DA DOO RON RON, DA DOO RON RON!
by Susie Hodgson
Everywhere you go in Burbank, you’ll probably meet someone who knows Ron Howard.
Ron was born in Oklahoma, where his parents were from, but soon moved to Burbank, CA, where his little brother Clint was born. A lot of locals also know Clint! Ron graduated from John Burroughs, where he met his future - and current - wife, Cheryl. If you’re a Burbanker, you probably already know that. You probably also know that he was “Opie” on The Andy Griffith Show from 1960 to 1968. In 1962, he was featured in the famous movie The Music Man and in 1973, you saw him in George Lucas’s acclaimed film, American Graffiti. Then there was the popular TV show, Happy Days (1974- 1980).
After all that acting, Ron turned to directing and was quite a hit! He directed such movies as Night Shift (1982), Splash (1984), Cocoon (1985), Backdraft (1991), Apollo 13 (1995), A Beautiful Mind (2001), plus Parenthood, The Cinderella Man, Frost/Nixon, The Da Vinci Code and its two sequels, Solo: A Star Wars Story, 8 Mile. And then there were the documentaries on such subjects as The Beatles, Pavarotti and the California wildfires. Ron was nominated and even won several Oscars, and he has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
But you knew all that, didn’t you? But do you know these? (In no particular order)
Both of Ron’s parents were actors. Fellow (then unknown) actor Dennis Weaver introduced them. Dad Rance had parts in Cool Hand Luke, Chinatown, and Independence Day – to name only a few. Ron’s Mom, Jean, first raised kids, then took up acting again, in such shows as Married with Children and Grace Under Fire. Another actor is Ron’s brother, Clint. Remember Gentle Ben?
The famous whistled theme song from the Andy Griffith Show, written and whistled by Earle Hagen, was composed as a “throwaway” in 15 minutes. Hagen also wrote the theme songs to The Dick Van Dyke Show, I Spy, The Mod Squad and That Girl.
Anson Williams (Potsie on Happy Days) had a famous uncle – Dr. Henry Heimlich, as in the Heimlich manuever. Anson was also a Burbanker who went to Burbank High.
Ron Howard narrated Arrested Development. Ron has also been on The Simpsons.
Ron and wife Cheryl have four children. Their eldest, Bryce Dallas Howard, is best remembered for her roles on the Jurassic World series. Bryce is also known for The Mandalorian. Paige has been in The Employer and Adventureland.
Ron directed How the Grinch Stole Christmas, starring Jim Carrey. Ron dedicated the movie to his mother (who had just died) because she loved Christmas.
Andy Griffith did NOT get along with Aunt Bee. He was sarcastic and controlling with her. He’d say she was cranky and miserable on the set. She hated her Aunt Bee role.
Who recalls Elinor Donahue as Sheriff Andy’s girlfriend? She left the show because they had no chemistry.
When Ron (then Ronny) started acting as Opie, he couldn’t yet read.
On the 50th anniversary of Ron’s and Cheryl’s first date, Ron took Cheryl out for a movie and a take-out pizza, just like he did on their very first date in 1970. (They went to Barones!) He even drove the exact same 1970 VW! Ron says the secret to his very long marriage (since 1975!) is good communication – and a little bit of luck! Note: Ron got married in a powder-blue tux.
Ron pulled an unlucky draft number during the Vietnam War. He didn’t want to go, and somehow Paramount got him out of it.
Ron had to audition for American Graffiti. Robby Benson did too, but we all know Ron got the job!
On the TV show Happy Days, there was originally an older brother named Chuck. He was played by two different actors, but had no real storyline. So he just kind of just… disappeared.
At first Ron (Richie Cunningham) was the star of the show, but soon, the sensational Henry Winkler (Fonzie) took over. Ron and Henry were good friends, but Ron refused to let studio management re-name the show to Fonzie’s Happy Days. Ron was very mad at management. Meanwhile, Henry is Bryce’s Godfather. She was born in 1981.
Speaking of Henry Winkler, did you know he has had long-time feud with Tom Hanks? Both are close friends of Ron’s. They say Hanks got Winkler fired from Turner & Hooch.
Bryce’s husband (an actor named Seth Gabel from Fringe and Nip/Tuck) is the grand-nephew of Martin Gabel, who was married to Arlene Francis. (Remember What’s My Line?) There’s much more – but I’ll bet you learned a thing or two from this!
Want to learn more about Burbank? Come visit us!
The Burbank Historical Society/Gordon R. Howard Museum
OPEN SATURDAYS & SUNDAYS, 1 TO 4 pm - FREE Admission!
Located in George Izay Park, right next to the Creative Arts Center
Phone: (818) 841-6333
Web site: www.burbankhistoricalsoc.org