Penny Marshall dead at 75, best known as TV’s Laverne, Report

Penny Marshall dead at 75, best known as TV's Laverne, Report
Penny Marshall dead at 75, best known as TV's Laverne, Report

Penny Marshall, best known as Laverne from the sitcom “Laverne & Shirley,” died Monday. She was 75.

“Yes she did (die) … peacefully at her Hollywood Hills home,” her publicist Michelle Bega said, The New York Daily News reported.

Marshall died from complications from diabetes.

“Our family is heartbroken over the passing of Penny Marshall,” her family said in a statement. “Penny was a tomboy who loved sports, doing puzzles of any kind, drinking milk and Pepsi together and being with her family. As an actress, her work on ‘Laverne & Shirley’ broke ground featuring blue-collar women entertaining America in prime time.

“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.”

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Marshall later found success behind the camera, directing hits such as “Big” and “A League of Their Own.”

“She was a comedic natural with a photographic memory and an instinct for slapstick,” her family’s statement said. “When Penny directed Tom Hanks in the movie ‘Big’ she became a pioneer as the first woman in history to helm a film that grossed more than $100 million. She did it again with ‘A League of Their Own.’

“She directed many stars including Geena Davis, Robert De Niro, Whoopi Goldberg, Robin Williams, Madonna, Denzel Washington, Rosie O’Donnell and Whitney Houston. She even gave Mark Wahlberg his first acting job.”

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She was born in the Bronx, New York City, on Oct. 15, 1943.

Born into a family in the entertainment industry, Marshall began her career at the age of 3 as a tap dancer.

She attended the University of New Mexico for 2.5 years, where she became pregnant with daughter Tracy Reiner. She married Tracy’s father, Michael Henry, in 1961, but they divorced two years later.

In 1967, Marshall moved to Los Angeles, joining brother Garry Marshall.

She married Rob Reiner in 1971. The two later divorced.

Marshall first appeared on TV in a Head and Shoulders commercial. She was cast to portray a “homely girl” with unattractive hair. Farrah Fawcett had been cast as the “pretty girl” in the commercial.

Upon seeing Marshall’s reaction to her character, Fawcett crossed out “homely” and wrote “plain.”

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Marshall starred in ABC’s hit sitcom “Laverne & Shirley” with actress Cindy Williams. The show aired from 1976 to 1983.

As a filmmaker, she became the first woman to direct a film that grossed more than $100 million with “Big,” the 1988 comedy starring Tom Hanks.

She also directed “A League of Their Own,” ”Jumpin’ Jack Flash” and “Awakenings.”

Rosie O’Donnell, who starred in “A League of Their Own,” shared a memory on Twitter of a Kmart commercial she and Marshall appeared in during the 1990s.

The family said a celebration of her life will be held at a later date to be announced.

She is survived by her older sister, Ronny; daughter, Tracy Reiner; and three grandchildren, Spencer, Bella and Viva.