Penny Marshall, who I fell in love with as a kid on “Laverne & Shirley,” has passed away.
According to her publicist, Penny died on Tuesday from complications from diabetes. She was also diagnosed with brain and lung cancer in 2009.
Penny was 75.
Marshall earned fame — but, incredibly not even one Emmy nomination — for playing the wisecracking Laverne DeFazio on the Happy Days spinoff created by her brother. Laverne & Shirley, which aired for eight seasons from 1976-83, centered on the escapades of two romantically challenged Milwaukee brewery workers, with Cindy Williams co-starring as Marshall’s idealistic roommate, Shirley Feeney.
She directed a handful of episodes of the sitcom, then was approached to step in as a last-minute replacement for Howard Zieff to helm the feature comedy Jumpin’ Jack Flash (1986), starring Whoopi Goldberg.
For her next film, she hit comedic pay dirt with Big (1988), the magical Tom Hanks starrer about a boy who wakes up in the body of an adult. Co-produced by James L. Brooks, who brought the script to her, it was the first film directed by a woman to gross more than $100 million (about $198 million in today’s dollars) domestically.
Another great Marshall comedy, A League of Their Own (1992), a fictional account about the real-life All-American Girls Professional Baseball League organized during World War II, also starred Hanks (as well as Geena Davis, Rosie O’Donnell and Madonna) and broke through the $100 million barrier as well.
My condolences to the Marshall family.
Rest in peace, Penny.