Actress Cindy Williams, Shirley to Penny Marshall’s Laverne, dies at age 75

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Actress Cindy Williams, who played the bubbly, optimistic sidekick to Penny Marshall’s edgier Laverne in the 1970s and ′80s sitcom “Laverne & Shirley,” has died at age 75.

Her children said Monday that she died in Los Angeles 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 children, Zak and Emily Hudson, said in a statement.

“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.”

Williams’ career spanned six decades in film and television, but what put her on the map were the eight seasons she starred opposite Marshall, who died in 2018 at the same age, in the beloved sitcom.

Their characters worked on the assembly line of a brewery in Milwaukee in the 1950s and ′60s, with Williams playing the straight-laced, naive and trusting Shirley Feeney. The character was born on “Happy Days,” which “Laverne & Shirley” was a spinoff of. Marshall, whose brother Gary Marshall co-created the show, played Laverne DeFazio, who was more risqué and streetwise.

The Van Nuys, Calif.-born Williams caught the acting bug in high school, alongside Sally Field, her website says. After majoring in theater arts at L.A. City College, she snagged roles on “Room 222,” “Nanny and the Professor” and “Love, American Style.”

Before those television triumphs, Williams appeared in numerous movies, including George Cukor’s 1972 “Travels With My Aunt,” the 1973 classic “American Graffiti” directed by George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola’s “The Conversation,” from 1974.

Williams also appeared onstage, according to her website, as Miss Lynch in the national tour of “Grease,” and as Mrs. Tottendale in “The Drowsy Chaperone” on Broadway, among many others.

She was still working almost right up until her death and had just finished filming a series.

“My beautiful, sweet, wonderful Cindy Williams has passed away. It’s really too much,” wrote producer and longtime friend Bruce Kimmel, who recently wrapped a show with her for Amazon Prime.

I will miss her like crazy, but I’m just so happy we got to work together one final time and I can’t wait for the show to air — she was funny, charming and brilliant right up to the end. I’ve never known anyone like her.”

“Sami” is set to premiere in April.

With News Wire Services