'A true treasure': Celebrities remember Penny Marshall with touching tributes

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/ Source: TODAY
By Gina Vivinetto

Penny Marshall, who rose to fame on television's "Laverne & Shirley" before becoming a groundbreaking Hollywood director, has passed away at age 75.

Marshall died in her Hollywood Hills home Monday night due to complications from diabetes, her publicist, Michelle Bega, confirmed to TODAY.

Penny Marshall rose to fame on "Laverne and Shirley" and later went on to become a powerhouse Hollywood director.Kurt Krieger - Corbis / Corbis via Getty Images

Marshall charmed viewers as feisty Laverne DeFazio, a blue-collar beer factory worker living in Milwaukee with her best Shirley Feeney (Cindy Williams) on "Laverne & Shirley" from 1976 to 1983.

Marshall began playing Laverne DeFazio as a recurring role on "Happy Days." Before long, she and co-star Cindy Williams were charming audiences in the long-running hit spinoff "Laverne and Shirley."Everett Collection

Despite her own comedic talents in front of the camera, Marshall, like her brother, late director Garry Marshall, had ambitions to direct. She made her big-screen directorial debut with the 1986 spy comedy "Jumping Jack Flash," starring Whoopi Goldberg," and then broke ground as the first female director to gross $100 million with 1988's “Big” starring Tom Hanks.

Marshall and star Whoopi Goldberg on the set of Marshall's 1986 directorial debut "Jumpin' Jack Flash."Everett Collection

She teamed up with Hanks again, as well as Madonna, Geena Davis, Rosie O'Donnell and a handful of other female stars, on 1992's "A League of Their Own," the inspiring story of a real-life women's pro baseball team — and grossed another $100 million.

Marshall and Madonna chat while filming the 1992 film "A League of Their Own."Everett Collection

Her 1990 medical drama, "Awakenings," starring Robert De Niro and Robin Williams, was nominated for an Oscar for Best Picture.

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

Marshall leaves behind a daughter, Tracey Reiner, whose father is Marshall's ex-husband, actor and director Rob Reiner, as well as three grandchildren.

Rob Reiner tweeted Tuesday, "So sad about Penny."

"I loved Penny. I grew up with her. She was born with a great gift. She was born with a funny bone and the instinct of how to use it. I was very lucky to have lived with her and her funny bone. I will miss her," Reiner added moments later.

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As news of Marshall's passing spread Tuesday, more of her friends and loved ones in Hollywood paid tribute.

"Goodbye, Penny. Man, did we laugh a lot! Wish we still could. Love you," Hanks wrote.

Singer and actress Better Midler tweeted, "The Marshall family grieves again as the great #PennyMarshall dies at age 75."

"What an extraordinary family they were and continue to be, and how much love and sympathy my family and I send their way. The end of an era," she wrote.

Ron Howard, another "Happy Days" alum who went on to become a major Hollywood director, called Marshall "funny" and "smart."

"She made the transition from sitcom star to A List movie director with ease & had a major impact on both mediums. All that & always relaxed, funny & totally unpretentious. I was lucky to have known & worked with her," he wrote.

"Sad to hear of Penny Marshall’s passing. A great comedienne a terrific director and a dear friend," wrote comedian Billy Crystal.

Longtime friend Rosie O'Donnell shared footage from a 1996 commercial the pair appeared in together. "Simply heartbroken," she wrote.

Oscar winner Reese Witherspoon wrote, "What an inspiring woman #PennyMarshall was. Funny, talented, kind and giving.

"Penny was so supportive of my career from the very beginning and I will always be so grateful. A wonderful actress, producer and director. She will be missed by so many," she added.

"Seinfeld" alum Jason Alexander recalled auditioning for Marshall multiple times for a role he never got. "She didn’t know that I would audition for her forever. It was a treat to be in the room. She was glorious," he gushed.

Oscar winner Viola Davis wrote, "Thank you for what you contributed to us girls. Grateful to have worked with you. Rest well you great Broad!!!"

Barbara Eden, star of television's "I Dream of Jeannie," wrote, "I was such and admirer of hers, such talent she had ... She and her wonderful brother are reunited."

Actress Busy Philipps, wrote, "Oh Penny Marshall. Rest In Peace and thank you for everything."

Al Jean, a writer for "The Simpsons," honored Marshall, who was the animated comedy's first guest star, as a "great talent."

"You will be missed!" Jean wrote.

Actor Russell Crowe shared favorite memories of Marshall, writing, "She was kind, she was crazy, so talented and she loved movies. RIP."

Actor Danny DeVito, who starred in Marshall's 1994 comedy "Renaissance Man," called his late friend "a sweet woman."

"I was very fortunate to spend time with her. So many laughs. She had a heart of gold. Tough as nails. She could play round ball with the best of them. Always All love, D," he wrote.

Mark Wahlberg, whose acting career was launched after Marshall cast him in "Renaissance Man," wrote, "Rest in peace, Penny. Such a wonderful, funny and talented lady. Without her support and encouragement, I would not be where I am today."

Oscar-winning director Ava DuVernay thanked Marshall "For the trails you blazed. The laughs you gave. The hearts you warmed."

"Big Bang Theory" star Mayim Bialik wrote, "I grew up wanting to be as funny as Penny Marshall, and had the pleasure of meeting her a few times. Watch some old Laverne and Shirley to see why her brother Garry insisted on casting her. Comedy gold, she was."

Like Bialik, actor Sean Astin remembered the magic of watching Marshall on television as a child.

"I got to stay up late-after Happy Days -2 watch Laverne & Shirley. So sad 2 learn that Penny Marshall has passed. Sitting on a sit-com set 40 years later, thinking about milk & pepsi, rodeo-doh-doh-doh & so many of her brilliant moments," he wrote. "Love to her family, friends & our town ..."

"Star Trek" legend George Takei invoked the famous song Marshall and Williams sang at the beginning of every "Laverne & Shirley" episode.

"Neither a schlemiel, nor ever a schlimazel, she shall be missed by her many fans," he wrote.

"She was a true treasure," Takei's former co-star William Shatner shared.