Penny Marshall, the legendary Laverne & Shirley actress turned iconic director, died Monday night at age 75. Her publicist confirms to the New York Daily News Marshall died "peacefully" at her Hollywood Hills home due to diabetes complications. Born in the Bronx to an industrial film director father and tap dance instructor mother, she left for the University of New Mexico after high school, but dropped out after two and a half years when she got pregnant and married the father of her child, Variety reports. After a series of jobs including a stint as a choreographer in Albuquerque, she left for Los Angeles in 1967, according to the Hollywood Reporter. Her brother Garry Marshall, 10 years her senior, was doing well in the entertainment industry, and with his encouragement, she studied acting and started getting roles in commercials, films, and television.
She first played Laverne De Fazio in a guest spot on her brother's series Happy Days, which was well-received and ultimately led to her brother pitching Laverne & Shirley. It aired from 1976 to 1983, and Marshall began her directing career by directing some of its episodes. Her feature directorial debut was the Whoopi Goldberg-starring Jumpin’ Jack Flash in 1986; she went on to direct Tom Hanks in Big in 1988, which became the first female-directed film to gross more than $100 million. Her third film, Awakenings, starring Robin Williams and Robert De Niro, was just the second female-directed film to be nominated for a best picture Oscar. She went on to direct many other films including A League of Their Own, which starred her only child, daughter Tracy, who was adopted by Rob Reiner during his 1971-79 marriage to Marshall. "Penny was a girl from the Bronx, who came out West, put a cursive 'L' on her sweater and transformed herself into a Hollywood success story," says a statement from her family. (Read more Penny Marshall stories.)