‘Laverne & Shirley’ star Cindy Williams dead at 75

Cindy Williams, who played Shirley opposite Penny Marshall’s Laverne on the popular sitcom “Laverne & Shirley,” has died, her family said Monday.

Williams died in Los Angeles at age 75 on Jan. 25 after a brief illness, her children, Zak and Emily Hudson, said in a statement released through family spokeswoman Liza Cranis.

“The passing of our kind, hilarious mother, Cindy Williams, has brought us insurmountable sadness that could never truly be expressed,” the statement said. “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 also starred in director George Lucas’ 1973 film “American Graffiti” — a role for which she received a BAFTA Best Supporting Actress nomination — and director Francis Ford Coppola’s “The Conversation” from 1974.

But she was by far best known for the ratings hit “Laverne & Shirley,” the “Happy Days” spinoff that ran on ABC from 1976 to 1983 that, in its prime, was among the most popular shows on TV.

Penny Marshall (left) and Cindy Williams starred in the "Happy Days" spinoff "Laverne & Shirley."
Penny Marshall (left) and Cindy Williams starred in the “Happy Days” spinoff “Laverne & Shirley.”
©ABC/Courtesy Everett Collection

Betty Garrett, Eddie Mekka, Penny Marshall, and Cindy Williams appear in an episode of "Laverne & Shirley."
Betty Garrett, Eddie Mekka, Penny Marshall, and Cindy Williams appear in an episode of “Laverne & Shirley.”
Courtesy Everett Collection

Golden Globe-nominated Williams played the straitlaced Shirley to Marshall’s more libertine Laverne on the show, which depicted roommates who were blue-collar workers at a Milwaukee bottling factory in the 1950s and ’60s.

“We sort of had telepathy,” Williams said of working with Marshall in a 2013 interview for the TV Academy Foundation. “If we walk into a room together and if there’s something unique in the room, we’ll see it at the same time and have the same comment about it. We were always just like that.”

Creator Garry Marshall — Penny’s brother, who died in 2018 — discovered a niche that he was ready to explore.

“There are no shows about blue-collar girls on the air,” he said in a 2000 interview with the Television Academy. He recalled how sold the concept to then-ABC honcho Fred Silverman.

“He said, ‘It’s on! What’s its name?’” Marshall recalled. “I said, ‘Laverne & Shirley.’ ‘Good, I love it!’”

“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.

With Post wire services.