Society

'Happy Days' Star Erin Moran Is Dead

| by David Bonner

Erin Moran, the actress best known for her role on the sitcom "Happy Days," has died. She was 56.

According to the Harrison County Sheriff's Department in Indiana, her body was found on April 22 following a 911 call about "an unresponsive female," reports CNN.

"Upon the arrival, it was determined that the female was Erin Marie Moran-Fleischmann. First responders determined that she was deceased and an autopsy is pending," the department said.

On "Happy Days," Moran played the character Joanie Cunningham, the younger sister of Richie Cunningham, who was played by Ron Howard, now one of Hollywood's most successful directors.

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During its run from 1974 to 1984, the show rekindled an interest in 1950s Americana, and turned Henry Winkler's character -- Arthur "The Fonz" Fonzarelli -- into a huge pop culture phenomenon.

The show's popularity led to spinoffs "Laverne & Shirley" and "Mork & Mindy," both of which were also huge hits, the latter launching the career of the late Robin Williams.  

Upon learning of Moran's death, Ron Howard tweeted: "Such sad sad news ... I'll always choose to remember you on our show making scenes better, getting laughs and lighting up TV screens."

Winkler chimed in: "OH Erin... now you will finally have the peace you wanted so badly here on earth."

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Donny Most, who portrayed show character Ralph Malph, also expressed his condolences on Twitter. "So incredibly sad to hear about Erin," he wrote. "A wonderful, sweet, caring, talented woman. I can't really comprehend this right now."

When "Happy Days" was canceled in 1984, Moran starred in the short-lived spinoff "Joanie Loves Chachi," with her "Happy Days" co-star, Scott Baio.

However her acting career soon faltered, perhaps due to being typecast as Joanie Cunningham. In a 1983 interview, she spoke of the difficulty growing up on the show, reports The New York Times. "They suddenly wanted me to lose weight and become this sexy thing."

In 2011, Moran and "Happy Days" co-stars Anson Williams, Donny Most, Marion Ross and the estate of Tom Bosley sued CBS for $10 million over merchandising royalties that were allegedly unpaid, CNN reported at the time.

Accusing CBS of "despicable conduct," the actors said that "although defendants routinely rebrand their corporate images, they should not be permitted to rebrand the truth."

The plaintiffs ultimately settled for an undisclosed amount. "We have settled our lawsuit with CBS and Paramount," said Jon Pfeiffer, attorney for the actors. The terms of the settlement are confidential, but we are satisfied with the outcome. We will continue to receive all of the merchandising royalties promised to us in our contracts."

Later in her life, Moran moved to Indiana with her second husband, Steve Fleischmann.

Sources: CNN (2), The New York Times / Photo credit: Popular Press Media Group via Wikimedia Commons

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