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Cindy Williams, Star of ‘Laverne & Shirley,’ Dies at 75

Cindy Williams, the actress best known for her role on the 1970s slapstick sitcom “Laverne & Shirley,” died on Wednesday in Los Angeles. She was 75.

Ms. Williams died after a brief illness, her assistant, Liza Cranis, said by phone Monday, adding that she had passed away “peacefully.” No cause was given.

With Penny Marshall, Ms. Williams starred in the sitcom, which ran from 1976 to 1983 and was a spinoff of the television show “Happy Days.” It followed two young single women working at a Milwaukee brewery in the 1950s. Ms. Williams played Shirley Feeney, an upbeat and demure complement to Ms. Marshall’s brash Laverne.

“Laverne & Shirley,” ran for eight seasons and, for several years, was among the highest-rated shows in the country. Ms. Williams appeared in more than 150 episodes but left in the final season of the show, following considerable on-set tension between herself and Ms. Marshall. Ms. Marshall died in 2018, also at the age of 75.

Ms. Williams is survived by her children, Emily and Zak Hudson, who, in a statement on Monday, described their mother as “one of a kind,” noting their mother’s sense of humor and “glittering spirit.” They added, “We have always been, and will remain, SO proud of her.”

Before Ms. Williams debuted in the role that would most define her career, she was cast in the 1973 George Lucas film “American Graffiti.” For her portrayal of Laurie in the film, she earned a nomination for a Best Supporting Actress from the British Academy Film Awards. The following year, she was cast in the Francis Ford Coppola film “The Conversation.” Both “American Graffiti” and “The Conversation” garnered Best Picture nominations at the Academy Awards.

Later in her career, Ms. Williams also guest-starred on well-known television shows such as “Law and Order: SVU” and “7th Heaven” and earned several stage credits, including a brief stint on Broadway as Mrs. Tottendale in “The Drowsy Chaperone.”

But she was best known for “Laverne & Shirley,” a series that was spun off from a 1975 episode of “Happy Days.” The hit comedy tracked two odd ball young roommates who worked as brewery assembly-line workers in 1950s Milwaukee.

Born in the Van Nuys neighborhood of Los Angeles, Ms. Williams became interested in acting during high school and attended Los Angeles City College, where she majored in theater arts, according to biographies provided by Ms. Cranis. She worked at a pancake house, as well at Hollywood’s Whisky a Go Go nightclub, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Her early television roles included parts on “Room 222,” “Nanny and the Professor” and “Love, American Style.”

She wrote a memoir in 2017 and completed a national theater tour of a one-woman show: “Me, Myself and Shirley” last year. In the show, she chronicled her life in Hollywood, as well as her relationship with Ms. Marshall.

“You couldn’t slip a playing card in between us, because we just were in rhythm,” she said last year in an interview with NBC. “I couldn’t have done it with anyone else.”

“I think the best part of the show, to be honest, is the audience,” Ms. Williams said. “I get a big kick when the audience laughs at things.”

Sheelagh McNeill contributed research.

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