Cindy Williams dead: Laverne and Shirley star dies aged 75

Heartfelt tributes have been made to the late American Graffiti star (Picture: Universal Pictures / Avalon)

Cindy Williams, best-known for starring in Happy Days and its spin-off Laverne & Shirley, has died at the age of 75.

Her death was confirmed by her family’s spokesperson, Liza Cranis, who explained in a statement that she had suffered from a ‘short illness’.

The late actor died in Los Angeles, the same Californian city where she was born, and is said to have ‘passed away peacefully’.

Cranis also shared a statement released by Williams’ children, Emily and Zak Hudson, who emphasised the ‘insurmountable sadness’ that they’re feeling over their mother’s death.

‘The passing of our kind, hilarious mother, Cindy Williams, has brought us insurmountable sadness that could never truly be expressed,’ the statement sent to Entertainment Tonight read.

‘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.’

Penny Marshall and Cindy Williams in Laverne and Shirley

Penny Marshall, who played Laverne, died in 2018 aged 75 (Picture: The Hollywood Archive/Avalon)

The siblings continued: ‘We have always been, and will remain, SO proud of her for many things… her lifelong mission to rescue animals, her prolific artistry, her faith, and most of all, her ability to make the world laugh!

‘May that laughter continue in everyone, because she would want that. Thank you for loving our Mom, she loved you too.’

Born Cynthia Jane Williams on August 22 1947, the late star was born in Los Angeles, before moving to Dallas, Texas with her family as a child and then back to the City of Angels when she was 10.

Having studied at Los Angeles City College with a theatre major, Williams’ first TV work included roles in Room 222, Barefoot in the Park and My World and Welcome to It in the late 1960s to early 1970s, while she also starred in commercials broadcast nationwide.

Cindy Williams

Williams made her Broadway debut in 2007 (Picture: Nancy Kaszerman / Avalon)

Williams also appeared in films including Gas-s-s-s, Drive, He Said, Beware! The Blob, The Conversation and American Graffiti in her early career, the last of which earned her a Bafta nomination.

From 1975 until 1979, she starred as Shirley Feeney in Happy Days, a role she reprised in the spin-off series Laverne & Shirley from 1976 to 1982.

Shirley’s friend Laverne De Fazio (Penny Marshall), was one of the dating interests of Arthur ‘Fonzie’ Fonzarelli (Henry Winkler).

For her performance in Laverne & Shirley, Williams was nominated for a Golden Globe award in 1978, while the show also spawned an animated series called Laverne & Shirley in the Army, which aired from 1981 to 1982.

Cindy Williams

Williams received her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2004 (Picture: Michael Williams/Avalon)

Williams also enjoyed a career in theatre, joining the casts for the national tours of productions including Grease and Deathtrap, and making her Broadway debut in 2007 in The Drowsy Chaperone.

She was married to musician and actor Bill Hudson of The Hudson Brothers from 1982 to 2000, with the couple sharing their two children together, Emily and Zachary.

Tributes have been made in Williams’ honour, with film director Ron Howard praising her ‘unpretentious intelligence, talent, wit and humanity’.

‘We were paired as actors on 6 different projects. #AmericanGraffiti a couple of dramas & then #HappyDays & #laverneandshirley Lucky me. RIP, Cindy,’ he said on Twitter.

The Mandalorian star Rosario Dawson reshared a video of the opening theme for Laverne & Shirley, writing: ‘Singing this song with so much gratitude for both of you ladies. Absolute gems. United again… Rest in Paradise Cindy Williams.’

‘Loved #LavernandShirley! Knew that opening so well. RIP #cindywilliams 😢🙏🏼Condolences to her loved ones,’ added The Book of Boba Fett’s Ming-Na Wen, while comedian Dante tweeted: ‘This one hurts. I was lucky enough to be in a movie with her and she also signed my diary on an airplane one time and wrote a really funny story in it. Heartbreaking. What a soul. Rest in peace.’

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