Cindy Williams, who played Shirley Feeney on the classic sitcom Laverne and Shirley, died at 75.
Williams died on Wednesday in Los Angeles after a “short illness,” according to her children, Zak and Emily Hudson.
Williams, born on August 22, 1947, in Los Angeles, began his acting career on television in episodes of Love, American Style and Nanny and the Professor.
“The passing of our kind, hilarious mother, Cindy Williams, has brought us insurmountable sadness that could never truly be expressed,” the statement reads, according to the Associated Press. “Knowing and loving her has been both a joy and a privilege for us. She was one of a kind, beautiful, and generous, with a brilliant sense of humor and a sparkling spirit that everyone adored.”
She rose to prominence after appearing in two of the most well-known Hollywood films of the 1970s: she played Laurie Henderson, Ron Howard’s high school girlfriend in George Lucas’ American Graffiti, and she also appeared in Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation.
Her most notable role, however, would not come until after another television appearance. In an episode of Happy Days, Williams and actress Penny Marshall played Laverne and Shirley, a couple of dates for Richie and Fonzie.
As a result of the appearance’s overwhelming popularity, producer Garry Marshall created a spin-off series called Laverne & Shirley. In its third season, after eight seasons and a high level of popularity, the show was named the most-watched program in the country.
One of television’s most well-known intros (“One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven, Eight! The show, which aired from the late 1950s to the middle of the 1960s, followed the adventures of best friends and roommates Laverne DeFazio (Marshall) and Shirley Feeney (Williams).
The two low-income individuals begin their careers as bottle cappers at Milwaukee’s Shotz Brewery. Williams’ Shirley, in contrast to her brassier, more caustic best friend, was the sweeter, more conventional, and more traditional of the two.
The fact that “blue-collar” women were featured in a television series for the first time, as well as the chemistry between Williams and Marshall, contributed to the show’s success.
“We had telepathy,” Williams explained in a 2013 interview. “If we walk into a room together, if there’s something unique in the room, we’ll notice it simultaneously and make the same comment about it. We were always like this.”
However, Williams left Laverne & Shirley in the final season because filming was difficult while she was expecting her first child. After an out-of-court settlement with Paramount, she left the series.
“They had me working on my due date and couldn’t deal with the fact that I needed time off to have a child,” Cindy explained to ET. “I just didn’t end up doing that season of the show.”
Williams and Marshall fought during the show’s final seasons, but they later reconciled.
After taking a break from the entertainment industry to raise her child, she briefly returned to television in the sitcoms Normal Life and Getting By.
She also had success on the stage, appearing in numerous plays and musicals on national tours, as well as The Drowsy Chaperone on Broadway.
Shirley, I Jest!, Williams’ memoir, was published in 2015. She also appeared with Penny Marshall again in a Nickelodeon episode of Sam & Cat.
Marshall died in 2018 at the age of 75. She is “really unique, a truly amazing talent,” according to Williams. That was a lot of fun! I can’t tell you how much I’ll miss her, she told People.
David Lander, who played Squiggy in the series, died in 2020 at 73. Garry Marshall, the show’s creator and Penny’s brother died in 2016 at 81. Only the lead actor, Michael McKean, is still alive and working.
We all grew up watching Laverne & Shirley, and Cindy Williams made a lasting impression as one half of the titular duo.
Please share this story with your favorite Cindy Williams memories.