Inside Cindy Williams and Penny Marshall's Relationship Following Laverne & Shirley
They starred on the beloved sitcom Laverne & Shirley for eight seasons from 1976 to 1983, but Cindy Williams’ abrupt exit left Penny Marshall searching for answers.
“It was all insanity,” Marshall told the Archive of American Television in 2016 of Williams’ sudden exit from the show. “I was going out in front of the audience and they said, ‘What happened with Cindy?’ It was a drag. She said they didn’t want her back. There was all this garbage that was said, but no, it was [her husband]… I missed her not being there.”
Williams, who became pregnant with her first child with her husband at the time, Bill Hudson, told the Today show in 2015 that the departure had precedence.
“I had recently gotten married and I was pregnant and I thought I was going to come back and they’d hide me behind benches, couches, pillows, and that wasn’t it,” she said. “When it came time for me to sign my contract for that season, they had me working on my due date to have my baby and I said, ‘I can’t sign this,’ and it went back and forth and back and forth and it just never got worked out.”
While there was momentary strife in their friendship, the duo was quick to overcome their differences.
“It’s like an Italian family at a dinner table on Sunday and somebody doesn’t pass the celery properly,” Cindy told Entertainment Tonight in 2015. “There’s always going to be arguments.”
And in the end, they all had one goal in mind.
“It was a show about happiness and, in the end, that was everyone’s goal,” said Williams. She added, “I go to Penny’s house I get in bed with her and we watch TV. She’s like my sister.”
Marshall died Monday night at her Hollywood Hills home of complications from diabetes. She had previously been diagnosed with brain and lung cancer in 2009 before going into remission by 2012.
“Our family is heartbroken over the passing of Penny Marshall,” her family said in a statement. “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. We hope her life continues to inspire others to spend time with family, work hard and make all of their dreams come true.”
In 1988, with Big, she became the first woman in Hollywood history to direct a movie that grossed more than $100 million at the box office. Two years later, her drama Awakenings earned a Best Picture nomination. And in 1992, she topped $100 million again with A League of Their Own.
“For me, it was just something to do,” Marshall said in 1996, reflecting on how she transitioned from acting to directing. “If I failed, I had my excuse: I was an actress, not a director.”
Penny is survived by her older sister Ronny, daughter Tracy Reiner, and three grandchildren: Spencer, Bella and Viva.