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Penny Marshall, co-star of 'Laverne & Shirley' and director of 'Big,' dead at 75

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Actress Penny Marshall, who found fame in TV's "Laverne & Shirley" before going on to direct such beloved films as "Big" and "A League of Their Own," has died. She was 75.

Posted: Dec 18, 2018 11:19 AM
Updated: Dec 18, 2018 1:04 PM

(CNN) -- Actress Penny Marshall, who found fame in TV's "Laverne & Shirley" before going on to direct such beloved films as "Big" and "A League of Their Own," has died. She was 75.

Marshall died peacefully in her Hollywood Hills home on Monday night due to complications from diabetes, said Michelle Bega, a spokeswoman for the family.

"Our family is heartbroken over the passing of Penny Marshall," the Marshall family said in a statement.

Marshall, whose real name was Carole Marshall, grew up in the Bronx. Her brother was famed producer and director Garry Marshall, who directed a string of hit movies including "Pretty Woman" and "The Princess Diaries" and died in 2016.

Describing her upbringing, Marshall, who wrote a memoir titled "My Mother Was Nuts," once said, "you had to form a sense of humor or else you'd kill yourself."

"You had to learn what sarcasm was," Marshall told CNN in 2012 while promoting the book.

Marshall's role as outspoken tomboy Laverne DeFazio in the "Happy Days" spin-off "Laverne & Shirley" catapulted the actress to celebrity in the late '70s. Her gift for physical comedy helped earn her accolades, including three Golden Globe nominations.

The show -- co-starring Cindy Williams as Shirley Feeney, Laverne's co-worker in a 1950s Milwaukee brewery -- ran for eight seasons, from 1976 to 1983.

She began her directing career by helming episodes of TV series before landing her first feature-film directing job with the 1986 Whoopi Goldberg action-comedy "Jumpin' Jack Flash." With her second film, "Big," starring Tom Hanks, Marshall became the first woman to direct a movie that grossed more than $100 million.

She repeated that success in 1992 with the film "A League of Their Own," which chronicled a women's baseball league in the 1940s and featured an all-star cast that included Geena Davis and Madonna.

"I'm not an articulate person, but I have a strange combination of insecurity and fearlessness," Marshall once told CNN.

She also directed the films "Awakenings" with Robert De Niro and Robin Williams; "Renaissance Man" with Danny DeVito; "Riding in Cars with Boys" with Drew Barrymore; and "The Preacher's Wife," a remake of the 1947 film, starring Denzel Washington and Whitney Houston.

Marshall was married twice. She had a daughter, Tracy, from her first marriage.

Her second marriage was to actor and director Rob Reiner, who grew up across the street from her in New York City.

"It was a very wide street," Marshall once joked to CNN.

On Tuesday, following news of Marshall's death, Reiner wrote in a statement posted to social media: "I loved Penny. I grew up with her. She was born with a great gift. She was born with a funnybone and the instinct of how to use it. I was very lucky to have lived with her and her funnybone. I will miss her."

A celebration of Marshall's life will be held at a later date to be announced, the family said.

Marshall is survived by her older sister, Ronny; daughter, actress Tracy Reiner; and three grandchildren.

"We hope her life continues to inspire others to spend time with family, work hard and make all of their dreams come true," Bega said.

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