'Laverne & Shirley' Star Penny Marshall Dies at 75

Actress, comedian and director Penny Marshall, best known for her work on Laverne & Shirley, died at her home Monday night, TMZ reports. She was 75.

The cause of death was reportedly complications from diabetes.

"Our family is heartbroken over the passing of Penny Marshall," Marshall's family said. "Penny was a tomboy who loved sports, doing puzzles of any kind, drinking milk and Pepsi together and being with her family."

penny-marshall_getty-Images Press : Contributor
(Photo: Images Press / Contributor, Getty)

"Yes she did (die) … peacefully at her Hollywood Hills home," her publicist Michelle Bega told the New York Daily News. "She passed away from complications from diabetes."

"Penny was a girl from the Bronx, who came out West, put a cursive 'L' on her sweater and transformed herself into a Hollywood success story," her family said in a statement, referring to the monogrammed wardrobe of Marshall's blue-collar protagonist, Laverne De Fazio.

Marshall shot to fame with her sitcom Laverne & Shirley, in which she played beer bottle capper Laverne DeFazio opposite quirky co-star Cindy Williams, who played Shirley Feeney. The show was a monster hit, spanning from 1976 to 1983.

In 1988, Marshall directed Tom Hanks in Big, becoming the first woman in history to direct a film that grossed more than $100 million. She did it again with A League of Their Own in 1992.

She is also well known for directing the 1990 drama Awakenings starring Robert De Niro and the late Robin Williams.

penny-marshall_getty-Larry Busacca : Staff
(Photo: Larry Busacca / Staff, Getty)

The beloved comedic actress had reportedly been battling serious health issues off and on since around 2009 when she was diagnosed with lung cancer that had spread to her brain.

Marshall and her family, including late director Garry Marshall, grew up across the street from the man she would marry, Rob Reiner.

"When Rob Reiner and I were children, we lived across the street from each other. We never met because the Grand Concourse was a busy street, and we were too young to cross it," Marshall told The Post in 2012.

"He went to PS 8, I went to 80. He moved when he was 7. His father, Carl, was one of the stars on Your Show of Shows, and he was the most famous person in the neighborhood. He was also known for giving out the best Halloween candy," she said.

She and Reiner were married in 1971 until they divorced 10 years later.

Born to tapdance teacher mother Marjorie and director and producer father Tony, Marshall began taking acting lessons at age 3. One of three kids born to a show business family, she landed her breakout role on Happy Days with the help of her brother Garry. Sister Ronny Hallin became a casting director and producer.

Before Laverne & Shirley, she found work in commercials and small roles. In 1971, she landed a recurring part as the nasal secretary Myrna Turner on The Odd Couple, and followed that with two appearances on The Mary Tyler Moore Show.

"I can't act that well, but I can sell a bit," she told The New Yorker in 2012 when promoting her memoir, My Mother Was Nuts. "It's partly the way I talk, but I'm also good with business — going through my purse, looking for my glasses, lighting a cigarette."

Her big break came when Garry cast her and Williams in his show Happy Days, which went on to spawn the iconic spinoff, Laverne & Shirley.


After Laverne & Shirley, she stepped behind the camera as a director. Hanks was nominated for a best-acting Oscar for his role in Big, while De Niro was nominated for the same award for Awakenings.

Marshall's family said plans for a "celebration of her life" will be announced at a later date. She is survived by her older sister Ronny, her daughter, Tracy, and three grandkids — Spencer, Bella and Viva.