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Erin Moran's Death Was Attributed to Tough Last Years but a Hidden Disease Was the Real Cause

Oyin Balogun
Oct 30, 2021
03:30 P.M.
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"Happy Days" Erin Moran died in the arms of her sweetheart after a tumultuous life and an on-and-off career in the movie industry. Her death was initially linked to drugs, but here is what really happened.

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Erin Marie Moran-Fleischmann was one of Hollywood's movie stars best known by her character Joanie Cunningham on the hit TV sitcom "Happy Days" and its spin-off "Joanie Loves Chachi."

But sadly, fans of the 1974 sitcom didn't get to see more of Marie after she died in 2017. However, it is notable that before the actress's death, she was no longer a regular on-screen after "Happy Days" and its spin-off ended.

A picture of actress Erin Moran on "Happy Days" | Photo: Getty Images

A picture of actress Erin Moran on "Happy Days" | Photo: Getty Images

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Erin Moran also faced a lot of struggles after the show, and there were different speculations following her death on April 22, 2017.

MORAN DURING AND AFTER "HAPPY DAYS"

Erin Marie Moran was born on October 18, 1960, in Burbank, California. She was the second youngest of six children, and her father, Edward, was a financial manager.

She started acting as a child, and her mother, who signed her with a talent agent when she was five years old, was a major influence on her early career. Moran made her acting debut at the age of five in a commercial for First Federal Bank.

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Erin Moran poses for Walt Disney Television in 1983 | Source: Getty Images

Erin Moran poses for Walt Disney Television in 1983 | Source: Getty Images

At six, she starred as Jenny Jones in the TV series "Daktari" and later appeared on "How Sweet It Is!" in 1968 alongside Debbie Reynolds before becoming a regular face on "The Don Rickles Show" in 1972.

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Moran was 13 when she played Joanie Cunningham, the youngest child of Howard and Marion Cunningham in "Happy Days." Her character Joanie has two older siblings Chuck Cunningham and Richie Cunningham.

Howard owns a hardware store, while Marion is always at home. But, when the 1974 hit sitcom and its spin-off "Joanie Loves Chachi" ended, Moran had a tumultuous life away from the spotlight.

Erin Moran from the "Happy Days" Season 2 gallery on July 10, 1975 | Source: Getty Images

Erin Moran from the "Happy Days" Season 2 gallery on July 10, 1975 | Source: Getty Images

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She stopped appearing as a regular on TV shows and instead took small parts in movies including "Diagnosis Murder" in 1998 and "The Bold and the Beautiful" in 2009.

But, despite trying to keep up with her acting career, in 2010, she reportedly sold her Palmdale, California home to foreclosure. And as news reports have it, the building was auctioned off for $291,150.

By 2012 the actress and her husband Steve Fleischmann, who she married in 1993, moved into Fleischmann's mother's trailer home in Indiana so Moran could help take proper care of the older woman.

Erin Moran during Halloween Extravaganza at the Chiller Theater in New Jersey, on October 28, 2006 | Source: Getty Images

Erin Moran during Halloween Extravaganza at the Chiller Theater in New Jersey, on October 28, 2006 | Source: Getty Images

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However, news reports revealed that the couple did not stay with Fleischmann's mom for too long. In September of the same year, they moved to the trailer home; reports confirmed that the actress and her husband relocated to Holiday Inn Express in Corydon.

According to the hotel owner, the couple had only stayed there for a few days before Moran started causing trouble.

A source once noted that Moran had been spotted hanging out at bars in Corydon, and it appeared that the actress and Fleischmann remained at Corydon until she died at age 56. However, it was unclear if the actress was employed during the time of her death.

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Erin Moran and Steve Fleischmann during LG Mobile TV Party in Hollywood on June 19, 2007 | Source: Getty Images

Erin Moran and Steve Fleischmann during LG Mobile TV Party in Hollywood on June 19, 2007 | Source: Getty Images

INSIDE MORAN'S DEATH

After Moran's death, Harrison County sheriff's authorities revealed that autopsy results confirmed that the "Happy Days" star died of complications associated with stage 4 cancer. Happy day co-star Anson Williams also reported that she was battling throat cancer.

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The Harrison County Coroner's Office and Sheriff's Department issued a joint statement that revealed no illegal narcotics were found at the scene.

Although autopsy results confirmed that Marie was battling cancer, her former co-star Scott Baio questioned what caused the 56-year-old actress's death.

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Baio believed the actress's involvement in alcohol and drugs might have cut her life short. In an interview on the "The Bernie & Sid Show," the actor admitted he wasn't surprised by Marie's death.

He noted: "I'm OK, a little shocked but not completely shocked that this happened. My thing is, I feel bad because her whole life, she was troubled, could never find what made her happy and content."

He also added that anyone who did drugs or drank too much alcohol would die. He apologized if his statement sounded "cold," but that didn't stop him from saying that everyone had a brain and should "take care of yourself."

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Erin Moran at the launch party for DeeDee Bigelow's episode on "Surreal Life" on March 14, 2007, in Los Angeles | Source: Getty Images

Erin Moran at the launch party for DeeDee Bigelow's episode on "Surreal Life" on March 14, 2007, in Los Angeles | Source: Getty Images

In a statement, Baio also noted that he had known Moran for many years, and he described her as an insecure human being who got influenced by drugs.

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He admitted he didn't know what eventually killed the star, but he was sure it was due to the impact of her involvement with drugs for many years. Baio further noted that one couldn't help someone who isn't willing to help themselves.

According to the actor, Moran was the only cast member on "Happy Days" who took drugs. He also made sure to point out he didn't do drugs and was never interested.

The cast of 'Happ Days" on January 15, 1974 | Source: Getty Images

The cast of 'Happ Days" on January 15, 1974 | Source: Getty Images

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As speculations on Moran's death kept spreading, Baio took to Facebook posting a detailed statement on the late actress's death. According to the update, Moran died in her husband's arms.

MORE ON MORAN'S DEATH

Baio's Facebook post revealed that Fleischmann's wife had been doing well until their 2016 wedding anniversary. The Facebook post showed that Moran woke up with bloodstains on her pillow a few days after the couple's anniversary.

The bloodstains increased as days passed. Moran initially thought she bit her tongue the first time she saw the blood, but after proper assessment, the couple realized it was her tonsil.

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Actress Erin Moran poses for a portrait in circa 1980. | Photo: Getty Images

Actress Erin Moran poses for a portrait in circa 1980. | Photo: Getty Images

The actress began treatment, but her condition only got worse. The cancer had spread to the star's spleen, and she had a lot of fluid in her lungs while part of her brain was infected. The bio revealed that Fleischmann and Moran were holding hands on the bed when she died.

Child actor advocate Paul Petersen also commented on Moran's heartbreaking passing. According to Petersen, the actress had friends who reached out to her during the last days of her life.

He noted that he was proud of everyone who made efforts to help Moran. He explained that her colleagues "sincerely" tried to help the actress, but her problems were many and complex.

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