Cindy Williams' Hasty Exit From Laverne & Shirley Wasn't A Coincidence

Actress Cindy Williams, appearing alongside Penny Marshall, lit up the world of television with the hugely popular sitcom "Laverne & Shirley." According to The Hollywood Reporter, their comedic series about two working-class friends and roommates scored top ratings right from the start in 1976. Williams played the perky and sometimes uptight Shirley Feeney, and Marshall played the bold and impulsive Laverne DeFazio (via The New York Times). The rapport between these two characters and the crazy situations they found themselves in made for great entertainment.

Before "Laverne & Shirley," Williams had made some film and television appearances. She had guest spots on such shows as "Nanny and the Professor" and "Hawaii Five-O." Perhaps most notably, she played Laurie, Ron Howard's girlfriend, in George Lucas's "American Graffiti" (1973). The following year, Williams tackled more dramatic fare with a role in the Francis Ford Coppola thriller "The Conversation" starring Gene Hackman. The role that made her famous, however, got its start on another popular show in 1975.

Happy Days paved the way for Laverne & Shirley

A chance opportunity led to the creation of the characters of Laverne DeFazio and Shirley Feeney, per The New York Times. Cindy Williams and Penny Marshall had been working on creating a show for a production company where Marshall's brother Garry asked the two to appear on the hit sitcom "Happy Days." Williams and Marshall developed Shirley and Laverne to be dates for the show's leading characters — Fonzie, played by Henry Winkler, and Richie, played by Ron Howard (shown above). Laverne and Shirley proved to be popular with TV audiences, and the two actresses got their own show.

Williams believed that the type of humor on "Laverne & Shirley" helped shape the show's popularity. "We made sure the joke was always on us, we never made fun of anyone else," she said, per The Hollywood Reporter. The series also highlighted what it meant for two young women living paycheck to paycheck, she explained. "We also wanted to keep the wolf nipping at our heels, like how are we going to pay rent, how are we going to pay the electric bill."

The comedic chemistry between Williams and Marshall served as the heart of the show. So it took Williams by surprise when she found herself being written out of the series. This shocking move came after Williams ran into some trouble trying to negotiate a new contract.

Williams was written out of 'Laverne & Shirley'

At the time of the contract negotiations, Cindy Williams was pregnant with her first child with her husband, Bill Hudson (via The Hollywood Reporter). Williams believed that she would be able to carry on with "Laverne & Shirley" while expecting and that there would be ways to hide her pregnancy on the show. The negotiations may have also been hampered by behind-the-scenes issues between Williams and Penny Marshall, according to The New York Times.

Marshall (shown above) didn't get along with Williams' husband, and Williams thought that Marshall got better treatment than she did, per People magazine. But the biggest obstacle for Williams was the work schedule, which had her performing right up to her due date. Williams believed that the problem was solved after allegedly receiving a verbal promise about her future on the sitcom (via UPI). But rather than living up to that reported agreement, the show's producers wrote her out of the program. Williams ended up suing Paramount Pictures and claimed producer Garry Marshall, Penny's brother, had been instrumental in getting rid of her. She later settled out of court.