Ronald William “Ron” Howard (born March 1, 1954) is an American film director, producer and actor.
He came to prominence playing Opie Taylor in the sitcom The Andy Griffith Show for eight years, and later the teenaged Richie Cunningham in the sitcom Happy Days for six years. He appeared in the musical film The Music Man in 1962, the coming of age film American Graffiti in 1973, and the western The Shootist in 1976, the latter during his run on Happy Days.
Howard made his directorial debut with the 1977 comedy Grand Theft Auto and left Happy Days in 1980 to focus on directing. His films include the science-fiction/fantasy film Cocoon (1985), the historical docudrama Apollo 13 (1995), the musical fantasy comedy How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000) and the biographical drama A Beautiful Mind, which earned him the Academy Award for Best Director. In 2002, Howard conceived the idea for the Fox/Netflix comedy series Arrested Development, on which he also serves as producer and narrator, and plays a semi-fictionalized version of himself. In 2003, Howard was awarded the National Medal of Arts. Asteroid 12561 Howard is named after him.
Howard was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame in 2013.
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Howard was born in Duncan, Oklahoma, the son of Jean Speegle Howard, an actress, and Rance Howard, a director, writer, and actor. He has Dutch, Scottish, English, Irish, German, and Cherokee ancestry. His father was born with the surname “Beckenholdt”, and had taken the stage name “Howard” by 1948, for his acting career. Rance Howard was serving three years in the United States Air Force at the time of Ron’s birth. The family moved to Hollywood in 1958, the year before the birth of his younger brother, Clint Howard. They rented a house on the block south of the Desilu Studios, where The Andy Griffith Show would later be filmed. They lived in Hollywood for at least three years, before moving to Burbank.
Howard was tutored at Desilu Studios in his younger years, and graduated from John Burroughs High School. He later attended the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts but did not graduate.
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Early acting roles and The Andy Griffith Show
In 1959, Howard had his first credited film role, in The Journey. He appeared in June Allyson’s CBS anthology series The DuPont Show with June Allyson in the episode “Child Lost”; in the The Twilight Zone episode “Walking Distance”; a few episodes of the first season of the sitcom Dennis the Menace, as Stewart, one of Dennis’s friends; and several first and second season episodes of The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis. Howard played “Timmy” (uncredited) in “Counterfeit Gun”, Season 4, Episode 2 (1960) of the TV series, “The Cheyenne Show.”
In 1960, Howard was cast as Opie Taylor in The Andy Griffith Show. Credited as “Ronny Howard”, he portrayed the son of the title character (played by Andy Griffith) for all eight seasons of the show. After cancellation, the two would continue to keep in touch (primarily by phone) and would join themselves in two separate TV reunions, for nearly 45 years until Griffith’s death in July 2012. As the news of his TV father’s death was being reported, Howard released a statement:
“His love of creating, the joy he took in it whether it was drama or comedy or his music, was inspiring to grow up around. The spirit he created on the set of The Andy Griffith Show was joyful and professional all at once. It was an amazing environment. And I think it was a reflection of the way he felt about having the opportunity to create something that people could enjoy. It was always with respect and passion for the opportunity and really what it could offer people in a very unpretentious and earthy way. He felt he was always working in service of an audience he really respected and cared about. He was a great influence on me. His passing is sad. But he lived a great rich life.”
In the 1962 film version of The Music Man, Howard played Winthrop Paroo, the child with the lisp; the film starred Robert Preston and Shirley Jones. He also starred in the 1963 film The Courtship of Eddie’s Father, with Glenn Ford.
Billed as “Ronny Howard”, he appeared as Barry Stewart on The Eleventh Hour, in the episode “Is Mr. Martian Coming Back?” in 1965; on I Spy, in the episode “Little Boy Lost”, in 1966; as Henry Fonda’s son in an ABC series, The Smith Family, in 1971-72; and as an underage Marine on M*A*S*H, in the episode “Sometimes You Hear the Bullet”, in 1973. In the 1970s, he appeared in at least one episode of The Bold Ones, as a teenage tennis player with an illness.
Howard appeared on the 1969 Disneyland Records album The Story and Song from the Haunted Mansion. It featured the story of two teenagers, Mike (Howard) and Karen (Robie Lester), who get trapped inside the Haunted Mansion. Thurl Ravenscroft plays the Narrator, Pete Reneday plays the Ghost Host, and Eleanor Audley plays Madame Leota. Some of the effects and ideas that were planned but never permanently made it to the attraction are mentioned here: the Raven speaks in the Stretching Room, and the Hatbox Ghost is mentioned during the Attic scene. It was reissued in 1998 as a cassette tape titled A Spooky Night in Disney’s Haunted Mansion and on CD in 2009.
In 1974 Howard guest starred as Seth Turner, the best friend of Jason Walton (Jon Walmsley), in The Waltons, “The Gift”. In the episode, Seth wants to learn to play an instrument in his father’s band, but it looks as if he will not have the time; he has been diagnosed with leukemia. The concept of death — and the unfairness of it all — is an extremely difficult one for Jason to accept, and it is up to Grandpa to help the boy through this crisis. Featured in the cast as Dr. McIvers is Ron Howard’s father Rance Howard.
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Film roles and Happy Days
Howard played Steve Bolander in George Lucas’s coming-of-age film American Graffiti in 1973. A role in an installment of series Love, American Style, titled “Love and the Television Set”, led to his being cast as Richie Cunningham in the TV series Happy Days (for syndication, the segment was re-titled “Love and the Happy Days”). Beginning in 1974, he played the likeable “buttoned-down” boy, in contrast to Henry Winkler’s “greaser” Arthur “Fonzie”/”The Fonz” Fonzarelli. On the Happy Days set, he developed an on- and off-screen chemistry with series leads Winkler and Tom Bosley. The three remained friends until Bosley’s death in October 2010.
In 1976, Howard played Gillom Rogers in the movie The Shootist, with John Wayne. Howard’s last significant on-screen role was a reprisal of his famous role as Opie Taylor in the 1986 TV movie Return to Mayberry, an Andy Griffith Show reunion reuniting him with Griffith, Don Knotts, and most of the cast. He also appeared in two Happy Days TV reunions: 1992’s The Happy Days Reunion Special, a retrospective hosted by Winkler that aired on ABC; and 2005’s The Happy Days 30th Anniversary Reunion, where he was reunited with most of the surviving cast. Howard recently revealed that many of the exterior scenes filmed in Happy Days were actually shot in Munster, Indiana.
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Before leaving Happy Days in 1980, Howard made his directing debut with the 1977 low-budget comedy/action film Grand Theft Auto. This came after cutting a deal with Roger Corman, wherein Corman would let Howard direct a film in exchange for Howard starring in Eat My Dust!, with Christopher Norris. Howard went on to direct several TV movies. His big theatrical break came in 1982, with Night Shift, featuring Michael Keaton, Shelley Long, and Henry Winkler.
He has since directed a number of high-visibility films, including Splash, Cocoon, Willow, Parenthood, Backdraft, Apollo 13, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, A Beautiful Mind (for which he won the Academy Award for Best Director), Cinderella Man, The Da Vinci Code, Angels & Demons, and Rush.
Howard showcased the world premiere of his film Frost/Nixon at the 2008 London Film Festival in October 2008.
Howard was the recipient of the Austin Film Festival’s 2009 Extraordinary Contribution to Filmmaking Award. Michael Keaton presented him with the Award.
Howard is the co-chairman, with Brian Grazer, of Imagine Entertainment, a film and television production company. Imagine has produced several films including Friday Night Lights, 8 Mile, and Inside Deep Throat, as well as the television series 24, Felicity, and Arrested Development. Howard also narrated Arrested Development.
In July 2012 it was announced Imagine had put in development Conquest for Showtime. A period drama based on the 16th century conquest of the Aztecs by Spanish Conquistadors. To be directed by Howard, the series was originally planned as a feature film before it being decided that the project was more suited to television.
As part of Imagine Entertainment, he appeared in a 1997 print ad for Milk – Where’s your mustache?, in which he wore a cap for Imagine Entertainment and sported a milk mustache. Earlier versions show a younger Ronny Howard on the other side.
In 2009, He appeared in Jamie Foxx music video “Blame It.”
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- Ron Howard at the Internet Movie Database
- Ron Howard at AllMovie
- 2002 Commencement Address (USC School of Cinema-Television)
- Ron Howard: Imagining the Wonders of Willow – Article at StarWars.com
- Ron Howard interview video at the Archive of American Television
- Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture – Howard, Ron