As a member of one of television's most iconic families, Erin Moran captivated millions with her disarming smile and girl-next-door appeal. After guest stints on family-themed shows, she finally hit the big time on the beloved sitcom "Happy Days" (ABC, 1974-1984) as Joanie Cunningham, the plucky little sister of Ron Howard's Richie Cunningham. Thanks to outstanding performances by its cast, including Henry Winkler as suave greaser Fonzie, "Happy Days" attracted huge ratings during its entire run. Moran's role on the show became increasingly popular after her character fell for Chachi Arcola (Scott Baio), so much so that the network created the spin-off series "Joanie Loves Chachi" (1982-83), a short-lived but memorable sitcom about the couple's hilarious adventures as aspiring singers. After "Happy Days" wrapped, Moran took lesser parts, yet it was her role on the much-loved series that audiences forever associated her with, making the actress one of the most recognized personalities in the history of American sitcoms. Moran spiraled into drug abuse and periods of homelessness later in her life. She was found dead on April 22, 2017 in Corydon, Indiana; despite early reports suggesting an overdose, an autopsy revealed that she had most likely died from complications of throat cancer. She was 56 years old.
Erin Moran was born on Oct. 18, 1960 in Burbank, CA. At the age of five, she signed with a children's talent agency and appeared in a number of commercials. The future actress attended Walter Reed Junior High School for one year and then North Hollywood High School for a year as well. Moran made her television acting debut on the children's adventure series "Daktari" (CBS, 1966-69), as an orphan who moves in with a veterinarian's family who campaign for animal rights in East Africa. Following her stint on "Daktari," she guest starred on several family-oriented shows such as "The Courtship of Eddie's Father" (ABC, 1969-1972), "My Three Sons" (ABC, 1960-65; CBS, 1965-1972), and had a recurring role on "Family Affair" (CBS, 1966-1971), about an engineer bachelor trying to raise his brother's orphaned children in his swanky New York City apartment. In 1974, Moran joined the cast of the classic sitcom "Happy Days," nabbing the role that she became associated with for the rest of her career.
Set in late-1950s Wisconsin, "Happy Days" chronicled the ups and downs of the Cunninghams, one of America's most beloved television families. The show's protagonist, Richie Cunningham (Ron Howard), was the quintessential all-American teenager who found himself in trouble on occasion, but who was generally as wholesome as apple pie. Moran played Joanie, Richie's spunky younger sister whose role on the series was initially relegated to her meddling in her brother's affairs. The show also starred Tom Bosley and Marion Ross as Richie and Joanie's parents, and Anson Williams and Donny Most as Richie's buddies. The program also launched the career of Henry Winkler who played Arthur "Fonzie" Fonzarelli, Richie's suave, leather-jacket sporting biker friend who became an instant cultural icon. As the show progressed, Moran's storyline expanded to include a romance with Charles "Chachi" Arcola (Scott Baio), Fonzie's younger cousin. On set, the couple began dating while they worked together on the show. The couple split up reportedly due to Baio's wandering eye, but the actor did admit to People magazine in 1982 that Moran was one of the most important women in his life and that he had even lost his virginity to her.
Towards the end of "Happy Days," the focus shifted to the budding relationship between Moran and Baio's characters, who became so popular that ABC created a spin-off show aptly titled "Joanie Loves Chachi." The series starred the twosome as a young couple trying to live out their musical dreams in Chicago. The show was a hit among viewers for the first few episodes, but its ratings declined drastically during the second season, leading to its cancellation and forcing the duo to reprise their roles on "Happy Days" for its final season. Subsequently, Moran made fewer appearances on television, but did guest roles on such hit shows of the era as "The Love Boat" (ABC, 1977-1986), "Murder She Wrote" (CBS, 1984-1996), and the long-running daytime soap, "The Bold and the Beautiful" (CBS, 1987- ). For the most part, however, Moran's run as a television personality of a certain era had come to an end.
In 2007, Moran reemerged by reuniting with her co-star and former off-screen beau, Baio, on his VH1 reality show "Scott Baio is 45.And Single," wherein the commitment-phobic actor confronts some of his celebrity exes and his fear of marriage. In 2008, Moran was cast on the reality series "Celebrity Fit Club" (VH1, 2005-2010), in which overweight stars competed in various challenges in an attempt to lose weight. While a majority of the contestants were on the show to trim down, Moran admitted that she was only in it for the $100,000 cash prize. In another revealing episode, the former sitcom star faked an orgasm on camera after a night of heavy drinking, to the chagrin of her fellow contestants who, much like the audience, found the slightly offbeat actress to be nothing like her most famous role. Meanwhile, in 2011, Moran joined fellow "Happy Days" co-stars Don Most, Anson Williams and Marion Ross - as well as the estate for Tom Bosley - in suing ABC for breach of contract over unpaid merchandising revenues. The group settled the following year for $65,000 and a promise that the network would continue honoring their contractual obligations. Her victory proved short-lived, however, when it was reported that Moran had spent her settlement mostly on booze and was kicked out of her mother-in-law's trailer home, forcing her and husband, Steve, to live in various motel rooms. When word spread that she had fallen on hard times, the homeless Moran suddenly found herself to be the subject of tabloid stories depicting her tragic fall. Erin Moran was found dead on April 22, 2017 at the age of 56 in Corydon, Indiana; early reports seemed to assume that her well-publicized addiction problems had led to her death, but within days, an autopsy revealed that she had been suffering from stage 4 throat cancer.
Cast (Feature Film)
Misc. Crew (Feature Film)
Made acting debut in an uncredited role in "Who's Minding the Mint?"
Had first credited role as Laurie in "How Sweet It Is!"
First recurring role as Jenny Jones on the short-lived "Daktari"
Appeared on an episode of "The Don Rickles Show"
Had breakout role as kid sister Joanie Cunningham on "Happy Days"
Appeared on several episodes of "The Love Boat"
Reprised Joanie Cunningham role on "Happy Days" spinoff "Joanie Loves Chachi"
After nearly two decades away from the screen, appeared as herself in "Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star"
Had final on-screen role as Mrs. Klien in "Not Another B Movie"