We mourn those closest to us when they die: parents, relatives, family, friends. When a leader or athlete dies, an obituary is good; it's something to share.

Sometimes, though, the one who passes on was very special indeed. Special? Let's say extra-crispy. I'm talking about someone who touched us again and again and again and made us laugh and cry all the way, and we want to know more. Who was he? Was he a good man? Did he love his work as much as we did?

Yes, he did. This is the truth about Garry Marshall. He was the best man I ever knew. He acted and wrote books and scripts, and filmed movies and television shows. He cared about his cast and crew and fans, and he was loyal forever. He had a magnificent visual way of shooting stories, and oh, folks, he loved it all very much.

I love show business, too, and I've met some good souls along the way, but I adored Garry Marshall more than anyone else. It's not even close. The best thoughts you have of him are all true, and some of my biggest smiles were the ones where the phone would ring, and it was Garry saying, "I've got another thankless part for you!"

Everything funny in his movies came from Garry. Many directors interest us and keep the plates spinning, but Garry Marshall is the only one who had his characters learn and made us love them, who added affection to beauty and made it gorgeous, who changed endings and made us cheer.

His sets were happy. This is very important. Most sets in studios or on location are as tense as a court martial, because the director has no idea how to open his heart and run things with a smile.

I was in something once (I don't want to use names or embarrass people). It was shot in New England, and the star was mean and cruel. On the first shot of the movie—the first shot!—we were outdoors, and there was an extra small camera set up under the main one, and the star scraped it with his foot as he walked by in the shot.

Then he lost his mind.

He screamed at the twenty-year-old cameraman on the ground with the small camera (who had done nothing wrong!), and the cameraman turned white. Then the star screamed at the director and everyone he could see. Then he screamed at the young cameraman and threatened him again and again and again. Then he stormed over to the director and insisted the cameraman be fired immediately.

The star wasn't nervous or demanding, he was just a giant blankety-blank, and everyone knew it. The whole outdoor set of eighty people was silent, and the star looked like a vampire.

What would you do? First shot of the first scene, you're the director, and this has happened. There are many choices to calm the set, take a break, read the star the riot act (or call the studio and send him packing)…and, incidentally, save the movie. There were many ways to go.

Our director chose the worst one. He walked over to the camera, told the young man to stand up and fired him. Right there. The poor kid shuffled off looking shellshocked, and we went on with the first scene. Want to guess how it went?

Of course, for the next two months of shooting, the crew, the cast, the caterers, the drivers, photographers and every other human being there were as silent as the crypt. From the second that kid was fired the set in New England had all the lightheartedness of a concentration camp. It ruined every day of production.

Oh, and the movie stunk.

Whew. I have many other stories like this. Bad directors make bad movies.

I always ask one of the Teamsters who picks me up at the airport, "Is it a happy set?"

Garry Marshall would never do anything like that. Every Garry Marshall movie was a happy set. I swear, you could tell just from seeing a crew member walk by with a light or an assistant director sign you in or a hair artist pouring coffee.

Garry's sets were calm and happy and let him find all the comedy and all the love. When a scene was finished, and he yelled, "Cut!" people would grin, and the crew would laugh. Julie Andrews would smile and chat, and Richard Gere would tell a funny story, and the make-up and wardrobe people would do their work.

And Garry kept thinking. Please understand why that's so important. Keeping a set free from lunacy gave Garry Marshall all the think time he needed to find things he would like, and the movie would like, and the audience would like. He did it all the time, and his movies showed it.

It's not just comedy, either.

How do you show Richard Gere and Julia Roberts falling for each other in Pretty Woman before they even know it?

Do you show them making out in bed in a hot and heavy way? No, of course not. Other directors would, but that's because they have no imaginations. Making out in bed has never "shown" anything, and it never will.

How did Garry do it? Gere is picking her up at the hotel because that night is their big dinner with Ralph Bellamy and his grandson at a fancy restaurant. (This is the man Richard is buying out to sell his shipping company in pieces, and Julia's character was nervous enough earlier in the day that she asked the hotel manager, Hector Elizondo, for a lesson in which fork to use.)

So Gere comes into the hotel, doesn't see her, checks his watch, and gets the message she'll be waiting for him in the bar. He walks in there and looks around, but we see she's on a bar stool with her back to the camera, and—such good directing—she turns and sees him just as he turns away to keep looking.

We know before they do. She gets up, heads over to him, and here's the way the scene plays.

Richard turns and sees her, and he's visibly impressed at how good she looks. She approaches and playfully says:

"You're late."

(Sincere) "You're stunning."

(Big smile) "You're forgiven!"

Now, that's good writing and good acting, it's the sweetest moment in the world, it takes something small and makes it big, she slips her arm in his, and they walk out.

But there's more, a cherry on top. We cut to them walking through the lobby, but what do we see? A zillionaire with his hooker?

No. We see what a great director wants us to see: a lovely couple in a fancy hotel dressed up like royalty, holding hands and going to a big dinner…and behind them we see good background actors, female clerks at the desk and bellmen in uniforms, and they're all looking at them and smiling. They already like her, and they already like him, and so do we.

This is the Garry Marshall way: Tell the whole story in every scene. Let the audience know before the characters know.

There's one more thing, though, the most important part of movies. No one talks about it, because they can't do it. Garry Marshall could, and it held up everything he ever made.

He knew romance and comedy and sadness and love and sweetness and hope, but he knew something else. He knew how to mix them all together and make…

Entertainment. Let me tell you what that means. It means showing us enough about the characters to care and understand and hope. Everyone watching Pretty Woman is thinking, "Oh, come on, come on, she's the girl for you…"

Everyone is watching Vivian (Julia's character) and thinking, "Don't just give in. Stand up to him. Be yourself. Be strong."

Everyone is watching hotel people help and friends get closer (and Beverly Hills store managers kiss a little butt—well, I had to mention it, didn't I?) and wants them all to keep pushing the couple forward. Together.

It's funny and sweet and pointed and sad and the tiniest bit possible, and when Richard finally drives to her place with the opera music playing, and gets her flowers and climbs up the fire escape into her arms and says, "So, after the knight rescues her, what happens then?"

Julia smiles and says, "She rescues him right back."

That's entertainment. If you're not fully happy as those credits roll, you don't love movies.

It doesn't mean blowing up buildings or having elaborate car chases, it means bringing the audience into your tale and making them care, and satisfying them forever. It means giving them laughs and tears and fear and victory in the same story.

It means Garry Marshall.

Thank you, pal. Thanks for a bunch of good work. Thanks for lessons that never stop teaching. Thanks for the big hellos and chats every time I ran into you and Barbara. Thanks for asking my advice and giving me yours.

Thanks for making the country so happy with your work.

No one saw things like Garry Marshall, but I think we're all glad he did.

And remember: I'll bet God loves a happy ending, too.

Larry Miller is a writer, actor, and comedian living in Los Angeles and the host of The Larry Miller Show, a podcast.