Erin Moran, Star of ‘Happy Days’ and ‘Joanie Loves Chachi,’ Dies at 56

An autopsy is pending, according to the Harrison County Sheriff’s Department

Erin Moran, best known for playing Ron Howard’s kid sister in the classic 1970s sitcom “Happy Days,” has died. She was 56.

EMTs were called at 4 p.m. ET on Saturday to an Indiana home to tend an “unresponsive female,” the Harrison County Sheriff’s Department confirms.

“Upon the arrival of first responders, it was determined that Erin Marie Moran Fleischmann was deceased. An autopsy is pending,” they said in a statement.

Moran was just 6 years old when she was cast in the TV series “Daktari,” where her most unusually co-stars included a chimp named Judy and Clarence the Lion. During that three-season run, she made her film debut in the Debbie Reynolds comedy “How Sweet It is!”

As a child, Moran also appeared in Melvin Van Peebles’ “Watermelon Man” and made guest appearances in “The Courtship of Eddie’s Father,” “My Three Sons,” “Family Affair” and “Gunsmoke.”

But Moran was best known for playing Ron Howard’s feisty little sister, Joanie Cunningham, on the sitcom “Happy Days” from the time she was 12 until 22 (1974-1984). Her teaming with onscreen love interest Scott Baio proved to be so popular that they spun off into their own short-lived series, “Joanie Loves Chachi.”

She later went on to make appearances on “The Love Boat,” “Murder, She Wrote,” “Diagnosis: Murder” and “Arrested Development.” In 2008, she was a contestant on VH1’s “Celebrity Fit Club.”

In 2011, Moran and three of her “Happy Days” costars — Donny Most, Anson Williams and Marion Ross, along with the estate of Tom Bosley — filed a $10 million lawsuit against CBS for breach of contract, claiming they had not been paid for merchandising revenues that included everything from dolls to lunch boxes to trading cards and “Happy Days” slot machines.

The lawsuit was settled a year later, with each of the actors receiving $65,000.