Cindy Williams, who played Shirley opposite Penny Marshall’s Laverne on the popular sitcom “Laverne & Shirley,” has died. She was 75. Her death was confirmed by a family spokesperson, Liza Cranis, who said Williams “passed away peacefully after a short illness” on Wednesday, Jan. 25, in Los Angeles.
Williams’ credits included the films “American Graffiti” and “The Conversation.” But she was by far best known for playing Shirley Feeney on the ABC sitcom “Laverne & Shirley.” The show, a spinoff of “Happy Days,” was one of the most popular shows on television in its prime. It ran from 1976 to 1983.
“Laverne & Shirley” was known almost as much for its opening theme as the show itself. Williams’ and Marshall’s chant of “schlemiel, schlimazel” as they skipped together became a cultural phenomenon and oft-invoked piece of nostalgia.
Williams played the straitlaced Shirley to Marshall’s more libertine Laverne on the show about a pair of roommates that worked at a Milwaukee bottling factory in the 1950s and 60s. Marshall, whose brother, Garry Marshall, co-created the series, died in 2018.
“The passing of our kind, hilarious mother, Cindy Williams, has brought us insurmountable sadness that could never truly be expressed. Knowing and loving her has been our joy and privilege,” said a statement released by her children. “She was one of a kind, beautiful, generous and possessed a brilliant sense of humor and a glittering spirit that everyone loved.”
Williams was born in Van Nuys, California, and began her acting in the early 1970s by appearing in commercials, including for Foster Grant sunglasses and TWA, according to her bio on the Hollywood Walk of Fame website.
She received her star, along with Marshall, in 2004 in a “rare and fun double ceremony,” the Walk of Fame said in a statement inviting fans to place flowers on Williams’ star starting Tuesday at noon.