Childhood & Early Life
Cindy Williams was born as Cynthia Williams on August 22, 1947 in Van Nuys, Los Angeles, California, to Francesca (née Bellini) and Beachard Williams. While her father was an electronic technician, her mother waited tables. She has a sister, Carol Ann.
Ever since a child, Williams dreamed of becoming famous. She imbibed acting skills from her parents, both of whom had a knack for performance. Often, she would make her own plays and act as a central character in it, entertaining her friends and family.
On the academic front, Williams graduated from Birmingham High School in 1965. It was there that her interest in acting deepened as she befriended future actress Sally Field and talent agent Michael Ovitz. Later on, she attended the Los Angeles City College, majoring in theatre arts.
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Following her graduation, Cindy Williams launched her professional career in acting. After appearing in several television commercials, she landed her first television project, an appearance in the 1969 ABC comedy series ‘Room 222’. She soon followed it up with roles in ‘Nanny and the Professor’ and ‘Love, American Style.’
In 1970, Williams made her big screen debut with Roger Corman’s ‘Gas-s-s-s!’ In the early 1970s, she also acted in several television commercials including TWA and Foster Grant sunglasses to make ends meet.
Alongside her professional career, she honed her skills at the Actors Studio West. Simultaneously, she grabbed the opportunities to play important film roles that came her way. After a minor role in Jack Nicholson’s directorial debut ‘Drive, He Said’, she starred as Laurie Henderson in George Cukor’s comedy ‘Travels with My Aunt’ in 1972.
In 1973, Cindy Williams gained her first prominent film role in George Lucas’s ‘American Graffiti’ starring Richard Dreyfuss, Ron Howard and Harrison Ford. The film met with great critical acclaim, including an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture. For her performance in the film, Williams received a Best Supporting Actress nomination from BAFTA.
In 1974, she starred in Francis Ford Coppola’s ‘The Conversation’. Yet another Oscar nominated film, Williams’ performance in the film was highly lauded. She gained a star status and was critically and popularly acclaimed.
Though her career graph had already taken the star-studded route, the highest point was yet to come. It was a guest role of a fun-loving brewery worker, Shirley Feeney for an episode of the 1975 television series ‘Happy Days’ that transpired as the turning point in Williams’ career graph. Her character was so loved by the audience that producer Garry Marshall commissioned a spin-off series featuring Williams as Shirley and Penny Marshall’s character Laverne.
From 1976 until 1982, Cindy Williams played the role of Shirley Feeney on the very successful television series ‘Laverne & Shirley’. Though Cindy and Penny both expected the series to be short-lived, it proved to be wildly popular, becoming one of the most popular shows on television for much of its eight-season run.
The show’s success led to a Saturday morning animated spin-off series ‘Mork & Mindy/ Laverne & Shirley/Fonz Hour’ for which Cindy Williams gave her voice. She left the show in its eighth and final season after she became pregnant.
Meanwhile, while working on ‘Laverne & Shirley’, Williams did a few films including ‘The First Nudie Musical’, ‘More American Graffiti’ and ‘The Creature Wasn’t Nice’.
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In 1986, she appeared with her husband in the made-for-TV film ‘Help Wanted: Kids’. Other works of this phase include ‘The Leftovers’, ‘Save the Dog!’ and ‘Tricks of the Trade’.
In 1990, Cindy Williams returned to television with the short-lived CBS sitcom ‘Normal Life’. Two years later, Williams reunited with former ‘Laverne & Shirley’ producers Thomas L. Miller and Robert L. Boyett to star in their family sitcom ‘Getting By’.
In 1991, Williams donned the hat of a producer for the remake ‘Father of the Bride’ and its sequel in 1995. In 1997, she starred in the Rodney Dangerfield comedy ‘Meet Wally Sparks’ among many others.
In the following years, she also guest starred on several television shows including ‘The Magic School Bus’, ‘The Stepford Husbands’, and ‘8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter.’
After her stint as an actor and producer, she returned to her first love, theatre. She performed onstage in the productions of ‘Grease,’ ‘Deathtrap’ and ‘Moon Over Buffalo.’ She even reunited with her ‘Laverne & Shirley’ co-star Eddie Mekka for the regional production of the Renée Taylor-Joseph Bologna comedy play ‘It Had to Be You’.
In 2007, Cindy Williams made her Broadway debut as Mrs. Tottendale in ‘The Drowsy Chaperone’ at the Marquis Theatre. In 2012, she performed in the touring production of the musical ‘Nunset Boulevard’.
In 2015, along with Dave Smitherman, Williams co-wrote her memoir ‘Shirley, I Jest!’ As of January 2017, William’s last outing on television has been for the series ‘The Odd Couple.’