Actress and director Penny Marshall, best known for her role as Lavern on the '70s an '80s sitcom "Laverne & Shirley" and directing feature films such as "Big" and "A League of Their Own," passed away on Monday (Dec. 17) at her home in the Hollywood Hills. She was 75.
Michelle Bega, a spokesperson for the Marshall family, confirmed to the Los Angeles Times that Marshall died from complications from diabetes.
Born in the Bronx in New York in 1943, Marshall began her acting career in commercials and with a small role on the television series "That Girl." In 1970, she joined the cast of "The Odd Couple," which was executive produced by her brother Garry Marshall.
Marshall's big break came in 1976 with the "Happy Days" spinoff "Laverne and Shirley," in which Marshall played the spirited Laverne DeFazio. The show, which followed the lives of two best friends working at a Milwaukee brewery in the '50s, became one of the most watched television shows in America. Marshall and her costar Cindy Williams represented working class, blue-collar women at a time when that wasn't often featured on television.
Following "Laverne and Shirley," Marshall went on to direct several successful feature films such as the 1988 Tom Hanks film "Big," 1992's "A League of Their Own," 1996's "The Preacher's Wife" and 2001's "Riding in Cars With Boys."
Marshall broke barriers as a director. With "Big," she became the first female director to direct a film which grossed over $100 million at the box office, a feat she would top again with "A League of Their Own."
She also produced several movies, such as the 2005 films "Cinderella Man" and "Bewitched."
Marshall is survived by her sister Ronny, her daughter Tracy Reiner and three grandchildren.