Cindy Williams, the actress who played Shirley Feeney on the ABC sitcom “Laverne & Shirley,” has died at the age of 75.
Williams’ children, Zak and Emily Hudson, released a statement Monday sharing that their mother had died in Los Angeles on Wednesday after a brief illness.
“The passing of our kind, hilarious mother, Cindy Williams, has brought us insurmountable sadness that could never truly be expressed,” the statement said. “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.”
Cindy Williams starred alongside Penny Marshall in “Laverne & Shirley” for eight seasons, from 1976 to 1983.
The two played roommates, Shirley Feeney and Laverne DeFazio, who worked at a Milwaukee Brewery in the 1950s. After three seasons on the air, “Laverne & Shirley” became the most watched show on television. The show, a “Happy Days” spinoff, would earn six Golden Globe nominations and one Emmy nomination.
Williams got her start on the big screen as a hippie in Travels With My Aunt in 1972. A year later she appeared as the girlfriend of future “Happy Days” star Ron Howard in American Graffiti.
By 1975, Williams had teamed up with Penny Marshall for a project for Francis Ford Coppola’s Zoetrope company when Penny’s brother, director Garry Marshall, hired them to play “fast girls” in an episode of “Happy Days.”
The collaboration was a major career boost for the pair who had immediate chemistry onscreen, Williams once said.
“We sort of had telepathy,” Williams said in a 2013 interview. “If we walk into a room together and if there’s something unique in the room, we’ll see it at the same time and have the same comment about it. We were always just like that.”
Garry Marshall noticed the undeniable onscreen chemistry between Cindy and Penny and pitched the idea of a comedy show starring the pair, saying, “There are no shows about blue-collar girls on the air,” he shared in 2000 of a conversation he had with an ABC exec at the time. “He said, ‘It’s on! What’s its name?’ ‘I said, Laverne & Shirley.’ ‘Good, I love it!’”
As they say, the rest is history. Cindy Williams would become one of television’s most beloved actresses. She was preceded in death by her “Laverne & Shirley” co-star, Penny Marshall who died in 2018, and she show’s director, Garry Marshall who died in 2016.