How Did Penny Marshall Die? New Details On The Tragic Death Of The 'Laverne And Shirley' Star

RIP Laverne.

How Did Penny Marshall Die? Instagram

How did Penny Marshall die? It is a sad day. Beloved actress, comedienne and director Penny Marshall has died at 75. Marshall passed away at her home in the Hollywood Hills. The cause of death is complications from her diabetes. She is perhaps best known for her iconic role of Laverne DeFazio on the sitcom Laverne & Shirley, which ran from 1976 to 1983. She received three Golden Globe nominations for  Best Actress, Television Series Musical or Comedy for her role as Laverne. In 1988 Marshall broke new ground in the overwhelmingly male dominated film business by becoming the first female director to have a $100 million box office gross with Big. Four years later she did that again when A League of Their Own crossed the $100 million mark. Penny had impeccable comedic timing in both her acting and directing careers. She was lucky enough to get to work with her brother Garry and sister Ronny on a number of projects. She will be missed. 


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1. Early life

Carole Penny Marshall was born on October 15, 1943 in the Bronx, New York City, New York. Her mother Majorie was a tap dance teacher who ran the Marjorie Marshall Dance School. Her father, Anthony Marshall was a director of industrial films and a producer. Penny is the sister of beloved actor/writer/director Garry Marshall and television producer Ronny Hallin. She was named Carole after Carole Lombard, her mom's favorite actress. Her middle name was chosen because her sister Ronny was saving her pennies to buy a horse and her mother thought this would console her. Marshall grew up at 3235 Grand Concourse in the Bronx — a very long street that was also the childhood home of Neil Simon, Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren. Marshall began tap dancing at three and later taught tap dancing at her mother's school. She graduated from Walton High School and went to the University of New Mexico to study math and psychology. She got pregnant with her daughter while in college, dropped out and in 1961 married the child's father Michael Henry. The couple divorced two years later. After her divorce, Marshall worked as a secretary, and raised her daughter alone.


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2. Move to Los Angeles

In 1967, Penny moved to Los Angeles to be closer to her older brother Garry. At the time Garry was a writer whose credits included The Dick Van Dyke Show. He offered Penny a role in a movie he had written and was producing. She landed a few small roles including in the television series That Girl, starring Marlo Thomas. In 1970, Garry became the executive producer of The Odd Couple and, knowing his sister's talent, created a permanent role for her in 1971. Penny played Oscar's secretary Myrna Turner for four years. Penny also married Rob Reiner in 1971. In 1975, Garry casted Penny and Cindy Williams to guest star on an episode of Happy Days, which he had created. The episode, called "A Date with Fonzie," introduced the characters Laverne DeFazio and Shirley Feeney. The pair was such a hit with the audience that Garry Marshall created a whole show for them to star in--and the rest is television history.



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3. Her directing career

Marshall became interested in directing and Garry encouraged this ambition. She directed several episodes of Laverne & Shirley as well as other television shows. In 1986 she directed her first feature film, the Whoopi Goldberg movie Jumpin' Jack Flash. Marshall went on to direct a number of feature films including Big, Awakenings, A League of Their Own, The Preacher's Wife and Riding in Cars with Boys. In 2010-2011, she directed three episodes of the Showtime series United States of Tara.



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Penny Marshall married actor/director Rob Reiner in 1971. He adopted her daughter and raised her as his own. Their marriage ended in 1981, but Marshall and Reiner have five grandchildren. She had a brief relationship with Art Garfunkel in the mid 1980s. In fact, he credits Penny with helping him through his depression. They remained friends after they broke up. Garfunkel said of Marshall, "Everything changed. Penny is a sweet human being who can bring anybody down to earth. We had a lot of laughs, great sex, and a ton of party nights." Penny was long time best friends with Carrie Fisher. She was Fisher's daughter Billie Lourd's godmother. Marshall was diagnosed with lung cancer that had metastasized to her brain in 2010, but beat that. She passed away in her home on December 17th due to complications from diabetes. She is survived by her sister Ronny, her daughter Tracy, son-in-law, and five grandchildren.


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Amy Lamare is a Los Angeles based freelance writer covering entertainment, pop culture, beauty, fashion, fitness, technology, and the intersection of technology, business, and philanthropy. She is deeply devoted to her chocolate Labrador and an avid long distance runner. You can find her on Instagram and Facebook.