'Laverne & Shirley' star Cindy Williams dies at 75: 'One of a kind'
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."
Speaking to People. Ron Howard said he was "shocked" by Williams's death and recalled his time working with her on American Graffiti and Happy Day and her "big sister energy."
"I'm shocked because I hadn't seen her for years and years. We connected at an event in Palm Springs [California] last year, and I was just so taken by how her intelligence, energy, and sense of humor … was still in high gear. And so it's really a shock to imagine that spark is gone.
"In American Graffiti, she was 24 and I was 18, and I had my first kissing scenes with her, but they weren't very romantic because she knew that she had this nervous kid on her hands and she had to take charge of the situation," he said.
"And so she was like, 'Here's how we got to kiss for the camera. Here's what we have to do.' She's always had almost a big sister energy around me."
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 poured in from Williams's peers on Monday night as news of her death made headlines.
I hate this so much. I just hate it! 💔 Oh how I loved Cindy Williams. When I was blessed to meet her on the set of @TheOddCoupleCBS she was as lovely as I always imagined she’d be. #Dammit #LaverneAndShirley Actor #CindyWilliams Dead at 75 https://t.co/Xw19icbpVL via @TMZ
— yvette nicole brown (@YNB) January 31, 2023
Oh Shirl❤️🩹❤️🩹❤️🩹..#CindyWilliams #RipLegend https://t.co/RzDFcAD4by
— Joely Fisher (@MsJoelyFisher) January 31, 2023
Sad to hear the passing of Cindy Williams.
If there is an afterlife, may you and Penny be pouring a Shotz beer and Milk and Pepsi with Garry, David, Eddie and Phil. pic.twitter.com/MYERLOgZsG
— Danny Deraney (@DannyDeraney) January 31, 2023