Actress Cindy Williams, here in 2012, has died after a brief illness. (Photo: Getty Images)
Laverne & Shirley and Happy Days star Cindy Williams has died after a “short illness,” her family confirmed on Monday. She was 75. The actress was best known for playing Shirley Feeney opposite Penny Marshall’s Laverne on the beloved sitcoms.
Williams’s children, Zak and Emily Hudson, issued a statement to Yahoo Entertainment saying that Williams passed away peacefully on Jan. 25.
“The passing of our kind, hilarious mother, Cindy Williams, has brought us insurmountable sadness that could never truly be expressed,” family spokesperson Liza Cranis shared on Monday. “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.”
Born just outside of Los Angeles, Williams started acting in high school where she shared the stage with Sally Field, according to the actress’s website. After graduating college, where she majored in Theater Arts, Williams landed her first television roles in Room 222, Nanny and the Professor and Love, American Style. Movie roles followed as she starred in director George Lucas’s classic 1973 film American Graffiti alongside Ron Howard, Richard Dreyfuss and Harrison Ford. The following year, she starred in Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation.
Williams’s biggest break came in 1975 when she was cast in ABC’s Happy Days. Williams’s character Shirley and her best friend Laverne DeFazio (Marshall) went on a double date with Richie (Ron Howard) and Fonzie (Henry Winkler). The duo’s scene-stealing roles led to the spinoff Laverne & Shirley, following the roommates as they worked at a Milwaukee bottling factory in the 1950s and ’60s. Laverne & Shirley ran for eight seasons and was one of the most popular shows on television during its run.
Thanks to Williams and Marshall’s energetic onscreen chemistry, Laverne & Shirley, is widely considered one of the most iconic female friendships in television history. Williams and Marshall remained friends offscreen and appeared together in 2004 for the joint unveiling of the stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. When Marshall, who later directed such films as Big and A League of Their Own, died in 2018 at the age of 75, Williams described it as “an extraordinary loss.”
Williams was still entertaining audiences prior to her death. Last year, she completed a national theater tour of her one-woman show: Me, Myself and Shirley.
Tributes are pouring in from Williams’s peers on Monday night as news of her death made headlines.
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