Cindy Williams, who played the perky, positive Shirley in the hit ’70s sitcom “Laverne & Shirley,” has died, the Associated Press reported Monday. She was 75.
According to the Associated Press, Williams’ children Zak and Emily Hudson confirmed the news through a statement to the publication. Williams reportedly passed away in Los Angeles on Wednesday, following a short illness.
“The passing of our kind, hilarious mother, Cindy Williams, has brought us insurmountable sadness that could never truly be expressed,” the statement to the AP reads. “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 originally played her most famous character of Shirley Feeney in three episodes of “Happy Days” Season 3, with her and her roommate, the more tomboyish Laverne DeFazio (Penny Marshall), serving as friends and supporting characters for the show’s breakout character the Fonz (Henry Winkler).
The two were quickly spun out into their own series, featuring the two as bottle-cappers at a Milwaukee brewery. “Laverne & Shirley” ran for eight seasons from 1976 to 1983, rivaling “Happy Days” for success, and saw Williams and Marshall act alongside a large ensemble cast that included Michael McKean, David Lander, Eddie Mekka, Phil Foster, Betty Garrett, and Leslie Easterbrook.
Marshall, whose brother Gary Marshall co-created “Laverne & Shirley” died in 2018.
Williams was born in Los Angeles in 1947, and grew up in the city and Dallas, Texas. After studying theater at Los Angeles City College, she began her acting career with parts in TV shows such as “Barefoot in the Park,” “Love, American Style,” and “Hawaii Five-O.” In 1972, she starred in the George Cukor film “Travels with My Aunt,” and in 1973 she starred in the ensemble cast of George Lucas’ “American Graffiti” with “Happy Days'” Ron Howard, receiving a BAFTA nomination for Best Supporting Actress. She reprised her role in the sequel “More American Graffiti,” and also played a supporting part in Francis Ford Coppola’s “The Conversation.”
Following “Laverne & Shirley’s” success, Williams briefly voiced the character in an animated spinoff “Laverne & Shirley in the Army.” Throughout the years, she remained a frequent guest presence on sitcoms like “CHiPs,” “8 Simple Rules,” and “Girlfriends,” and reunited with Marshall in a 2013 episode of Nickelodeon series “Sam & Cat.”
On stage, Williams performed in the national tours of shows like “Grease,” “Deathtrap,” and “Moon Over Buffalo.” In 2007, she made her Broadway debut starring in “The Drowsy Chaperone” at the Marquis Theatre.
Williams is survived by her children Zak and Emily Hudson, from her ex-husband, actor and musician Bill Hudson.
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