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Despite Clashes, ‘Laverne & Shirley’ Stars Cindy Williams and Penny Marshall Could ‘Always Make Each Other Laugh’



The death of Laverne & Shirley star Cindy Williams has brought her iconic sitcom work with Penny Marshall back into the spotlight. The film and television star died of a short illness on Jan. 30. However, her legacy of work remains a touchstone of a more innocent era for television fans. Cindy once said that despite many behind-the-scenes clashes, she and Penny could “always make each other laugh.” Their turbulent relationship was legendary, but their friendship remained strong.

Penny Marshall and Cindy Wiliams | ABC Photo Archives/Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty Images

How did Cindy Williams and Penny Marshall meet?

Cindy and Penny met through mutual friends, reported the Los Angeles Times. They were out-of-work actors when Francis Coppola’s Zoetrope company hired them to write a prospective TV spoof for the Bicentennial.

“At the time, they got a lot of comedy writers or people who wanted to be comedy writers,” Williams told The Times in 1995. “However, they wanted two women. We would be assigned a certain aspect of the history of America and write a spoof on that particular aspect of American history.”

Cindy and Penny worked together for a brief period before Penny’s brother, Garry Marshall, asked if they’d like to guest-star on his ABC series, Happy Days. Their characters Laverne DeFazio and Shirley Feeney double-dated with Richie (Ron Howard) and Fonzie (Henry Winkler).

The episode’s popularity led to Laverne & Shirley‘s 1976 launch. The series ran through 1983.

Despite clashes, Penny Marshall and Cindy Williams could ‘always make each other laugh’


On-set clashes between Penny and Cindy were legendary in Hollywood. Radar Online reported the women were so competitive their agents stood in the wings with stopwatches timing how long each one was on camera. “Each was paranoid that the other would be seen as a bigger star,” the outlet reported.

Cindy acknowledged her and Penny’s strained on-set relationship in an interview for Archive of American Television. “The attitude of the characters was real,” she explained. “When she would get upset with me, it would be real. I just let it roll off my back after a while, and [I] didn’t get upset by it.”

“As far as that rhythm [between us] went, as far as that door flying open and both of us being absolutely in sync, I used to say to her, ‘If there were an Olympic event for comedy, I think we’d take the gold.’” However. At the same time, the two had their differences, Cindy said they could “always make each other laugh.”

The ‘Laverne & Shirley’ stars acknowledged their differences were what made their on-camera relationship work

Cindy Williams and Penny Marshall in 'Laverne & Shirley' episode "The Society Party" - Airdate: January 27, 1976.
Cindy Williams and Penny Marshall in the ‘Laverne & Shirley’ episode “The Society Party” | ABC Photo Archives/Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty Images

In a separate clip for the Archive of American Television, Penny said her, and Cindy’s differences made scenes funny.

“Neat and sloppy,” Marshall explained their dynamic, likening it to Oscar Madison and Felix Unger of The Odd Couple. Penny played Myrna, Oscar’s secretary, on the ABC sitcom.

“Some of the best laughs of my life were with that woman. If we made each other laugh, we knew we would make the audience laugh,” Cindy said of Penny. “We were very, very close like that. You couldn’t slip a playing card between us.”

Cindy acknowledged their strained relationship but said they acted professionally when it came to filming Laverne & Shirley. “We had our differences, but not when it came to hitting that stage and doing what we loved doing. It was like [an] instinct with her, like telepathy. I don’t think I’ve had that with anyone else.”

Penny Marshall predeceased Cindy Williams by five years. She died of complications brought on by diabetes on Dec. 17, 2018, at 75.


Source: Cheat Sheet

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