Hollywood director and Laverne and Shirley star Penny Marshall dies at 75

    1 of 3 2 of 3

      A Hollywood star who broke through gender boundaries on TV and film both in front and behind the camera has died.

      Actor, director, and producer Penny Marshall succumbed to complications from diabetes on December 17 at her home in Hollywood Hills, according to reports. She was 75 years old.

      Marshall became a household name in the role of Laverne DeFazio on the TV series Laverne and Shirley. A spin-off from Happy Days, the sitcom, which ran for eight seasons from 1976 to 1983, focussed on two single working female roommates, with Cindy Williams playing the role of Shirley Feeney.

      The show, noted for its physical comedy, was part of a number of TV series focused on independent women.

      Penny Marshall

      It was on Laverne and Shirley that Marshall gained experience working in the director's chair for a few episodes.

      She then went on to transition to the big screen, making her feature directorial debut with the 1986 spy action-comedy Jumpin' Jack Flash, starring Whoopi Goldberg.

      What followed were a string of Hollywood hits, including Big (1988), starring Tom Hanks; Awakenings (1990), starring Robert De Niro and Robin Williams; A League of Their Own (1992), starring Geena Davis, Rosie O'Donnell, and Madonna; and more.  

      Big was reported to be the first film by a female director to gross $100 million while Awakenings was only the second film directed by a woman to receive an Oscar nomination for best picture.