Cindy Williams, the actress best known for playing Shirley Feeney in the 1970s sitcom Laverne & Shirley, has died. She was 75.
Williams died on Wednesday in Los Angeles following a brief illness. Her death was confirmed in a statement from her children, Zak and Emily Hudson. The statement said, “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 humor and a glittering spirit that everyone loved.”
Williams first appeared as Shirley Feeney with Penny Marshall as Laverne DeFazio on Happy Days in 1975. While Laverne and Shirley were initially depicted as women with bad reputations, their characters would become very wholesome on their spin-off. Laverne & Shirley debuted in 1976 and was an immediate hit.
The series ran for eight seasons on ABC from 1976 to 1983. Williams famously left the series before its final season due to a contract dispute with Paramount. Williams was pregnant with her first child. In her contract for the final season, the studio wanted her to work on the due date of her pregnancy. She ended up suing Paramount for $20 million. The lawsuit was eventually settled, and Williams was written off the show.
Before Laverne & Shirley, Williams received acclaim for her performances in 1973’s American Graffiti and 1974’s The Conversation.