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Erin Moran (1960 – 2017)

by Legacy Staff

Erin Moran, the actress best known for her role as Joanie Cunningham on the 1970s sitcom “Happy Days,” died Saturday, April 22, 2017. She was 56.

Erin Moran, the actress best known for her role as Joanie Cunningham on the 1970s sitcom “Happy Days,” died Saturday, April 22, 2017 in New Salisbury, Indiana. She was 56.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, police in Harrison County, Indiana, responded to an “unresponsive female” call Saturday, identified Moran, and pronounced her dead at the scene. On Monday, the Harrison County Sheriff’s Department issued a statement that Moran “likely succumbed to complications of stage 4 cancer.”


“Happy Days,” created by Garry Marshall, was one of the top-rated TV comedies of the 1970s, riding the wave of 1950s teen nostalgia that had become freshly popular with the success of George Lucas’ 1973 movie “American Graffiti.” The show portrayed the coming-of-age stories of high schooler Richie Cunningham (played by Ron Howard), his friends, and his little sister, Moran’s character Joanie. Tom Bosley and Marion Ross played Howard and Marion Cunningham, the parents of Richie and Joanie.

Moran was active on “Happy Days” through almost every season of its 11-year run. During the 1982-83 season, she left along with co-star Scott Baio to headline their own spinoff series, “Joanie Loves Chachi.” It only lasted a season, after which Moran and Baio returned to “Happy Days” for its final run of episodes.

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In 2007, Moran gave an interview to the website PopCultureAddict.com in which she described her feelings about “Happy Days” and its legacy. “It’s a blessing,” she said. “There were shows that changed people’s lives. … I got a letter from a girl saying that she saw an episode in which I was talking to my dad, and she wrote that it had helped her so much – before she saw that episode she never talked to her father, and now they were talking and communicating. That’s excellent! It’s just excellent to have that in my life.” 

Following “Happy Days,” Moran guest-starred on several other television shows, including “The Bold and the Beautiful,” “Diagnosis Murder,” “Murder, She Wrote,” and “The Love Boat.” She also co-starred in the 1981 cult-classic sci-fi horror movie “Galaxy of Terror.” In 2008, she appeared on the reality TV series “Celebrity Fit Club.”

Moran most recently made headlines in 2011 along with several of her “Happy Days” co-stars, filing a lawsuit against CBS over disputed merchandising revenues. The suit was settled in 2012.

Moran’s “Happy Days” co-star Henry Winkler posted a lament on Twitter Saturday evening: “Oh Erin… now you will finally have the peace you wanted so badly here on earth… Rest in it serenely now… too soon.”

Fellow actor Willie Aames, of “Charles in Charge” fame, also tweeted a tribute Saturday evening: “I’ve known Erin Moran since childhood doing ‘Gunsmoke.’ More recently as a troubled soul. So saddened to hear of her passing. RIP ERIN xo.”

Another former childhood star, Erin Murphy of “Bewitched,” tweeted: “So sad to share that my friend Erin Moran has passed away. Rest in Peace, sweet girl.”

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