Penny Marshall, ‘Laverne & Shirley’ Actress, Dies at 75

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Penny Marshall in Laverne & Shirley

Penny Marshall, who rose to fame as Laverne DeFazio in the sitcom Laverne & Shirley and subsequently became a renowned director, died yesterday (Dec. 17) in her Hollywood home due to complications of diabetes. Her death was confirmed by family members. Marshall was 75.

Laverne & Shirley, which co-starred Cindy Williams as Shirley Feeney, premiered on ABC-TV in January 1976 as a spinoff of Happy Days and ran for eight seasons, signing off in May 1983. Marshall’s Laverne and Williams’ Shirley played brewery workers in 1950s Milwaukee until its sixth season, when its setting was changed to Burbank, Calif., in the 1960s.

The duo signed a record deal in 1976

By its third season, Laverne & Shirley was the most-watched television program in America, and was nominated for both Emmys and Golden Globes. The series was so hot, the pair even signed a record deal.

Born Carole Penny Marshall in The Bronx in New York City, on Oct. 15, 1943, the actress’ family was involved in the entertainment industry. She began her on-screen career in commercials before signing on for a role in the children’s program H.R. Pufnstuf. She was also featured in programs such as The Odd Couple (her brother Garry Marshall, who died in 2016, was a producer of that program) and That Girl.

Related: Stars paid tribute to Penny Marshall’s brother Garry Marshall following his 2016 death

Penny Marshall in a recent photo

Following her years on Happy Days and Laverne & Shirley, Marshall appeared in a number of films before shifting into directing, making her directorial debut in 1986 with Jumpin’ Jack Flash, the first film directed by a woman to gross more than $100 million. Her other directing credits included Big (1988), Awakenings (1990, nominated for a Best Picture Oscar), A League of Their Own (1992), Renaissance Man (1994), The Preacher’s Wife (1996) and Riding in Cars With Boys (2001). She no longer directed after that, but continued to act in films into the present decade, often in cameos or uncredited roles.

Watch a memorable scene in Big

She was married twice—her second husband was director/actor Rob Reiner.

Watch the opening of Laverne & Shirley

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