Obituary: Erin Moran, actress who found fame in US sitcom Happy Days

Erin Moran has died at the age of 56. Picture: AP
Erin Moran has died at the age of 56. Picture: AP
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Erin Moran, actress. Died: 18 October 1960, in Burbank, California. Died: 22 April 2017, Corydon, Indiana, aged 56

Erin Moran, the former child star who played Joanie Cunningham in the sitcoms Happy Days and Joanie Loves Chachi, has died at the age of 56.

Moran was found dead by emergency crews after the Harrison County, Indiana, sheriff’s department received a 911 call. The cause of death has not been determined. A post mortem is pending.

A Burbank, California, native, Moran began acting in TV and movies before she was ten years old. She had several years of experience when she was cast in 1974 in Happy Days as Joanie Cunningham, the kid sister to high school student Richie Cunningham, played by Ron Howard, who went on to become a successful filmmaker.

Her more recent credits included The Love Boat and Murder, She Wrote, but she never approached the success of Happy Days and was more often in the news for her numerous personal and financial struggles and was reportedly homeless at times.

“Such sad sad news. RIP Erin,” Howard tweeted on Saturday. “I’ll always choose to remember you on our show making scenes better, getting laughs and lighting up TV screens.”

Other Happy Days cast members included Tom Bosley and Marion Ross as Joanie’s parents and Henry Winkler as the loveable tough guy Arthur ‘The Fonz’ Fonzarelli.

“What happened with all of us was like we were this family,” Moran said in 2009. “It was so surreal with all the cast members. They were my family, get it?”

Debuting at a time of nostalgia for the seemingly innocent 1950s, the sitcom was set in Milwaukee and became a long-running hit. Howard and Winkler were the show’s biggest stars, but the smiling, freckle-faced Moran also became popular.

In 1982, she was paired off with fellow Happy Days performer Scott Baio in the short-lived Joanie Loves Chachi. Moran returned to Happy Days in 1984, the show’s final season.

“I would love to do a feature [film], I’d love to do a play,” she said in 1981 when asked what she’d like to do after Happy Days.

In 2011, she and Ross and former Happy Days”actors Anson Williams and Donnie Most sued CBS, saying they were owed money for merchandising related to the show. The lawsuit was settled the following year.

Moran said that she had been working on a memoir, called Happy Days, Depressing Nights.

“Oh Erin... now you will finally have the peace you wanted so badly here on earth,” Winkler tweeted on Saturday. “Rest in it serenely now.. too soon.”

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