Cynthia Jane Williams
August 22, 1947
(m. 1982; div. 2000)
Cynthia Jane Williams (born August 22, 1947) is an American actress and producer, known for her role as Shirley Feeney on the television sitcom Happy Days (1975–1979), and Laverne & Shirley (1976–1982).
Williams was born in the Van Nuys district of Los Angeles, California, to Francesca (née Bellini), a waitress, and Beachard Williams, an electronic technician. The family moved to Dallas, Texas when she was a year old and returned to Los Angeles when she was ten years old. She has one sibling, a sister, Carol Ann.
Williams wrote and acted, during childhood, at a church and later acted at Birmingham High School, graduating in 1965. She attended Los Angeles City College with a theater major.
After college, Williams began her professional career by landing national commercials, which included Foster Grant sunglasses and TWA. Her first roles in television, among others, were on Room 222, Nanny and the Professor and Love, American Style.
Williams accompanied an actor-friend from Los Angeles City College who needed a scene partner for the audition and was also accepted at The Actors Studio West, but rarely attended due to acting commitments Williams picked up important film roles early in her career: George Cukor's Travels with My Aunt (1972); as Laurie Henderson, Ron Howard's character's high school sweetheart in George Lucas's American Graffiti (1973) for which she earned a BAFTA nomination as Best Supporting Actress; and Francis Ford Coppola's The Conversation (1974). She auditioned, along with thousands of others, for Lucas's next project, Star Wars, for the role of Princess Leia, but it was ultimately won by Carrie Fisher.
Williams met Penny Marshall, first on a double date, and later at Francis Ford Coppola’s Zoetrope company, both hired as comedy writers, because "they wanted two women", on a prospective TV spoof for the Bicentennial. While writing at Zoetrope, Penny Marshall's brother, Garry Marshall, called to ask if they would like to make an appearance on one episode of Happy Days, the television series he produced.
In 1975, Williams was cast as a fun-loving brewery bottle capper, Shirley Feeney, in an episode of Happy Days with Penny, who played her best friend and roommate Laverne De Fazio. The girls were cast as "sure-thing" dates of Richie and Fonzie (Henry Winkler). Their appearance proved so popular that Garry Marshall, producer of Happy Days, commissioned a spin-off series for the characters of Shirley and Laverne. Williams continued her role on the very successful Laverne & Shirley series from 1976 until 1982. At one point during its run, the series was the number one rated show on television. Williams was praised for her portrayal of Shirley Feeney. She left the show after the second episode of the show's eighth and what would become its final season, after she became pregnant with her first child. The show's various producers were not enthusiastic that Williams was pregnant, as her character Shirley was not pregnant. Williams and co-star Penny Marshall had also been feuding for quite some time on the set long before Williams became pregnant. They would reconcile many years later. The success of the TV series led to a short-lived Saturday morning animated series Laverne & Shirley in the Army (1981-82), created by Hanna-Barbera.
In 1990, Williams returned to series TV in the short-lived sitcom Normal Life, and a couple years later, reunited with former Laverne & Shirley producers Thomas L. Miller and Robert L. Boyett to star in their family sitcom Getting By (1993–94). She has guest starred on several television shows, including two episodes of 8 Simple Rules.
Williams has performed onstage in the national tours of Grease, Deathtrap and Moon Over Buffalo, and a regional production of Nunsense. She reunited with her Laverne & Shirley co-star Eddie Mekka in a November 2008 regional production of the Renée Taylor-Joseph Bologna comedy play It Had to Be You.
She made her Broadway debut as daffy Mrs. Tottendale in The Drowsy Chaperone at the Marquis Theatre on December 11, 2007, succeeding Jo Anne Worley in the role originated by Georgia Engel.
Williams reunited with Penny Marshall on the TV series Sam & Cat in the episode "#SalmonCat" (2013).
In 2015, her memoir Shirley, I Jest! (co-written with Dave Smitherman) was published. In the same year, Williams engaged in celebrity branding for the senior citizen service Visiting Angels.
Williams was married to Bill Hudson of the musical trio Hudson Brothers in 1982. The marriage ended in divorce in 2000. Together they have two children: a daughter, Emily (born 1982) and a son, Zachary (born 1986). Williams is a practicing Catholic.
|1971||Drive, He Said||Manager's Girlfriend|
|1972||Beware! The Blob||Randy's Girl|
|1972||Travels with My Aunt||Tooley|
|1973||The Killing Kind||Lori Davis|
|1973||American Graffiti||Laurie Henderson||Nominated—BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role|
|1976||The First Nudie Musical||Rosie|
|1979||More American Graffiti||Laurie Henderson Bolander|
|1983||The Creature Wasn't Nice||Annie McHugh|
|1985||The Joy of Natural Childbirth||Herself|
|1989||Big Man on Campus||Diane Girard|
|1989||Rude Awakening||June Margolin|
|1997||Meet Wally Sparks||Emily Preston|
|2002||The Biggest Fan||Debbie's Mom|
|2006||The Legend of William Tell||Jillian|
|2012||Stealing Roses||Rose||Also associate producer|
|2018||Waiting in the Wings: Still Waiting||Rosie|
|1969–1971||Room 222||Rhoda Zagor / Rita Zagor||3 episodes|
|1970||My World and Welcome to It||Lydia #2||Episode: "Child's Play"|
|1970||Barefoot in the Park||Agnes||Episode: "The Marriage Proposal"|
|1971||Nanny and the Professor||2nd Coed||Episode: "The Art of Relationships"|
|1971||The Funny Side||Teenage Wife||6 episodes|
|1971||Getting Together||Cathy||Episode: "Cathy's Clown"|
|1973||Love, American Style||Karen Brown / Naomi Brubaker||2 episodes|
|1974||Hawaii Five-O||Sue Reynolds||Episode: "Secret Witness"|
|1974||The Migrants||Betty||Television film|
|1974||Cannon||June Bowers||Episode: "The Stalker"|
|1975||Insight||Flora||Episode: "Somewhere Before"|
|1975||Police Story||Joanna||Episode: "Test of Brotherhood"|
|1975–1979||Happy Days||Shirley Feeney||5 episodes|
|1976||Petrocelli||Carol Janssen||Episode: "Survival"|
|1976–1982||Laverne & Shirley||Shirley Feeney||159 episodes|
Nominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Television Series Musical or Comedy (1978)
|1977||Saturday Night Live||Velocity / Self||Episode: "Live from Mardi Gras"|
|1978||Suddenly, Love||Regina Malloy||Television film|
|1979–1980||CHiPs||Cindy Williams||2 episodes|
|1981–1982||Laverne & Shirley in the Army||Shirley Feeney (voice)||13 episodes|
|1982||Mork & Mindy/Laverne & Shirley/Fonz Hour||Shirley Feeney (voice)||Episode: "The Speed Demon Get-Away Caper"|
|1985||When Dreams Come True||Susan Matthews||Television film|
|1985||Joanna||Joanna Weston||Television film|
|1986||Help Wanted: Kids||Lisa Burke||Television film|
|1986||The Leftovers||Heather Drew||Television film|
|1988||Save the Dog!||Becky||Television film|
|1988||Tricks of the Trade||Catherine||Television film|
|1990||Perry Mason: The Case of the Poisoned Pen||Rita Sue Bliss||Television film|
|1990||Normal Life||Anne Harlow||13 episodes|
|1990||Steel Magnolias||M'Lynn Eatenton||Television film|
|1990||Menu for Murder||Connie Mann||Television film|
|1991||Earth Angel||Judith||Television film|
|1993–1994||Getting By||Cathy Hale||31 episodes|
|1994||Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman||Wandamae||Episode: "A Bolt from the Blue"|
|1995||Escape from Terror: The Teresa Stamper Story||Wanda Walden||Television film|
|1995||The Laverne & Shirley Reunion||Herself||Television special|
|1995||The Magic School Bus||Gerri Poveri (voice)||Episode: "Ups and Downs"|
|1996||Touched by an Angel||Claire||Episode: "Jacob's Ladder"|
|1996||The Stepford Husbands||Caroline Knox||Television film|
|1996||Hope & Gloria||Connie Carlucci||Episode: "Come Back Lil' Tina"|
|1999||The Patty Duke Show: Still Rockin' in Brooklyn Heights||Sue Ellen Caldwell||Television film|
|2000–2001||Strip Mall||Herself||6 episodes|
|2000–2002||For Your Love||Ronnie||3 episodes|
|2001||Son of the Beach||Bobbi||Episode: "Grand Prix"|
|2001||The Brothers García||Mrs. Barbacoa||Episode: "The Student Buddy"|
|2002||Laverne & Shirley: Together Again||Herself / Shirley Feeney||Television special|
|2002||7th Heaven||Vice Principal Val||Episode: "The Enemy Within"|
|2002||Less than Perfect||Joan Casey||Episode: "Meet the Folks"|
|2003||8 Simple Rules||Mary Ellen Doyle||2 episodes|
|2004||Law & Order: Special Victims Unit||Nora Hodges||Episode: "Sick"|
|2004–2005||Girlfriends||Lisa James||2 episodes|
|2007||Drive||House Mother||3 episodes|
|2012||Strawberry Summer||Ruth Yates||Television film|
|2013||Sam & Cat||Janice Dobbins||Episode: "#SalmonCat"|
|2016||The Odd Couple||Vivian||Episode: "Taffy Days"|
|2016||A Dream of Christmas||Jayne 'The Angel'||Television film|