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

(1947-08-22)August 22, 1947
Died January 25, 2023(2023-01-25) (aged 75)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Education Birmingham High School
Alma mater Los Angeles City College
  • Actress
  • producer
Years active 1970–2023
Known for Laverne & Shirley
Happy Days
American Graffiti
(m. 1982; div. 2000)
Children 2

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 sitcom Happy Days (1975–1979), and Laverne & Shirley (1976–1982). She also appeared in American Graffiti (1973) and The Conversation (1974).

Early life

Williams was born in the Van Nuys district of Los Angeles, California, on August 22, 1947. The family moved to Dallas, Texas when she was a year old and returned to Los Angeles when she was ten years old. She had one sibling, a sister named Carol Ann.

Williams wrote and acted during childhood at a church and later acted at Birmingham High School, graduating in 1965. She attended Los Angeles City College where she majored in theater .


After college, Williams began her professional career by landing national commercials, which included Foster Grant sunglasses and TWA. Her first roles in television, among others, were on Room 222, 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. 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; 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 it was played by Carrie Fisher.

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

In 1975, Williams was cast as a fun-loving brewery bottle capper, 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" 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. They would reconcile many years later. 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.

In 1985 she starred in the sci-fi comedy UFOria alongside Fred Ward and Harry Dean Stanton, a movie that was already completed in 1981 but not released until 1985.

In 1990, Williams returned to series TV in the short-lived sitcom Normal Life and, a couple 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). 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, and 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.

Cindy Williams 2017
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 originated by Georgia Engel.

Williams reunited with Penny Marshall on the TV series Sam & Cat in the episode "#SalmonCat" (2013).

In 2015, her memoir Shirley, I Jest! (co-written with Dave Smitherman) was published. In the same year, Williams engaged in celebrity branding for the senior citizen service Visiting Angels.

Personal life

Williams was married to Bill Hudson of the musical trio Hudson Brothers in 1982. The marriage ended in divorce in 2000. Together they have two children: a daughter, Emily (born 1982) and a son, Zachary (born 1986). Williams was a Roman Catholic.


Following a brief illness, Williams died in Los Angeles on January 25, 2023, at the age of 75.As of the time of death, she had a net worth of $10 million.



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
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


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)
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
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

See also

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