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‘Laverne’ actress and ‘Big’ director Penny Marshall dies at 75

Penny Marshall attends the SNL 40th Anniversary Special at Rockefeller Plaza on Sunday, Feb. 15, 2015, in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

Penny Marshall, the quirky 1970s TV sitcom star who became a successful Hollywood director, has died, according to her publicist. She was 75.

Marshall rose to fame as Laverne in “Laverne and Shirley,” a successful spin-off of the wildly popular “Happy Days.”

She went on to direct some of Hollywood’s biggest stars in box office hits such as “Big” and “A League of Their Own” with Tom Hanks and “Awakenings” with Robert De Niro and Robin Williams.

“Yes she did (die) … peacefully at her Hollywood Hills home,” her publicist Michelle Bega, told the New York Daily News. “She passed away form complications from diabetes.”

A wide variety of celebrities took to Twitter to pay tribute to Marshall.

Marshall was born Oct. 15, 1943, in New York. Her brother was bigwig TV writer/director/producer Garry Marshall, who died in 2016.

Before becoming a household name, Penny Marshall made occasional appearances on some of the biggest sitcoms of the early ‘70s, including “The Bob Newhart Show,” “The Odd Couple” and “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.”

Her big breakthrough came in 1974 when she got the part of wise-cracking Laverne DeFazio, alongside Cindy Williams’ Shirley Feeney, in an episode of “Happy Days.”

The characters were so well received that they received the first of several spin-offs from the show, which was produced by Garry Marshall.

In their own show, which ran from 1976 to 1983, Laverne and Shirley were best friends and roommates who worked in a Milwaukee brewery.

Marshall was nominated for three Golden Globes for best actress in a TV comedy for “Laverne and Shirley.”

Laverne also appeared in the pilot of a later “Happy Days” spin-off, “Mork & Mindy,” which turned Robin Williams into a huge star.

Marshall would later direct Williams in 1991’s “Awakenings,” an Academy Awards best picture nominee.

By then she’d established herself as a big-time director, having become the first woman to helm a film that earned more than $100 million with the 1988 comedy “Big.”

In it, Hanks earned his first best actor Oscar nomination for his role as teenage boy stuck in the body of an adult.

Marshall’s first Hollywood directorial credit was for “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” a 1986 comedy starring Whoopi Goldberg.

She reunited with Hanks the 1992 comedy “A League of Their Own,” which gave the world the legendary line “There’s no crying in baseball” and became Marshall’s second film to break the $100 million mark.

Her other credits as a director include “Renaissance Man” with Danny Devito and “The Preacher’s Wife” with Denzel Washington and Whitney Houston.

Marshall was married to Michael Henry for two years in the 1960s and to actor/director Rob Reiner from 1971 to 1981.

Their daughter Tracy Reiner is an actress.

Marshall is also survived by her older sister, Ronny, and three grandchildren.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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