LOS ANGELES (AP) — Cindy Williams, one of America’s most popular stars of the 1970s and ’80s for her role as Shirley opposite Penny Marshall’s Laverne on the beloved sitcom “Laverne & Shirley,” has died, her family said Monday.
Williams died Wednesday in Los Angeles at age 75 after a short illness, his children, Jack and Emily Hudson, said in a statement released by family spokeswoman Lisa Granis.
“The passing of Cindy Williams, our kind, hilarious mother, has left us with an insurmountable sadness that cannot really be expressed,” the statement said. “It was our joy and privilege to know and love her. She was kind, beautiful, generous and had a wonderful sense of humor and a sparkling spirit that everyone loved.
Williams worked with some of Hollywood’s most elite directors during her film career, appearing in George Cukor’s 1972 “Travels with My Aunt”, George Lucas’ 1973 “American Graffiti” and Francis Ford Coppola’s “The Conversation” before moving full-time to television. ” since 1974.
But she’s best known for “Laverne & Shirley,” the “Happy Days” spinoff that ran on ABC from 1976 to 1983, making it one of the most popular shows on TV.
Williams played Shirley Feeney in the show about a pair of blue-collar roommates who worked on the assembly line of a Milwaukee brewery in the 1950s and ’60s, opposite Marshall’s more free-spirited Laverne DeFazio.
“They’re beloved characters,” Williams told The Associated Press in 2002.
DeFazio is quick-tempered and defensive; Feeney was naive and trusting. The actors drew on their own lives for plot inspiration.
“At the beginning of every season we take inventory of what talent we have,” Marshall told the AP in 2002. “Cindy could touch her tongue to her nose, and we used that on the show. I did a tap dance.
Williams told the AP in 2013 that she and Marshall have “very different personalities,” but stories of the two clashing while making the show “were a little overwhelming.”
The series is a rare network hit about working-class characters, with its self-empowering opening theme: “Give us any opportunity, we’ll take it; teach us any rule, and we’ll break it.”
That opening would become as popular as the show itself. Williams and Marshall’s chant of “Schlimiel, Schlimazel” as they skipped together became a cultural phenomenon and often evoked nostalgia.
Marshall, whose brother Garry Marshall, co-creator of the series, died in 2018.
The show starred Michael McKean and David Lander as Laverne and Shirley’s oddball hangers-on Lenny and Squeaky. Lander died in 2020.
Due to declining ratings in the sixth season, the characters relocated from Milwaukee to Burbank, California, trading a job as a bartender for a job at a department store.
In 1982, Williams became pregnant and wanted to reduce her working hours. As her demands went unfulfilled, she left the set and filed a lawsuit against its production company. She made an occasional appearance in the final season.
Williams was born in 1947 in the Van Nuys area of Los Angeles, one of two sisters. His family moved to Dallas soon after his birth, but returned to Los Angeles, where he began acting while attending Birmingham High School and majoring in theater. of Art at LA City College.
Her acting career began with small roles on television in 1969, appearing in “Room 222,” “The Nanny and the Professor” and “Love, American Style.”
His role would become a defining role in Lucas’ “American Graffiti.” The film pioneered a nostalgia boom in the 1950s and early 1960s. “Happy Days,” starring his “American Graffiti” co-star Ron Howard, will premiere next year. The characters of Laverne and Shirley made their first television appearances as Henry Winkler’s Fonzie’s dates before getting their own show.
Lucas considered her for the role of Princess Leia in “Star Wars,” which went to Carrie Fisher.
Williams has made guest appearances on dozens of television series over the past three decades, including “7th Heaven,” “8 Simple Rules” and “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.” In 2013, she and Marshall appeared in the “Laverne & Shirley” tribute episode of the Nickelodeon series “Sam and Kate”.
Last year, Williams appeared in a one-woman stage show full of stories from her career, ” Me, Me and Shirley,” at a theater in Palm Springs, California, near his home in Desert Hot Springs.
Williams was married to Bill Hudson, lead singer of the band Hudson Brothers, from 1982 to 2000. Hudson fathered her two children. He was previously married to Goldie Hawn and is the father of actor Kate Hudson.
Follow AP Entertainment Writer Andrew Dalton on Twitter: https://twitter.com/andyjamesdalton