For seven seasons on ABC, Penny Marshall and Cindy Williams played working class single besties and roommates on Laverne & Shirley. Penny’s sadly passed away on Dec. 18 at the age of 75 from complications from diabetes, and now Cindy, 71, is paying tribute to her longtime co-star. “What an extraordinary loss. My good friend, Penny Marshall is gone – one in a million. Utterly unique, a truly great talent. And, oh what fun we had! Can’t describe how I‘ll miss her,” Cindy told HollywoodLife in a statement issued by her rep.
The ladies starred as Laverne DeFazio and Shirley Feeney, who worked as bottle cappers at the fictitious Milwaukee’s fictitious Shotz Brewery in the 1950’s set sitcom. The show — which was a spin-off from it’s lead in Happy Days — aired from 1976 through 1983. The two characters were polar opposites yet best friends, and the show was so popular that it was America’s most-watched comedy in it’s third season, eclipsing it’s launching pad Happy Days.
Penny eventually moved into directing major feature films, including the iconic comedies such as 1988’s Big and 1992’s A League of Their Own. But it was on Laverne & Shirley where she got to get a taste of what life was like behind the camera, directing four episodes of the show. Cindy has continued with a long career in acting, with appearances on shows such as 7th Heaven, Law & Order: SVU, Sam & Cat, and CBS’ The Odd Couple reboot.
Penny’s Happy Days co-stars immediately mourned the loss of Penny upon hearing the news of her passing. Henry Winkler, who played Arthur “The Fonz” Fonzarelli released a statement that read “” first met Penny one month after having arriving here in LA. I was a guest star on a TV pilot she was working on. The next time we worked together was on that iconic episode of Happy Days. She was so inventive, so funny and so warm. She brought her own unique brand of humor to what was on the written page. Watching her playing Laverne, I remember thinking, ‘Wow, she has just created the 20th Century Lucille Ball.'”
Ron Howard, who played Richie Cunningham and like Penny went on to a prolific film directing career, tweeted “#RIPPennyMarshall She was funny & so smart. She made the transition from sitcom star to A List movie director with ease & had a major impact on both mediums. All that & always relaxed, funny & totally unpretentious. I was lucky to have known & worked with her.”