Funeral services were pending Tuesday for Penny Marshall, who rose to fame portraying street-wise Laverne DeFazio in the 1970s sitcom “Laverne and Shirley” but later became a successful director by helming films such as “Big” and “A League of Their Own.”

Marshall died Monday at her Hollywood Hills home due to complications of diabetes, according to a family spokeswoman. She was 75.

“Our family is heartbroken over the passing of Penny Marshall,” according to a statement from her family.

Born in the Bronx — the sister of eventual director/producer Garry Marshall — Marshall had some small roles on television before her brother cast her as Oscar Madison’s secretary in the TV series “The Odd Couple.” She landed a series of small film roles before landing a lead role in the TV series “Paul Sand in Friends and Lovers.” That role led her to a regular role on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” and ultimately a guest shot on “Happy Days” playing Laverne DeFazio, alongside Cindy Williams as her character’s best friend and roommate, Shirley Feeney.

That role led to the creation of “Laverne and Shirley” — co-created by Garry Marshall — in 1976. The show was a hit, with Marshall’s wise-cracking character famed for wearing an “L” on all of her shirts and blouses. The show ran through 1983.

“She was funny & so smart,” Ron Howard, the “Happy Days” star who also went on to a successful directing career, wrote on Twitter. “She made the transition from sitcom star to A-List movie director with ease & had a major impact on both mediums. All that & always relaxed, funny & totally unpretentious. I was lucky to have known & worked with her.”

Michael McKean, who appeared on “Laverne and Shirley” as Lenny Kosnowski, wrote simply, “I don’t know what to say.”

Marshall did her first directing work on “Laverne and Shirley,” but moved into films by helming Whoopi Goldberg’s “Jumpin’ Jack Flash.” But she established herself as a formidable director with the 1988 Tom Hanks hit “Big,” which made her the first woman to direct a film that earned more than $100 million domestically.

She also directed the Oscar-nominated “Awakenings,” “A League of Their Own,” “The Preacher’s Wife” and “Riding in Cars with Boys.”

“I’m terribly sad to hear the news about Penny passing,” actress Geena Davis, who starred in “A League of Their Own,” wrote. “My heart goes out to (Marshall’s daughter) Tracy Reiner and her family. Penny brought so much joy to so many and will be sorely missed. I will be forever grateful to her for letting me be a part of `A League of Their Own.”’

Rosie O’Donnell, who also starred in the film, wrote on Twitter, “Simply heartbroken,” and shared video of a 1996 Kmart commercial she made with Marshall.

Actor Tom Hanks, who starred in both “A League of Their Own” and “Big,” wrote, “Goodbye, Penny. Man, did we laugh a lot! Wish we still could. Love you.”

Marshall was married for about 10 years to actor/director Rob Reiner in the 1970s.

“I loved Penny,” Reiner wrote on his Twitter page. “I grew up with her. She was born with a great gift. She was born with a funnybone and the instinct of how to use it. I was very lucky to have lived with her and her funnybone. I will miss her.”

Billy Crystal added: “Sad to hear of Penny Marshall’s passing. A great comedienne a terrific director and a dear friend.”

Mark Wahlberg, whose first film role was in the Marshall-directed “Renaissance Man,” said: “Rest in peace, Penny. Such a wonderful, funny and talented lady. Without her support and encouragement, I would not be where I am today. She will be missed.”

She is survived by her sister — TV producer Ronny Hallin — daughter Tracy Reiner and three grandchildren, Spencer, Bella and Viva. Garry Marshall died in 2016.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.