After battling lung and brain cancer, the light-hearted and feisty actress/comedian Penny Marshall, 75, has passed away at her Hollywood Hills home. The cause of death was cited as complications from diabetes.
Best known as the sassy character Laverne — from the television comedy series Laverne & Shirley — who wore a giant cursive L emblazoned on her shirt, Penny also had a long list of other television and movie roles, some more well-known than others.
But one thing remains true – no one will ever forget the image of Penny, and her co-star Cindy Williams, skipping down the sidewalk, singing for the opening credits of Laverne & Shirley. She costarred as Milwaukee brewery worker Laverne De Fazio in this huge hit that spanned the ’70s and ’80s. Laverne and Shirley were cast as two 1950s working-class roommates who worked on the assembly line at the Shotz Brewery, which is where some hysterical TV scenes were filmed.
“Our family is heartbroken over the passing of Penny Marshall. Penny was a tomboy who loved sports, doing puzzles of any kind, drinking milk and Pepsi together and being with her family,” her relatives shared in a statement.
Born Carole Marshall in the Bronx, Penny took dance lessons from her mom, Marjorie, who ran a tap-dancing school. As part of her mom’s troupe of precision tap dancers, Penny appeared on Ted Mack and the Original Amateur Hour and The Jackie Gleason Show.
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Penny Marshall, the influential actress and filmmaker, has died at age 75. After making a name for herself with recurring roles on ‘The Odd Couple’ and ‘Happy Days,’ she shot to fame with ‘Laverne & Shirley.’ She stepped behind the camera in the Eighties, directing a string of blockbusters: ‘Jumpin’ Jack Flash,’ ‘Big,’ ‘Awakenings’ and ‘A League of Their Own,’ among others. Click the link in our bio to learn more. Photograph by Paramount Television.
She made her film debut in a small part of the 1968 biker film The Savage Seven. At one point at the beginning of her career, Penny appeared in a Head & Shoulders commercial — cast as the plain girl with the lifeless brown hair, opposite the beautiful girl with the gorgeous blond mane. The latter happened to be none other than Farrah Fawcett, reported the L.A. Times.
According to TMZ, Penny’s first recurring role was as Myrna Turner, Oscar Madison’s secretary, on The Odd Couple. Said show was directed by her brother, Garry Marshall. Before Laverne & Shirley made it big, Penny and Cindy also appeared on Happy Days. She also was a regular on the short-lived Paul Sand in Friends and Lovers.
“I’m sure people thought I got parts because my brother was being nice, and at first I probably thought the same thing,” Penny Marshall told the L.A. Times in 1988. “But my brother finally told me, ‘I’m not giving you a job ’cause I’m nice. I’m not that nice.'”
After Laverne & Shirley concluded, Penny held roles on Frasier, Nash Bridges, Bones and Entourage. She also did voice work for different animated series, including The Simpsons and Murder Police. She even filmed a special guest appearance with Cindy on Nickelodeon’s Sam & Cat, per Parade.
Penny wasn’t satisfied with being in front of the camera, though. She directed four episodes of Laverne & Shirley just to get her feet wet, then headed up the pilot for the short-lived 1979 sitcom Working Stiffs. She filled the director’s seat for the movie Big starring Tom Hanks. She became the first woman in history to spearhead a film that grossed more than $100 million. She went on to direct A League of Their Own, The Preacher’s Wife, Jumpin’ Jack Flash and Awakenings. She is credited for giving Mark Wahlberg his first acting job in Renaissance Man.
According to Biography, other movie appearances by Penny include Mother’s Day, New Year’s Eve, Blonde Ambition, Alice Upside Down, Everyone Wants to Be Italian, Looking for Comedy in the Muslin World, Jackie’s Back!, The Hard Way, Movers and Shakers, The Grasshopper and How Sweet It Is!