bega said Marshall died Tuesday at a hospital in Burbank, Calif., of complications from pneumonia after having a stroke.

Marshall's talents as a writer-producer made him a powerhouse for an entire era of sitcoms in the 1970s and 80s, including Happy DaysMork & MindyThe Odd Couple and Laverne & Shirley, which starred his sister Penny.

Once estimating he'd churned out 1,000 sitcom episodes, Marshall wasn't just responsible for creating hit shows, but launching actors' careers as well.

Think Robin Williams, who was new on the scene in 1978 when he starred as Mork on Mork & Mindy. Or Ron Howard, who most people now know as a star director but whose initial claim to fame was playing Richie Cunningham on Happy Days.

Obit-Garry Marshall

From left, Henry Winkler, Penny Marshall, Ed Begley, Cindy Williams and Garry Marshall pose after Penny Marshall and Cindy Williams received their stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2004. (Damian Dovarganes/The Associated Press)

With that gruff tone and New York accent, Marshall held his own on screen as well. He appeared on the series Murphy Brown with Candice Bergen, in the 1991 comedy Soapdish with Sally Field and Robert Downey Jr. and also provided a guest-appearance voice for The Simpsons as shady zoo owner Larry Kidkill during the show's 11th season.

Despite those brusque roles, Marshall was considered a sweetheart in real life by almost anyone who worked with him. That might explain why many A-listers, including Julia Roberts, Kate Hudson and Jessica Biel, starred in multiple Marshall-directed films. 

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Marshall is seen here with Julia Roberts at the L.A. film premiere of the 1999 film Runaway Bride. Roberts also starred in Marshall-directed films Pretty Woman and most recently, Mother's Day. (REUTERS)

"He's the grandpa everyone wishes they had," Jennifer Aniston told the CBC in April at the red carpet premiere in Los Angeles of Marshall's film Mother's Day.

At the same event, Marshall joked that his film sets often felt like reunions with famous actors because "if you pay them, they come!"

"We all get together and do what we love, which is make movies," he told CBC News at the Hollywood premiere. Marshall happily spent time chatting with reporters and had a warm sense of humour. 

Mother's Day movie premieres in L.A.2:10

Richard Gere, who starred opposite Roberts in Pretty Woman and Runaway Bride, said that "everyone loved Garry."

"He was a mentor and a cheerleader and one of the funniest men who ever lived," Gere said in a statement Tuesday. "He had a heart of the purest gold and a soul full of mischief. He was Garry."

Marshall was born in New York City's The Bronx. He earned a degree in journalism from Northwestern University and worked at the New York Daily News. But he found he was better at writing punchlines.

He began his entertainment career in the 1960s selling jokes to comedians, then moved to writing sketches for The Tonight Show with Jack Paar in New York.

Marshall wrote scripts for some of the best comedies that decade, including The Lucy Show and The Dick Van Dyke Show, before eventually creating his own.

Obit-Garry Marshall

Producers of the hit television comedy show Happy Days are shown in this 1978 file photo taken in Los Angeles. From left, Ed Milkis, Tom Miller and Garry Marshall, who died Tuesday. (Nick Ut/The Associated Press)

Marshall's other film credits include The Flamingo Kid (1984), starring Matt Dillon, Overboard (1987), starring Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn, The Princess Diaries (2001), starring Anne Hathaway and the star-studded 2010 romantic comedy Valentine's Day.

Despite his many successful television shows and several Emmy nominations, Marshall never won the coveted primetime award.

He got a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1983 and was inducted into the Academy of Television Arts & Science's Hall of Fame in 1997 for his contributions to the industry.

Many people who got their start on Marshall's movies and sitcoms, including Henry Winkler who played Fonzie on Happy Days, shared their condolences and gratitude, on social media.

"Thank you for my professional life," Winkler posted on Twitter shortly after the announcement of Marshall's death.

"Thank you for taking a chance on me," Sarah Paulson posted on Twitter late Tuesday. Paulson starred in Marshall's 1999 film The Other Sister and is most recently known for her roles in 12 Years a Slave and American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson.

"Marshall hired me at 15 years old," Parks and Recreation and The West Wing star Rob Lowe tweeted. "He gave my wife her start at 18, as a makeup artist. He changed our lives."

Marshall is survived by his wife, Barbara, and the couple's three children, Lori, Kathleen and Scott.

Funeral services will be private but a memorial is being planned for his birthday on Nov. 13, his publicist's statement said.

With files from the Associated Press