(RNN) - Penny Marshall, who starred in the hit TV show “Laverne & Shirley” before becoming an acclaimed film director, has died at the age of 75.
Marshall’s publicist, Michelle Bega, said Marshall passed away in her Hollywood Hills, CA, home on Monday due to complications from diabetes.
Marshall starred alongside Cindy Williams in the hit ABC comedy “Laverne & Shirley,” which aired from 1976 to 1983.
Marshall’s iconic role as Laverne DeFazio came when her brother, Gary, needed “fast” women to play friends of Fonzie on Happy Days in 1974. It turned into a spin-off when the guest-starring roles showcased the chemistry between Marshall and Williams and made them an instant hit.
“Our family is heartbroken over the passing of Penny Marshall. Penny was a tomboy who loved sports, doing puzzles of any kind, drinking milk and Pepsi together and being with her family," a family statement said.
As a filmmaker, Marshall became the first woman to direct a film that grossed more than $100 million with “Big,” the 1988 comedy starring Tom Hanks.
She also directed “A League of Their Own,” ″Jumpin’ Jack Flash” and “Awakenings.” Marshall had most recently directed a documentary about Dennis Rodman, called “Rodman,” that is scheduled for release next year.
A number of Hollywood contemporaries of Marshall, including her “Happy Days” castmate Ron Howard, “A League of Their Own” star Rosie O’Donnell, and “Big" star Tom Hanks tweeted their condolences.
Younger luminaries, like director Ava DuVernay, cited her as an inspiration.
Born in 1943 in the Bronx, she was the daughter of a dance instructor who ran her own school, Marjorie Marshall, and Tony Marshall, who ran an industrial film company in New York before later moving to Los Angeles and becoming a TV producer, including for “Laverne & Shirley.”
She graduated from Walton High School in the Bronx before attending the University of New Mexico. At UNM, she met Michael Henry, a football player at the school, whom she married in 1963. They had a daughter, Tracy, and divorced after three years.
The younger sister of actor/director Gary Marshall, Marshall got her first film role in one of his movies, 1968′s “How Sweet It Is!”
Her first major television role came on “The Odd Couple,” a show both her brother and father produced, as Myrna, the secretary of one of the show’s main characters. She stayed on the show for three years.
Around the same time, she married director Rob Reiner. He adopted her daughter Tracy, and they were together from 1971-81.
Reiner tweeted that Marshall “was born with a funnybone and the instinct of how to use it.”
Marshall is survived by her sister Ronny, daughter Tracy Reiner and three grandchildren, Spencer, Bella and Viva, the Los Angeles Times reports.