She was the iconic Laurie Henderson from the movie ‘American Graffiti’
Cindy Williams, the iconic Laurie Henderson of the film ‘American Graffiti’ and the idealist Shirley Feeney of the popular sitcom ‘Laverne & Shirley’ have died at the age of 75. The American actress died in Los Angeles after a short illness. The announcement of her disappearance, which took place on January 25, was given today with a statement released by her children, Zak and Emily Hudson. “The passing of our kind and hilarious mother, Cindy Williams, has brought us an insurmountable sadness that can never truly be expressed,” the statement from her children reads. “Knowing and loving her has been our joy and our privilege.”
After appearing as a pot-smoking hippie in ‘The Road Trips with Aunt’ (1972), one of the last films directed by George Cukor, Williams got her first big break in the spotlight when she played Laurie Henderson, the girlfriend of Steve Bolander (Ron Howard) in ‘American Graffiti’. The blockbuster film earned an Oscar nomination for best picture, as did its subsequent title, Francis Ford Coppola’s ‘The Conversation’ (1974), where she played a woman in danger. She returned to play the same role as Laurie in Bill L. Norton’s ‘American Graffiti 2’ (1979) as her.
In 1975 Williams and Penny Marshall were hired by director and producer Garry Marshall for an episode of the telefilm ‘Happy Days’. Playing “fast girls” — Penny assumed that meant prostitutes — recruited by Fonzie (Henry Winkler) for a double date with Richie Cunningham (Howard), the two actresses demonstrated instant on-screen chemistry. So Garry Marshall proposed the female duo for the new television comedy ‘Laverne & Shirley’, set in the 50s as ‘Happy Days’: the Paramount Television spinoff began with Laverne DeFazio and Shirley Wilhelmina Feeney, friends from high school, who shared a basement apartment in Milwaukee and worked as bottle cappers for the Schotz Brewery.
‘Laverne & Shirley’ debuted at No. 1 in the ratings on January 26, 1976, and in its post ‘Happy Days’ slot at 8:30 pm Tuesday on the ABC network became the highest-rated series in the 1977-78 and 1978-79 seasons . The series ran for eight seasons but ended in May 1983 without Williams. At the end of the seventh season Williams, married to actor and musician Bill Hudson (ex-husband of Goldie Hawn), became pregnant with her first child, Emily, and her contract was not renewed.
In 1982, the actress sued Paramount for $20 million, demanding payment for the episodes she missed due to her pregnancy. After an agreement, she was written out of the series and Laverne went on alone, without her best friend, for the last 20 episodes.
Cynthia Jane Williams was born in Van Nuys on August 22, 1947 and raised in Dallas. Before graduating from high school in 1965, Williams performed in plays at Birmingham High School, where she was voted “funniest woman.” She then majored in theater at Los Angeles City College and was best friends with another future actress, Lynne Marie Stewart (Bobbie in American Graffiti).
She began her career as an actress in commercials and has appeared on television since 1970. She has acted in episodes of the telefilms ‘The Amazing World of Mr. Monroe’, ‘The Nanny and the Professor’, ‘Hawaii Five Zero’, ‘Road Street California’. Then came her role in ‘American Graffiti’ which consecrated her: Williams was nominated for the Bafta award for best supporting actress.
After the great success of the sitcom Laverne & Shirleyè, he starred in numerous telefilms such as ‘Disneyland’, ‘Normal Life’, ‘Lois & Clark’, ‘Touched by an angel’, ‘Tic-Tac-Toe’, ‘7th Heaven’, ‘Law & Order – Special Victims Unit’.
His cinematic curriculum also includes the films: ‘Girls, the monster is in love’ (1989), ‘Brusk awakening’ (1989), ‘Bingo – Look who barks’, (1991), ‘Meet Wally Sparks’ (1997) and ‘The Biggest Fan’ (2002).
(by Paolo Martini)