TMZ is reporting that actress Erin Moran, best known for her role on the classic sitcom Happy Days, has passed away at age 56. Her cause of death is not known at this time.
Born October 18, 1960, Moran was the youngest of six siblings. She began acting at a very young age, landing a leading role on the final season of the TV series Daktari when she was only 7-years-old. The same year she also made her film debut, appearing with Debbie Reynolds and James Garner in How Sweet it Is.
After Daktari ended, Moran guest starred in a number of TV shows, including My Three Sons, Family Affair, Gunsmoke, The Don Rickles Show, and The Waltons. Sometimes she would appear as several characters in different episodes of shows she had already been on, demonstrating her talent and range at a very young age.
As a young teen, Moran was cast in what would remain her most famous role, Joanie Cunningham on Happy Days. The little sister of main character Richie Cunningham, Joanie was a good-hearted but sometimes nosy teenager. The character of Joanie grew-up on the show, as Moran did in real life. She eventually got a spin-off series alongside Scott Baio – Joanie Loves Chachi – but when that show was canceled after two seasons she and Baio returned to Happy Days for its final season. By the time Happy Days ended, little Joanie was a teacher and married Chachi.
Moran continued to work sporadically as an adult. She played four different characters over the course of six episodes of The Love Boat, demonstrating the same range she’d had as a child. She also appeared in the movie Dickie Roberts: Child Star as herself, her first movie role since the 1981 Roger Corman-produced film Galaxy of Terror. Moran’s last role was in the 2010 comedy Not Another B Movie.
In 2011, Moran and several of her former Happy Days co-stars brought a lawsuit against CBS over payments from merchandising. Part of the lawsuit – claiming fraud against the network – was dismissed. CBS eventually settled, paying Moran and the other actors $65,000 each and promising to honor their contracts in the future.
Moran did appear as herself on a few reality shows, popping up in the first episode of her former onscreen partner’s show Scott Baio is 45… And Single. She was also a participant on Celebrity Fit Club in 2008.
Moran may not have appeared on our screens much lately, but she will always be remembered by her fans for her memorable portrayal of one of TV’s favorite little sisters.
R.I.P. Erin Moran – October 18, 1960 – April 22, 2017