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Actress who played Joanie Cunningham in Happy Days dies aged 56

Erin Moran was a mainstay in the sitcoms Happy Days and Joanie Loves Chachi.

Erin Moran began acting as a child, and was cast in Happy Days in 1974
Erin Moran began acting as a child, and was cast in Happy Days in 1974
Image: Bob Noble/Zuma Press/PA Images

ERIN MORAN, THE former child star who played Joanie Cunningham in the sitcoms Happy Days and Joanie Loves Chachi, died yesterday. She was 56.

A statement from the sheriff’s department in Harrison County, Indiana, said the dispatcher “received a 911 call about an unresponsive female. Upon arrival of first responders, it was determined that Erin Moran Fleischmann was deceased. An autopsy is pending.”

The dispatcher confirmed to The Associated Press that the woman was the actress, who had been married to Steven Fleischmann.

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

A Burbank, California, native, Moran began acting in TV and movies before she was 10 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 Howard.

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

Erin Moran 1960-2017 ÔHappy DaysÕ Actress The Happy Days cast Source: Paramount/Zuma Press/PA Images

“What happened with all of us was like we were this family,” she told Xfinity 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 told CNN in 1981 when asked what she’d like to do after Happy Days.

Garry Marshall, Tom Bosley, Marion Ross, Erin Moran, Henry Winkler, Anson Williams The cast gathered together again in 2001 Source: E.J. Flynn/AP

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.

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 told Xfinity 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 Saturday. “Rest In It serenely now.. too soon.”

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Associated Press

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