penny marshall dead

Penny Marshall, the star of the iconic 1970s and 1980s sitcom Laverne and Shirley and the director of beloved classic films like Big and A League of Their Own, has died at the age of 75. She leaves behind her a long and lasting legacy as one of the faces of ’70s television and as one of the most successful female directors in Hollywood history.

The LA Times confirmed with a spokeswoman for Marshall’s family that Marshall died peacefully at her Hollywood Hills home due to complications from diabetes on Monday night. Marshall is survived by her sister Ronny, daughter Tracy Reiner and three grandchildren, Spencer, Bella and Viva.

“Our family is heartbroken over the passing of Penny Marshall,” the Marshall family said in a statement.

Marshall rocketed to fame in the 1970s for her role as the titular Laverne DeFazio in the TV sitcom Laverne & Shirley, for which she earned three Golden Globe nominations. Marshall starred in the Happy Days spin-off from 1976–1983 as the feisty half of a pair of roommates who worked on the assembly line at the Shotz Brewery in Milwaukee in the 1950s. She earned raves for her comedic timing and for portraying one of the few relatable blue-collar female characters onscreen in the ’70s during a time when The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Charlie’s Angels reigned supreme.

“[Viewers] were dying for somebody that didn’t look like Mary Tyler Moore or all the pretty girls on TV,” Penny’s brother Garry Marshall, an executive producer for the series and famed director who died in 2016, once said in an interview for the Archive of American Television. “They wanted somebody who looked like a regular person. And my sister looks like a regular person — talks like a regular person — and Cindy Williams was brilliant as Shirley.”

But Marshall’s star would only rise once she transitioned from appearing in front of the camera to behind the camera. Her second directorial feature, Big, became a massive critical and commercial success, helping to launch Tom Hanks into superstardom and cementing Marshall as the first woman director in Hollywood history to direct a movie that grossed more than $100 million. Her next film, the Robin Williams and Robert De Niro-starring medical drama Awakenings, earned three Oscar nominations, including Best Picture and Best Actor for De Niro.

She would helm another oft-quoted classic A League of Their Own, re-teaming with Hanks for a female-led sports comedy-drama that starred Geena Davis, Rosie O’Donnell, and Madonna. Marshall also went on to direct 1994’s Renaissance Man, 1996’s The Preacher’s Wife, and 2001’s Riding in Cars with Boys.

To cheesily quote one of her own movies, Marshall was in a league of her own. And though her passing is tragic, perhaps she would be the first to tell us, “There’s no crying in baseball!”

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