Alexandria, VA – It’s hard to talk about movies without mentioning Ron Howard, one of the top movie producers of our time who started as Opie Taylor in the 1960s series, The Andy Griffith Show, and Richie Cunningham on the 1970s classic Happy Days, which was a spin-off of the great American Graffiti, in which he also starred.
Ron and his brother Clint grew up in a cinematic family. Their parents, Rance and Jean Howard, dabbled in theater and the movie world, paving the way for their sons to succeed as television was becoming common in every household across the country.
Ron went on to become a producer, creating award-winning films like Eat My Dust, A Beautiful Mind, Parenthood, and The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, among others. To get there, though, he navigated growing up in Hollywood, made cheesy Super 8 movies as a youth, went to the University of Southern California film school, and put out movies that were sometimes so misunderstood that they didn’t see the light of day. It takes a struggle to get to the top.
Clint Howard starred in the 1960s hit Gentle Ben, with a real bear named Ben, and has credits from Seinfeld, Star Trek, and Rock and Roll High School, among others.
All this is captured in The Boys, A Memoir of Hollywood and Family. It’s a must-read for anyone thinking of dabbling in film. With Ron and Clint Howard, there are Wiffle ball games, BB guns, sneaking out after hours, experimenting with alcohol and drugs, and generally being typical teenagers.
But they were in the right place at the right time, and this led to success. They met all kinds of stars along the way, including John Wayne, Andy Griffith, Harrison Ford, and Richard Dreyfuss.
As with other biographies, the book has a middle section of glossy photos capturing Ron heading to the top. A 1975 wedding photo with Ron, his new wife, and a young Henry Winkler, who jumped on a plane to make it to the ceremony. Howard and Henry Winkler were starring in the hit Happy Days at the time.
Right after the wedding in 1975, the young couple jumped in a red station wagon with bows, streamers, and a big heart painted on the door. The car was driven by 16-year-old Clint Howard, “who only had a learner’s permit,” the caption reads. Those rebels!
Another shot shows Ron with George Lucas on the set of American Graffiti, cameras rolling. Yet another shot is of Ron on the way to his high school prom with girlfriend Cheryl Alley. These glimpses of Ron Howard’s life are worlds away from Opie Taylor or Richie Cunningham, but they show that everyone starts somewhere.
Each of the 24 chapters has a part written by Ron and a part by Clint, then another by Ron and another by Clint, maintaining interest in all the ordinary antics the two were involved in. The Happy Days period of Ron Howard’s life was substantial, and the nearly 400-page book ends there, but the epilogue leaves it open for more as Ron continues to build his producing and directing body of work.
The Boys, A Memoir of Hollywood and Family will interest anyone who remembers come of those films and shows or who wants to read to terrific biography.