Cindy Williams, who played Shirley opposite Penny Marshall’s Laverne on Laverne & Shirley, has died at the age of 75. Williams died in Los Angeles after a brief illness, her family announced on Monday.
“The passing of our kind, hilarious mother, Cindy Williams, has brought us insurmountable sadness that could never truly be expressed,” the statement read. “Knowing and loving her has been our joy and privilege. She was one of a kind, beautiful, generous and possessed a brilliant sense of humor and a glittering spirit that everyone loved.”
A Los Angeles native, Williams began her career in the early 1970s with roles on the TV series Room 222, Nanny and the Professor and Love, American Style. She also starred in major films of the era, including George Lucas’ American Graffiti and Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation.
But her big break would come after she and Marshall, after having worked together previously as writers, were asked by Marshall’s brother Garry to guest star on a 1975 Happy Days episode as Shirley Feeney and Laverne De Fazio, two brewery workers who go on a double date with Richie (Ron Howard) and Fonzie (Henry Winkler). Based off the popularity of their appearances on the series, a new spin-off was put into motion, led by Williams and Marshall.
Laverne & Shirley premiered in 1976 and lasted for eight seasons, though after filming two episodes of Season 8, Williams left the series due to a dispute over her pregnancy. Following her departure from the show, Williams appeared on series including Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, 7th Heaven, 8 Simple Rules, Girlfriends, Drive, and the CBS reboot of The Odd Couple.
Williams was nominated as Best Supporting Actress by the BAFTAs for her work in American Graffiti, and also received a Golden Globe nomination in 1978 for her role on Laverne & Shirley. The latter project remains an iconic part of pop culture, referenced in films and TV show including Wayne’s World, Phineas and Ferb the Movie, Mystery Science Theater 3000, The Nanny, and Angie Tribeca.
She is survived by her two children, Zak and Emily Hudson.