Dec. 18, 2018 -- Penny Marshall, best known as a star of the 1970s sitcom "Laverne & Shirley," and director of hit films such as "Big" and "Awakenings," has died at age 75, her publicist announced Tuesday.
Marshall came from Hollywood royalty -- she was the sister of the late writer-producer-director Garry Marshall and first wife to actor-director Rob Reiner of "All in the Family" fame.
Her own big break came in 1976, when she starred as the Laverne character in "Laverne & Shirley" (along with Cindy Williams as her roommate Shirley) for eight seasons. The show was a spinoff of "Happy Days," another hit created by brother Garry.
"People were dying for someone that didn't look like Mary Tyler Moore, a regular person," Gary Marshall said in a 2000 interview with the Archive of American Television. "My sister looks like a regular person, talks like a regular person."
After "Laverne & Shirley" ended, Marshall moved into a field that was relatively new to American women: directing. She quickly turned out a slew of some of the biggest hit movies of the 1980s: "Big", starring Tom Hanks; "A League of Their Own," with Hanks, Geena Davis and Madonna; and "Awakenings," with Robin Williams and Robert De Niro.
Marshall was born in the Bronx in 1943 to father Anthony, who made industrial films and mother Marjorie, a dance instructor, according to The Hollywood Reporter. After high school she went to the University of New Mexico in 1961, but dropped out and had a daughter, Tracy, her only child, in a marriage that lasted just two years.
She moved to Los Angeles in 1967 and decided to look up her brother Garry, who, because of a 10-year age difference, se barely knew.
"He was doing well," she told Tavis Smiley in 2012. "He was writing for Dick Van Dyke and Joey Bishop and every show, so why not to meet him?"
She studied acting and worked as a secretary and in commercials before her first starring TV role as Oscar Madison's secretary in "The Odd Couple." Other stints in TV occurred until she landed the role of Laverne in 1976. The show was the highest-rated TV show for the 1977-78 and 1978-79 seasons.