Penny Marshall, best known as the star of the Happy Days spin-off Laverne and Shirley, has passed away at the age of 75. In addition to her roles on screen, Marshall, throughout her more than six-decade-long career in Hollywood, also directed such successful box office hits as Big and A League of Their Own. The news of Marshall's passing was confirmed by her publicist Michelle Bega, who had this to say in a statement.
"Yes she did (die) ... peacefully at her Hollywood Hills home. She passed away from complications from diabetes."
Penny Marshall, born Carole Penny Marshall, named for actress Carole Lombard, was born on October 15, 1943. The sister of the late Gary Marshall, also an acclaimed writer/producer/director, she got her start, with the help of her big brother, when she was cast as Myrna Turner on The Odd Couple. That led to several appearances on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. However, it was her next big, recurring gig that would spawn the role for which Marshall was most closely associated with.
Penny Marshall and actress Cindy Williams were cast as Laverne DeFazio and Shirley Feeney on the hit series Happy Days. Ultimately, their characters were so beloved that the network spun them off and gave them their own series, Laverne & Shirley, which remains one of the most successful spin-offs of all time. Marshall's family had this to say in a statement, referencing the wardrobe that her character Laverne DeFazio was known for.
"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."
Following a very successful run on Laverne and Shirley, which was canceled in 1983, Penny Marshall found that she was being typecast. So, she made the unlikely move to directing and shifted her attention to focus on behind the camera work, which proved to be a decision that would go on to cementer her place as an important figure in cinema history. Marshall had directed several episodes of Laverne and Shirley and 1986's Jumpin' Jack Flash, but it was her 1988 feature Big that made her name. Big was the first movie helmed by a female director to gross more than $100 million at the box office. It also earned Tom Hanks an Oscar nomination for his role and helped to catapult him into superstardom.
Robert De Niro also earned an Oscar nomination for his role in Penny Marshall's follow-up, 1990's Awakenings. Her other most notable work is 1992's A League of Their Own, which was also a massive success at the box office and focused on an all-female professional baseball team formed during WWII. Marshall also directed 1994's Renaissance Man, 1996's The Preacher's Wife and 2001's Riding in Cars With Boys.
In recent years, Penny Marshall didn't spend quite as much time in front of the camera, but she did appear in an episode of The Odd Couple reboot in 2016. And she made a very memorable appearance on Portlandia. On the directing side, Marshall helmed several episodes of The United States of Tara. She also has a documentary, Rodman, which is listed as being in post-production.
10 years ago, Penny Marshall was diagnosed with and treated for both brain and lung cancer. Marshall is also known for her marriage to Rob Reiner. The two were married in 1971 and divorced a decade later. Marshall is survived by her older sister Ronny, a daughter and her three grandkids, Spencer, Bella and Viva. Be sure to check out various social media tributes to the later actress and director below. This news was previously reported by the New York Daily News. RIP, Penny Marshall.