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Lowell Ganz  

As one of arguably the most successful comedy screenwriting teams in Hollywood, Lowell Ganz, along with writing partner of Babaloo Mandel, penned some of the biggest hits of the 1980s and 1990s.

As one of arguably the most successful comedy screenwriting teams in Hollywood, Lowell Ganz, along with writing partner of Babaloo Mandel, penned some of the biggest hits of the 1980s and 1990s. After receiving his start in television on shows like "The Odd Couple" (ABC, 1970-75), "Happy Days" (ABC, 1974-1984) and "Laverne and Shirley" (ABC, 1976-1983), Ganz partnered with Mandel and embarked on an incredibly successful feature career that benefited from frequent collaborations with producer Brian Glazer and director Ron Howard, starting with "Night Shift" (1982). Ganz and Mandel went on to write huge hits like "Splash" (1984) and "Parenthood" (1989), while also faltering with more mundane projects like "Gung Ho" (1986) and the Cyndi Lauper vehicle "Vibes" (1988). Ganz and Mandel had perhaps their greatest success, both critically and commercially, with "City Slickers" (1991) and followed up with the warmhearted comedy about a forgotten piece of history, "A League of Their Own" (1992). The pair saw their creative success falter when they went back to the well on the inevitable sequel "City Slickers II: The Legend of Curly's Gold" (1994) before striking out with rather mediocre offerings like "Multiplicity" (1996) and "Father's Day" (1997). Following a period where they wrote uncredited drafts of several high-profile projects, Ganz and Mandel reemerged with "Robots" (2005) and "Fever Pitch" (2005), both of which displayed the comic touch that was on full display during the height of their careers.

Born on Aug. 31, 1948 in Glen Oaks, NY, Ganz was raised by his father, Irving, an arts supply executive, and his mother, Jean. During his brief student career at Queens College, Ganz met his first writing partner, Mark Rothman, whose father was a driver for "The Mike Douglas Show" (syndicated, 1961-1981). Rothman's father happened to be driving Tony Randall to the set and asked the actor if he would read a spec script written by the duo. The actor agreed and the writing team of Ganz and Rothman landed a tryout to write for "The Odd Couple" (ABC, 1970-75) on the condition that they move to Los Angeles. Ganz and Rothman dropped out of college and promptly moved to the West Coast, only to find themselves fired from the show after taking the job. Luckily they were rehired by producer Garry Marshall and eventually became regular writers on the show, with Ganz working his way up to head writer. After leaving the show, Ganz became a supervising producer on the classic series "Happy Days" (ABC, 1974-1984) before co-creating two spin-offs, the equally popular "Laverne and Shirley" (ABC, 1976-1983) and the short-lived curiosity, "Joanie Loves Chachi" (ABC, 1982-83), often cited as one of the most ill-conceived spinoffs of all time.

Ganz had his first executive producer credit on the quickly canceled Adam Arkin sitcom, "Busting Loose" (CBS, 1977) before receiving his first directing credit for his work on pal Garry Marshall's sitcom "Angie" (ABC, 1978-1981). Continuing his collaboration with Marshall, Ganz tried to tap into the disco craze with "Makin' It" (ABC, 1979), a short-lived sitcom about two diametrically opposed brothers (David Naughton and Greg Antonacci) who spend their nights at a club called The Inferno. In 1981, Ganz's partnership with Rothman was officially dissolved, leading him to form another with Marc "Babaloo" Mandel, whom he met at the famed Comedy Store in Los Angeles. With his new partnership formed, Ganz switched from television to features and embarked on arguably the most successful comedy writing career of the 1980s and 1990s. The pair made the first of many collaborations with producer Brian Grazer and director Ron Howard on their feature debut, "Night Shift" (1982), a comedy about a soft-spoken morgue attendant (Henry Winkler) whose quiet shifts at night get turned upside down when his overeager assistant (Michael Keaton) convinces him to use the morgue as a brothel. The film became a cult hit and made a star out of the outlandish Keaton.

Ganz and Mandel reunited with Grazer and Howard on "Splash" (1984), a romantic comedy about a man unlucky in love (Tom Hanks) who falls in love with a strange, beautiful woman (Darryl Hannah) who happens to be a mermaid that saved him from drowning when he was eight years old. Both a critical hit and huge box office success, "Splash" also earned Ganz and Mandel an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay. The pair took a step back with the John Landis comedy, "Spies Like Us" (1985), which followed two loser CIA agents (Dan Aykroyd and Chevy Chase) who are suddenly thrust into the Cold War after cheating on their service exams. Despite the promise of the two stars and occasional laughs, the film failed to become a smashing success. Moving on, Ganz and Mandel wrote "Gung Ho" (1986) for Ron Howard and Brian Grazer, a culture-clash comedy about an American automobile factory taken over by the Japanese at the behest of the plant's wheeler-dealer foreman (Michael Keaton). The film spawned a short-lived series, "Gung Ho" (ABC, 1986-87), which involved virtually none of the original cast from the feature.

Following the commercial failure of Cyndi Lauper's feature debut "Vibes" (1988), Ganz and Mandel had one of their biggest hits of the time, "Parenthood" (1989), an ensemble comedy chronicling the pratfalls of being a parent as seen from differing points of view, including a father and mother (Steve Martin and Mary Steenburgen) dealing with their high-strung son (Jasen Fisher), and a single mom (Dianne Wiest) trying to raise her moody son (Leaf (Joaquin) Phoenix) and independent-minded daughter (Martha Plimpton) on her own. "Parenthood" was another huge score for the writing team, earning over $100 million in domestic box office gross while receiving near unanimous praise from critics. Ganz and Mandel followed up with another big hit, "City Slickers" (1991), a genuinely funny and sincere comedy about a down-and-out middle-aged urbanite (Billy Crystal) who is convinced by his two best pals (Bruno Kirby and Daniel Stearn) to go on a cattle drive in rural Montana, where they meet a rough-and-tumble cowboy (Jack Palance) who ends up teaching them a thing or two about life. Once again, Ganz and Mandel scored a huge hit with critics and audiences, while also brushing against Oscar glory when Palance won a statute for Best Supporting Actor.

For their next project, Ganz and Mandel collaborated with Crystal again on the actor's directorial debut, "Mr. Saturday Night" (1992), an unfortunately bland comedy-drama about a comedian (Crystal) whose self-destructive behavior keeps him from rising above his five-decade long mediocrity. The duo rebounded nicely with "A League of Their Own" (1992), a heartwarming comedy about the formation of an all-female professional baseball league to fill in the gap left by men fighting in World War II. Starring Tom Hanks as a recovering alcoholic struggling to manage his misfit team which includes Geena Davis, Rosie O'Donnell and Madonna, Mandel and Ganz scored a big hit artistically and creatively. Though bogged-down by a maudlin second half, director Penny Marshall nonetheless crafted a funny and poignant film about an often neglected part of modern history. After soft-peddling a potentially dark and satirical comedy, "Greedy" (1994), starring Michael J. Fox, the pair wrote the inevitable sequel, "City Slickers II: The Legend of Curly's Gold" (1994), which failed to capture the warmth, laughs and box office dollars of its predecessor.

In another collaboration with Crystal, Mandel and Ganz penned the script to "Forget Paris" (1995), the actor's second venture as director, which told the tale of an NBA referee (Crystal) who travels to Paris to bury his deceased father and meets an airline attendant (Debra Winger) whom he marries mere days later. After two relative box office failures with "Multiplicity" (1996) starring Michael Keaton, and "Father's Day" (1997) with Robin Williams, the duo became two of several writers who shared credit on the screenplay for "Stuart Little" (1999), the story of a little mouse with a big heart who searches for a sense of belonging and a place to call home. The hybrid animation and live-action feature raked in a ton of box office cash and spawned the sequel, "Stuart Little 2" (2002), for which Ganz and Mandel were uncredited for their work. Meanwhile, the writing team ventured into cultural satire with Ron Howard's "EDtv" (1999), which depicted an Everyman (Matthew McConaughey) whose world is turned upside down when his life is recorded on camera 24 hours a day for a foundering cable station. With obvious comparisons to "The Truman Show" (1996), "EDtv" failed to dig deeper into that familiar territory.

After penning the sentimental coming-of-age drama, "Where the Heart Is" (2000), Ganz and Mandel spent the next few years performing uncredited rewrites on a number of high-profile projects. Emerging five years later, they returned to the fore with two sharp hits, "Robots" (2005), an animated adventure about an idealistic robot (Ewan McGregor) who travels to the Big City with the hope of making his clanky, mechanical world a better place, and "Fever Pitch" (2005), a romantic comedy about a rabid Boston Red Sox fan (Jimmy Fallon) who finds his new relationship with a corporate executive (Drew Barrymore) suddenly deteriorating once baseball season starts. Though nowhere along the lines of "Parenthood" and "City Slickers," both movies announced a return to form that had been lacking in the latter half of the previous decade. But any good will they earned soon evaporated when they once again found themselves as members of a larger screenwriting committee on "The Tooth Fairy" (2010), a ridiculous, albeit successful comedy in which Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson played a tough-as-nails hockey player sentenced to hard labor as a real tooth fairy for discouraging a youngster's dreams.

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