Most people remember Erin Moran as the adorable Joanie Cunningham on the classic TV show “Happy Days.” Sadly, Moran died on April 22 at the age of 56. A statement released today by the Harrison County Sheriff’s Department and the Indiana Coroner’s office revealed a likely cause of death: complications from stage 4 cancer.
Moran’s life consisted of many ups and downs. Her story goes beyond playing a single role on one of TV’s most popular sitcoms of all time.
Here are five facts about Erin Moran you may not know.
1. Moran Started Her Career Alongside Debbie Reynolds
Moran started her acting career at an early age. In 1968, she made her film debut in “How Sweet It Is!” starring Debbie Reynolds and James Garner. That appearance launched her acting career. Moran had guest star runs on “Dakarti,” “My Three Sons,” “Family Affair” and “Gunsmoke.”
Her “Gunsmoke” co-star, Willie Aames (who also appeared on TV with Moran’s “Happy Days” co-star Scott Baio in later years), posted a lovely tribute to the actress after her untimely death.
2. She Was Not A ‘Joanie Loves Chachi’ Fan
While most actors would love to have their own show, Moran wasn’t so happy to move to the “Happy Days” spinoff “Joanie Loves Chachi.” She confessed her lack of enthusiasm about the move during a 2009 Xfinity interview:
I don’t have any favorite episodes from Joanie Loves Chachi. I liked working with the people. But I didn’t even want to do it. I was talked into it. I wanted to stay on Happy Days. They were running them at the same time.
She continued by saying she felt forced into the new show, but she’d share more of that in an upcoming memoir. The book was tentatively titled “Happy Days, Depressing Nights.” Unfortunately, she didn’t finish it before her death.
3. A Reportedly Rough Post-TV Life
Following “Happy Days,” Moran appeared on episodes of “The Love Boat” and a number of other series. However, she never found the career most actresses look for in the long term. Sadly, she stayed in the public eye through numerous tabloid stories focusing on reported money problems, and possible drug and alcohol addiction. During her Xfinity interview, she said her first husband, Rocky Ferguson, abused her. She said she planned to address the incidents in her book. After her divorce, she married Steven Fleischmann, to whom she stayed married until her death.
4. She Loved Her TV Family
Sometimes, a group of actors just click. That was the case on the “Happy Days” set, according to Moran. The lines between fiction and family seemed to blur.
“What happened with all of us was like we were this family,” she said during the Xfinity interview. “It was so surreal with all the cast members. There was another moment where we forgot we were doing scenes. We forgot we were acting. They were my family, get it?”
Her TV family loved her, too. Social media reactions to her death from former co-stars spread quickly around the internet.
Ron Howard, who played her older brother, Richie Cunningham, on “Happy Days”:
Such sad sad news. RIP Erin. I'll always choose to remember you on our show making scenes better, getting laughs and lighting up tv screens. https://t.co/8HmdL0JKlf
— Ron Howard (@RealRonHoward) April 23, 2017
Henry Winkler, also known as “The Fonz” from the show:
OH Erin… now you will finally have the peace you wanted so badly here on earth …Rest In It serenely now.. too soon
— Henry Winkler (@hwinkler4real) April 23, 2017
Don Most, who played funny guy Ralph Malph:
So incredibly sad to hear about Erin. A wonderful, sweet, caring, talented woman.I can't really comprehend this right now.Very painful loss
— Don Most (@most_don) April 23, 2017
Former TV husband Scott Baio added his thoughts, as well:
— Scott Baio (@ScottBaio) April 23, 2017
5. Moran, Co-Stars Sued CBS
In 2012, Moran and some other “Happy Days” co-stars—Anson Williams, Don Most, Marion Ross and the widow of Tom Bosley—filed a $10 million lawsuit against CBS and Paramount. They group claimed “they never received merchandise royalties they were owed under their contracts.” In the end, both parties settled out of court for an undisclosed amount.