Cindy Williams death: Star of ‘Laverne and Shirley’ dies age 75

The star of the iconic sitcom died following a brief illness, according to a statement from her family

Alex Woodward
Tuesday 31 January 2023 08:33 GMT
Laverne & Shirley star Cindy Williams passes away aged 75

Cindy Williams, the “Shirley” half of the hit television sitcom Laverne & Shirley, has died after a brief illness at age 75, according to a statement from her family

Her children, Zak and Emily Hudson, said in a statement to the Associated Press that the passing of their “kind, hilarious mother” has brought the family “insurmountable sadness that could never truly be expressed”.

“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,” according to the statement.

Williams, who starred opposite Penny Marshall’s Laverne on the iconic eight-season sitcom, also starred in classics American Graffiti and the Best Picture-nominated 1974 thriller The Conversation.

A guest appearance as Shirley with Marshall as the wise-cracking Laverne on ABC’s massive Happy Days proved so popular that the duo starred in their own spin-off series, following the friends’ lives as roommates in a basement apartment and bottle-capping co-workers at Shotz Brewery in Milwaukee.

Laverne & Shirley – with its broad physical comedy and signature “Schlemiel! Schlimazel! Hasenpfeffer Incorporated” opening sequence – ran for eight seasons from 1976 to 1983, becoming the most-watched show on television by its third season. It also received six Golden Globe nominations and one Emmy nomination.

Penny Marshall, left, and Cindy Williams pictured in 1979.
Penny Marshall, left, and Cindy Williams pictured in 1979. (AP)

“We made sure the joke was always on us, we never made fun of anyone else,” she remembered in a 2021 interview. “We also wanted to keep the wolf nipping at our heels, like, ‘how are we going to pay the rent, how are we going to pay the electric bill.’ So we kept it grounded in that. We also made sure it was extremely funny to us.”

Williams left the show in its eighth season when she became pregnant with her first child.

“When it came time for me to sign my contract for that season, they had me working on my due date to have my baby,” she told the Today show in 2015. “And I said, ‘You know, I can’t sign this.’ And it went back and forth and back and forth, and it just never got worked out.”

Williams and Marshall – who died in 2018 – later reconciled after the show went off the air and after Williams had filed a lawsuit against Paramount and producer Garry Marshall, with Williams saying “it’s like an Italian family at a dinner table on Sunday and somebody doesn’t pass the celery properly”.

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“There’s always going to be arguments,” she said, fondly remembering “happiness” on the set and with her co-star: “I go to Penny’s house, I get in bed with her and we watch TV. She’s like my sister.”

Williams, who was born in 1947 in Van Nuys, California, told The Los Angeles Times that she came from a “normal background”, working a range of odd jobs as she pursued a career in acting.

Her memoir, Shirley, I Jest!: A Storied Life, was published in 2015.

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