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Cindy Williams mourns friend and costar Penny Marshall: 'Utterly unique, a truly great talent'

Cindy Williams mourns friend and costar Penny Marshall: 'Utterly unique, a truly great talent'
Actresses Penny Marshall, left, and Cindy Williams in an undated publicity photo. (Paramount Pictures / Associated Press)

“Laverne & Shirley” star Cindy Williams mourned the loss of her costar Penny Marshall following Marshall’s death this week.

“What an extraordinary loss. My good friend Penny Marshall is gone — one in a million,” the 71-year-old said in a statement to The Times on Wednesday.

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“Utterly unique, a truly great talent. And, oh what fun we had! Can’t describe how I’ll miss her,” she added.

Marshall died Monday at 75 following complications from diabetes. Williams was among the droves of celebrities who remembered the sitcom star, who went on to direct movies including “Big,” “A League of Their Own” and “The Preacher’s Wife.”

The women became household names after 1975, when their characters appeared on “Happy Days” for a double date with Richie (Ron Howard) and Fonzie (Henry Winkler). Prior to that, Williams had appeared in George Lucas' 1973 nostalgic coming-of-age comedy “American Graffiti” and Francis Ford Coppola's 1974 film “The Conversation.” Marshall was a semi-regular on “The Odd Couple.”

Cindy Williams, left, and Penny Marshall in "Laverne & Shirley" in 1976.
Cindy Williams, left, and Penny Marshall in "Laverne & Shirley" in 1976. (Globe Photos / Zuma Press)

The “Happy Days” spinoff, “Laverne & Shirley,” was co-created by Marshall’s brother, the late Garry Marshall, and it followed the escapades of two blue-collar roommates working in a Milwaukee brewery when it launched on ABC in January 1976.

The broad physical comedy was reminiscent of Lucy Ricardo and Ethel Mertz’ high jinks on “I Love Lucy” and aired until 1983. But Williams only stayed on the sitcom through 1982, when its final season began. Amid some tension between the stars and her own pregnancy, Williams left the series.

“When it came time for me to sign my contract for that season, they had me working on my due date to have my baby,” Williams told the “Today” show in 2015. “And I said, ‘You know, I can’t sign this.’ And it went back and forth and back and forth, and it just never got worked out.”

At the time, she sued Paramount TV and producer Garry Marshall for $20 million, claiming that they “welshed” on a promise to accommodate her pregnancy and still pay her $75,000 per episode plus a piece of the profits.

“The lawsuit is settled, and everything is copacetic,” Williams told The Times in 1985.

The actresses reconciled shortly after that, with Williams telling “Entertainment Tonight” during a cast reunion n 2015 that she and Marshall were like family.

“It’s like an Italian family at a dinner table on Sunday and somebody doesn’t pass the celery properly,” Williams said. “There’s always going to be arguments.”

Williams said happiness “was everyone’s goal” on the show, and such was the case for herself and Marshall.

“I go to Penny’s house, I get in bed with her and we watch TV. She’s like my sister,” Williams told “ET.”

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