Cindy Williams

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Cindy Williams
Cindy Williams.JPG
Williams in a publicity photo for Laverne & Shirley, 1976
Cynthia Jane Williams

(1947-08-22)August 22, 1947
DiedJanuary 25, 2023(2023-01-25) (aged 75)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
  • Actress
  • producer
  • memoirist
Years active1970–2023
Known for
(m. 1982; div. 2000)

Cynthia Jane Williams (August 22, 1947 – January 25, 2023) was an American actress and producer, known for her role as Shirley Feeney on the television sitcoms Happy Days (1975–1979), and Laverne & Shirley (1976–1982). She also appeared in American Graffiti (1973) and The Conversation (1974).

Early life[edit]

Williams was born in Van Nuys, Los Angeles on August 22, 1947.[1] The family moved to Dallas when she was a year old and returned to Los Angeles when she was ten years old.[2] She had a sister named Carol Ann.

Williams wrote and acted at a church during childhood and later acted in productions at Birmingham High School; she graduated in 1965. She attended Los Angeles City College where she majored in theater.[2]


After college, Williams began her professional career by landing national commercials, which included Foster Grant sunglasses and TWA.[2] Her first roles in television, among others, were on Room 222,[2] Nanny and the Professor, and Love, American Style.

Williams accompanied an actor-friend from Los Angeles City College who needed a scene partner for the audition and was also accepted at The Actors Studio West, but rarely attended due to acting commitments.[2][3][4] Williams picked up important film roles early in her career: George Cukor's Travels with My Aunt (1972); as Laurie Henderson, Ron Howard's character's high school sweetheart in George Lucas's American Graffiti (1973) for which she earned a BAFTA nomination as Best Supporting Actress;[5] and Francis Ford Coppola's The Conversation (1974). She auditioned along with thousands of others, for Lucas's Star Wars for the role of Princess Leia, but Leia was ultimately played by Carrie Fisher because Lucas wished to cast unknowns, as in American Graffiti.[6][7]

Williams met Penny Marshall, first on a double date, and later at Francis Ford Coppola’s Zoetrope company.[8] The company hired them as comedy writers, because "they wanted two women"[9][10] on a prospective TV spoof for the Bicentennial.[2] While the two were writing for Zoetrope, Penny Marshall's brother, Garry Marshall, called to ask if they would like to make an appearance on an episode of Happy Days, a television series he produced.[11]

In 1975, Williams was cast as a fun-loving brewery bottle capper,[2] Shirley Feeney, in an episode of Happy Days with Penny who played her best friend and roommate Laverne De Fazio. The girls were cast as "sure-thing"[2][9] dates of Richie and Fonzie (Henry Winkler). Their appearance proved so popular that Garry Marshall, commissioned a spin-off series for the characters of Shirley and Laverne. Williams continued her role on the very successful Laverne & Shirley series from 1976 until 1982. At one point during its run, the series was the number one rated show on television. Williams was praised for her portrayal of Shirley Feeney. She left the show after the second episode of the show's eighth and what would become its final season, after she became pregnant with her first child. The show's various producers were not enthusiastic that Williams was pregnant, as her character Shirley was not pregnant. Williams and co-star Penny Marshall had also been feuding for quite some time on the set long before Williams became pregnant.[12] They would reconcile many years later.[13][14] The success of the TV series led to a short-lived Saturday morning animated series Laverne & Shirley in the Army (1981–82), created by Hanna-Barbera.[15]

In 1979, she reprised her role of Laurie from American Graffiti in its sequel, More American Graffiti.

In 1985, Williams starred in the ABC sitcom pilot Joanna, which aired as a special on April 30th of that year. [16] The premise involved Williams' character, Joanna, following her boyfriend from Los Angeles to New York, only to have him leave her for another woman. Joanna then decides to stay in New York, becoming the operations manager of a trucking company. The pilot was not picked up as a series. That same year, Williams starred in the sci-fi comedy UFOria alongside Fred Ward and Harry Dean Stanton, a movie which was already completed in 1981.

In 1990, Williams starred in an unsold pilot for CBS that was adapted from the 1989 film Steel Magnolias.[17] Williams was cast as M'Lynn Eatenton, the role that was originated by Sally Field in the film. Also in 1990, Williams returned to series TV in the short-lived sitcom Normal Life[18] and, a couple of years later, reunited with former Laverne & Shirley producers Thomas L. Miller and Robert L. Boyett to star in their family sitcom Getting By (1993–94).[19] She guest starred on several television shows, including two episodes of 8 Simple Rules.

Williams performed onstage in the national tours of Grease, Deathtrap, and Moon Over Buffalo as well as a regional production of Nunsense. She reunited with her Laverne & Shirley co-star Eddie Mekka in a November 2008 regional production of the Renée Taylor-Joseph Bologna comedy play It Had to Be You.[20]

Williams in 2017

She made her Broadway debut as daffy Mrs. Tottendale in The Drowsy Chaperone at the Marquis Theatre on December 11, 2007, succeeding Jo Anne Worley in the role which was originated by Georgia Engel.[21]

Williams reunited with Penny Marshall on the TV series Sam & Cat in the episode "#SalmonCat" (2013).[22][23][24] In 2015, her memoir Shirley, I Jest! (co-written with Dave Smitherman) was published.[25] In the same year, Williams engaged in celebrity branding for the senior citizen service Visiting Angels.[26]

Personal life[edit]

Williams was married to Bill Hudson of the musical trio Hudson Brothers in 1982. They had two children and the marriage ended in divorce in 2000.[citation needed]

Williams was a Roman Catholic.[27][28]


After a brief illness, Williams died in Los Angeles on January 25, 2023, at the age of 75.[29][30]



List of Cindy Williams film credits
Year Title Role Notes
1970 Gas-s-s-s Marissa
1971 Drive, He Said Manager's Girlfriend
1972 Beware! The Blob Randy's Girl
1972 Travels with My Aunt Tooley
1973 The Killing Kind Lori Davis
1973 American Graffiti Laurie Henderson Nominated—BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role[2]
1974 The Conversation Ann
1975 Mr. Ricco Jamison
1976 The First Nudie Musical Rosie
1979 More American Graffiti Laurie Henderson Bolander
1983 The Creature Wasn't Nice Annie McHugh
1985 UFOria Arlene Stewart
1985 The Joy of Natural Childbirth Herself
1989 Big Man on Campus Diane Girard
1989 Rude Awakening June Margolin
1991 Bingo Natalie Devlin
1997 Meet Wally Sparks Emily Preston
2002 The Biggest Fan Debbie's Mom
2006 The Legend of William Tell Jillian
2012 Stealing Roses Rose Also associate producer
2018 Waiting in the Wings: Still Waiting Rosie
2020 Canaan Land Talk Show Guest


List of Cindy Williams television credits
Year Title Role Notes
1969–1971 Room 222 Rhoda Zagor / Rita Zagor 3 episodes
1970 My World and Welcome to It Lydia #2 Episode: "Child's Play"
1970 Barefoot in the Park Agnes Episode: "The Marriage Proposal"
1971 Nanny and the Professor 2nd Coed Episode: "The Art of Relationships"
1971 The Funny Side Teenage Wife 6 episodes
1971 Getting Together Cathy Episode: "Cathy's Clown"
1973 Love, American Style Karen Brown / Naomi Brubaker 2 episodes
1974 Hawaii Five-O Sue Reynolds Episode: "Secret Witness"
1974 The Migrants Betty Television film
1974 Cannon June Bowers Episode: "The Stalker"
1975 Insight Flora Episode: "Somewhere Before"
1975 Police Story Joanna Episode: "Test of Brotherhood"
1975–1979 Happy Days Shirley Feeney 5 episodes
1976 Petrocelli Carol Janssen Episode: "Survival"
1976–1982 Laverne & Shirley Shirley Feeney 159 episodes
Nominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Television Series Musical or Comedy (1978)[2]
1977 Saturday Night Live Velocity / Self Episode: "Live from Mardi Gras"
1978 Suddenly, Love Regina Malloy Television film
1979–1980 CHiPs Cindy Williams 2 episodes
1981–1982 Laverne & Shirley in the Army Shirley Feeney (voice) 13 episodes
1982 Mork & Mindy/Laverne & Shirley/Fonz Hour Shirley Feeney (voice) Episode: "The Speed Demon Get-Away Caper"
1985 When Dreams Come True Susan Matthews Television film
1985 Joanna Joanna Weston Television film
1986 Help Wanted: Kids Lisa Burke Television film
1986 The Leftovers Heather Drew Television film
1988 Save the Dog! Becky Television film
1988 Tricks of the Trade Catherine Television film
1990 Perry Mason: The Case of the Poisoned Pen Rita Sue Bliss Television film
1990 Normal Life Anne Harlow 13 episodes
1990 Steel Magnolias M'Lynn Eatenton Television film
1990 Menu for Murder Connie Mann Television film
1991 Earth Angel Judith Television film
1993–1994 Getting By Cathy Hale 31 episodes
1994 Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman Wandamae Episode: "A Bolt from the Blue"
1995 Escape from Terror: The Teresa Stamper Story Wanda Walden Television film
1995 The Laverne & Shirley Reunion Herself Television special
1995 The Magic School Bus Gerri Poveri (voice) Episode: "Ups and Downs"
1996 Touched by an Angel Claire Episode: "Jacob's Ladder"
1996 The Stepford Husbands Caroline Knox Television film
1996 Hope & Gloria Connie Carlucci Episode: "Come Back Lil' Tina"
1999 The Patty Duke Show: Still Rockin' in Brooklyn Heights Sue Ellen Caldwell Television film
2000–2001 Strip Mall Herself 6 episodes
2000–2002 For Your Love Ronnie 3 episodes
2001 Son of the Beach Bobbi Episode: "Grand Prix"
2001 The Brothers García Mrs. Barbacoa Episode: "The Student Buddy"
2002 Laverne & Shirley: Together Again Herself / Shirley Feeney Television special
2002 7th Heaven Vice Principal Val Episode: "The Enemy Within"
2002 Less than Perfect Joan Casey Episode: "Meet the Folks"
2003 8 Simple Rules Mary Ellen Doyle 2 episodes
2004 Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Nora Hodges Episode: "Sick"
2004–2005 Girlfriends Lisa James 2 episodes
2007 Drive House Mother 3 episodes
2012 Strawberry Summer Ruth Yates Television film[31]
2013 Sam & Cat Janice Dobbins Episode: "#SalmonCat"
2016 The Odd Couple Vivian Episode: "Taffy Days"
2016 A Dream of Christmas Jayne 'The Angel' Television film


  1. ^ Lukanic, Steven A (1991). Film Actors Guide. Lone Eagle. p. 421. ISBN 9780943728384.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "CINDY WILLIAMS". Archive of American Television. Retrieved May 18, 2017.
  3. ^ "The Cindy Williams Picture Pages". SuperiorPics.som. Archived from the original on February 3, 2013. Retrieved December 9, 2012.
  4. ^ Garfield, David (1980). "Appendix: Life Members of The Actors Studio as of January 1980". A Player's Place: The Story of The Actors Studio. New York: MacMillan Publishing Co., Inc. p. 278. ISBN 0-02-542650-8.
  5. ^ "BAFTA Awards".
  6. ^ Moore, Frazier (September 10, 2004). "George Lucas and the Trials and Tribulations of a Trilogy: 'Empire of Dreams'". The Beaver County Times. Retrieved December 9, 2012.
  7. ^ "The story of how Harrison Ford's was picked for 'Star Wars'". November 16, 2020. Retrieved January 31, 2023.
  8. ^ "It's the TV Land of milk and honey". Saint Paul Pioneer Press. April 27, 2012.
  9. ^ a b Marshall, Penny (February 5, 2012). My Mother was Nuts: A Memoir. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. ISBN 978-0547892627. Retrieved February 5, 2020 – via Google Books.
  10. ^ "Retro : Reunion of the Milwaukee Madcaps : 'LAVERNE & SHIRLEY' SPECIAL LOOKS BACK AT A SITCOM THAT BROUGHT NOSTALGIA TO THE LATE 70S". Los Angeles Times. May 21, 1995. Retrieved February 5, 2020.
  11. ^ King, Susan (May 22, 1995). "'Laverne & Shirley' Stars Hold Reunion". Albuquerque Journal. p. 14 – via
  12. ^ Brant, Marley (2006). "Triumph and Tribulation". Happier Days: Paramount Television's Golden Sitcoms. New York: Billboard Books. p. 81. ISBN 0-8230-8933-9.
  13. ^ Gostin, Nicki (March 26, 2015). "Penny Marshall talks cancer, abortion, reconciling with 'Laverne & Shirley co-star in new memoir". Fox News.
  14. ^ "'Laverne & Shirley' Star Cindy Williams Spills Show Secrets in New Tell-All". Entertainment Tonight.
  15. ^ "Mork & Mindy / Laverne & Shirley and the Fonz Hour, The @ Toonarific Cartoons".
  16. ^
  17. ^ "Things Even Die-Hard Steel Magnolias Fans Probably Don't Know About the Classic | Southern Living".
  18. ^ "Citizens' Voice 31 Mar 1990, page 52". March 31, 1990. Retrieved January 31, 2023.
  19. ^ "South Florida Sun Sentinel 04 Mar 1993, page Page 67". March 4, 1993. Retrieved January 31, 2023.
  20. ^ "Laverne & Shirley" Stars Williams and Mekka to Reunite for It Had to Be You Archived November 3, 2008, at the Wayback Machine from Playbill
  21. ^ "Doing It Her Way: Cindy Williams to Get Drowsy Beginning Dec. 11" Archived December 7, 2007, at the Wayback Machine from Playbill
  22. ^ Bibel, Sara (June 26, 2013). "Penny Marshall and Cindy Williams to Reunite on Nickelodeon's 'Sam & Cat'". TVbytheNumbers. Archived from the original on June 28, 2013. Retrieved June 26, 2013.
  23. ^ "'Laverne & Shirley' stars reunite on Nick comedy". June 26, 2013.
  24. ^ "Laverne & Shirley Stars Penny Marshall, Cindy Williams To Reunite On Nickelodeon's Sam & Cat". Yahoo!TV. June 26, 2013.
  25. ^ "Why did Cindy Williams leave Laverne with no Shirley?".
  26. ^ "Visiting Angels Tailored in Home Care Featuring Cindy Willams." I Spot.TV. Accessed August, 5 2017.
  27. ^ "With Her New Nunsense Touring Show, Cindy Williams Kicks WITH a Habit". The Huffington Post. May 14, 2012.
  28. ^ "Cindy Williams sees a bit of 'Laverne & Shirley' in 'Nunset Boulevard'". The Daily Times.
  29. ^ "'Laverne & Shirley' actor Cindy Williams dies at 75". Associated Press. January 30, 2023. Retrieved January 30, 2023.
  30. ^ Pedersen, Erik (January 30, 2023). "Cindy Williams Dies: 'Laverne & Shirley' Star Who Appeared In 'American Graffiti' & 'The Conversation' Was 75". Deadline. Retrieved January 30, 2023.
  31. ^ "Classic Hollywood: 'Strawberry Summer' pairs Shelley Long, Cindy Williams". Los Angeles Times. August 20, 2012. Retrieved January 31, 2023.

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