By Ron and Clint Howard
When The Andy Griffith Show was first finding its feet, Ron Howard’s father (and acting coach) took Andy aside and told him he thought Opie was being too much of a “smart-aleck” with his father, Andy.
After their talk, Andy said, he directed his writers to model the Andy-Opie relationship more on the Rance-Ronny one. I was flabbergasted to learn about this conversation; Dad had never breathed a word of it to me. But I was also moved—more than moved. This was a key moment in my life, revealed to me years after the fact: in the distant past of my early childhood, when they still barely knew each other, the two men who effectively charted my future had held this conversation, and they had come to a mutual understanding derived from mutual respect.
I have been a huge fan of the funny, sweet, and wise Andy Griffith Show for practically my whole life.
Andy was also keen to counteract Hollywood’s prevailing stereotypes of southerners…He was no fan of such contemporaneous “southern” TV programs as The Beverly Hillbillies and Petticoat Junction, in which men were mushmouthed hayseeds and girls were buxom sexpots…“The South is plenty funny as it is without playing it like Li’l Abner,” he would say.
The Music Man is one of my favorite musicals and I’ve seen it many times, and The Courtship of Eddie’s Father is one of my favorite movies. No one can watch that movie and doubt that Ronnie Howard was one of the most talented child actors ever, bar none.
This biography was everything I wanted it to be, and more. And Ron Howard is just as nice, well-adjusted, and happy with his wife and family as I hoped he would be. The book ends when he leaves Happy Days and his boyhood behind, for a new career as a director. I hope he (and Clint) write another book as full of insights on acting and encounters with the famous and respected show people as this one was: Yul Brynner, Gig Young, Liza Minelli, John Wayne, Henry Fonda, Tim Burton and his father, Richard Dreyfus, George Lucas, Eddie Murphy, the list goes on and on. Not to mention the actors you would expect: Andy Griffith, Don Knotts, Dennis Weaver, Ron’s fellow child actors: Jay North and Johnny Crawford, Henry Winkler (who is godfather to all 4 of Ron and Cheryl’s children), Cindy Williams, Garry Marshall, etc. That is interesting enough, but another connection I had to this story is that I am only 6 months younger than Ron Howard. The times he grew up in were my times as well.
It is a chronicle of Ron and Clint’s life and experiences as actors, the course of their careers, but also just as kids. And at times it goes deep. But this dual autobiography of Ron and Clint Howard is more than anything a loving and affectionate tribute to a great man, Rance Howard. And also the love of his life, the boys’ mother, Jean. Complex, sometimes troubled, but always a great mother and partner. This is the biography of a family, snippets of famous friends and acquaintances, musings on acting and directing, the TV and Film industry, and a love story. Told by a heck of a great guy.
December 29, 2021