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Penny Marshall Directing A Dennis Rodman Documentary + Effa Manley Project In Development

Penny Marshall Directing A Dennis Rodman Documentary + Effa Manley Project In Development

Lately, she has been working on a documentary about the basketball player Dennis Rodman, some of which she has been shooting via Skype. That came up because a) Ms. Marshall is a big sports fan. (“You can yell and scream at a game and no one’s taking you away in a white coat.”) And b) “I have a little radar to the insane,” she said. “They seek me out. Dennis and his agent asked if I would do a documentary.”

That was from a recent Wall Street Journal profile of actress/producer/director Penny Marshall, on account of the publication of her book My Mother Was Nuts.

I must admit that Penny Marshall’s name probably won’t be the first one I’d think of if I were to come up with a short list of directors for a Dennis Rodman documentary. But as the director of memorable films like Big, Awakenings, A League Of Their Own, The Preacher’s Wife (and several others) says of herself, she’s drawn to the *insane;* or rather, the *insane* are drawn to her – the supposition there being that Dennis Rodman is *insane.*

She doesn’t give anything away, or say when the documentary can be expected; I checked her IMDBPro page, and there’s nothing listed. 

But what I did find there was a a project she has in development to direct titled Effa. I almost ignored it when I looked closer, and read the project’s synopsis whih reads:

Effa Manley is a white woman “passing” as black during segregation. Outspoken, dynamic and beautiful, she crashes through barriers in the male-dominated world of sports as the first woman to own and manage a professional sports team.

The name didn’t immediately ring the bell, so I looked up Effa Manley to learn that she was also the first woman inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame; She co-owned the Newark Eagles baseball franchise in the Negro leagues with her husband Abe Manley from 1935 to 1946, and was sole owner through 1948 after his death.

She was also active during the America civil rights movement and was a social activist. She died in 1981 at 84 years old.

It’s said that Manley’s racial background is not fully known. Her biological parents may have been white, but she was reportedly raised by her black stepfather and white mother, which lead to assumptions that her stepfather was her biological father and therefore many thought she was black – or at least, bi-racial.

This calls for further research.

As of right now, the Penny Marshall project is listed as being “in development” with really not much else, except that Marshall optioned Manley’s story in 2010.

Now that we know about it, we’ll be watching for any developments going forward.

But the Dennis Rodman documentary looks like it’s in full swing. Check out the full Wall Street Journal profile HERE.

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Bob Luke

For more information on Effa Manley see my book – The Most Famous Woman in Baseball: Effa Manley and the Negro Leagues.

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