Laverne & Shirley Star and Director Penny Marshall Dies at 75

Penny Marshall, whose successful Hollywood career took her from hit sitcom star to a director of blockbuster films, has died at 75.

Marshall died Monday night from diabetes-related complications.

She began her career as an actress, most memorably in Laverne & Shirley, where she played Laverne DeFazio, who toiled in a Milwaukee brewery alongside friend and roommate Shirley (Cindy Williams).

But Marshall then transitioned to directing hit movies like 1988’s Big, which was the first film directed by a woman to make more than $100 million in the U.S., 1990’s Awakenings (only the second film directed by a woman to be nominated for a best picture Oscar) and 1992’s A League of Their Own.

The Marshall 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.”

Marshall first broke out in the early ’70s on The Odd Couple sitcom, co-developed by her brother Garry, as Myrna Turner, Oscar Madison’s secretary. She was later cast alongside Marshall in an episode of Happy Days (also created by Garry), and the duo’s chemistry was so successful that they were spun off into their own hit show, which debuted in 1976 and ran on ABC for eight seasons.

The Bronx-born Marshall, who had directed a few Laverne & Shirley episodes, then segued to directing films like Jumpin’ Jack Flash, Big, A League of Their Own and The Preacher’s Wife.

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More recently, she returned to TV, directing episodes of series like United States of Tara and According to Jim, and made guest appearances on comedies like Portlandia and the recent The Odd Couple reboot.

Marshall starred in a few memorable ads over the years, including a 1996 campaign for Kmart alongside Rosie O’Donnell, whom she befriended while filming A League of Their Own.

She also appeared in a 2005 stroke PSA for the American Stroke Association.


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