Cindy Williams, the actress best known for playing Shirley Feeney in US sitcoms Happy Days and Laverne & Shirley, has died at the age of 75.
The actor and comedy writer passed away at her home in Los Angeles on January 25 following a brief illness.
A family spokesperson, Liza Cranis, confirmed the news and provided a statement from Williams’ children, Zak and Emily Hudson (Entertainment Weekly).
It read: “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. She was one of a kind, beautiful, generous and possessed a brilliant sense of humour and a glittering spirit that everyone loved.”
Williams shot to fame as brewery bottle-caper Shirley Feeney in Laverne & Shirley. She starred opposite Penny Marshall, who played her roommate and best friend Laverne De Fazio.
The two characters were first introduced on Happy Days in 1975 as dares for Richie Cunningham (Ron Howard) and Fonzie (Henry Winkler).
The pair proved to be so popular that Happy Days creator Garry Marshall gave Laverne and Shirley their own spin-off series, which ran from 1976 to 1983 on ABC.
Williams left the sitcom in its eighth and final season when she became pregnant with her first child.
Working across television, film and theatre, Williams also notably featured in George Lucas’s American Graffiti as Laurie Henderson, the high school girlfriend of Ron Howard’s Steve. She also appeared in Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation as Ann, who is spied upon by surveillance expert Harry Caul (Gene Hackman).
Williams’ breakout role came opposite Maggie Smith in George Cukor’s Travels with My Aunt. She has previously starred in series such as Room 222, Nanny and the Professor, and Love, American Style.
After Laverne & Shirley, she predominately worked on stage, appearing in tours of Grease, Deathtrap, The Odd Couple, and Steel Magnolias.
Williams was also reportedly one of the many actresses to audition for the role of Princess Leia in Star Wars.