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Ron Howard Recalls Cindy Williams Teaching Him How to Kiss for ‘American Graffiti': ‘She Had to Take Charge of the Situation’

The prolific actor and director shares touching memories of his work with Williams, who died last week at age 75

Days following Cindy Williams’ death, her “American Graffiti” co-star Ron Howard shared fond memories of working with her in the 1973 feature. Apparently, she’s the one who taught Howard how to kiss for the camera.

The actor and director recalled his “American Graffiti” co-star, who died Wednesday at age 75 after a brief illness, noting that Williams, then 24, had to help him as a nervous 18-year-old act out romance on the set of the 1973 George Lucas-helmed coming-of-age flick.

“She had to take charge of the situation,” Howard told People Magazine in a story published late Monday. “And so she was like, ‘Here’s how we got to kiss for the camera. Here’s what we have to do.’ She’s always had almost a big sister energy around me.”

Howard’s memories also encompassed the time they spent working on “Happy Days” and its spinoff “Laverne & Shirley.” Her portrayal of Shirley Feeney from 1976 to 1982 made her an icon of the era.

“We wound up over a period of about five years working together a lot, being cast in other comedies, in dramas,” Howard continued. “We had terrific acting chemistry, but she always treated me like the kid.”

Howard added more praise in a tweet. “Her unpretentious intelligence, talent, wit & humanity impacted every character she created & person she worked with. We were paired as actors on 6 different projects … Lucky me. RIP, Cindy.”

“I think she’d like to be remembered for the variety of roles that she played,” Howard told People. “Even though she was the most famous for Shirley…she also thought of herself as a character actress. I think she’d want people to think of her in that way.”

Williams had a few short-lived series after “Laverne & Shirley” and did guest spots on multiple other shows but never achieved the same level of success as she did in the sitcom opposite Penny Marshall, who died in 2018.

Howard said Williams was “highly intelligent, very funny, very astute about the world around her. Very skeptical of glamour or the illusions around our business. She fell prey to none of that.”

The two connected at an event in Palm Springs, California, last year after a long period where they had not seen each other.

“I was just so taken by how her intelligence, energy, and sense of humor…was still in high gear,” he said. “And so it’s really a shock to imagine that spark is gone.”

“She loved her work and her art and gave it everything that she had, and she also always found her way to put her stamp on what she was doing. She really was dedicated creatively, and I took notice of that and tried to draw inspiration from it,” the director said.