Johnny Cash Was More Nervous Than Ron Howard When They Starred on a Movie Together

by Matthew Memrick

Country music legend Johnny Cash started his film career with actor Ron Howard and Howard recalled the late star’s nervousness.

According to MeTV, the two worked on the 1961 neo-noir crime film “Five Minutes to Live.” Cash sang the title track for the movie soundtrack. Five years later, the film came out with a new “Door-to-Door Maniac” name

The film was rare for Cash as it was only one of two movie film roles he did (“A Gunflight” was the other). The country music legend seems to stick to made-for-television films and voice-over work late in his career. 

In Howard’s recently-released memoir with brother Clint, Ron Howard recalled his time with Cash, saying the man was so nervous he couldn’t stop sweating. The Los Angeles Times put together some highlights from the book, and the 60-year-old Cash experience stood out.

One Sweaty Scene For Johnny Cash, Howard

Ron Howard played Bobby, a young boy held hostage by Cash’s Johnny Cabot character. In one scene, Ron Howard remembered getting wet from Cash’s sweat.

 “I recognized, on some level, that I was more comfortable on a soundstage than Johnny Cash was,” Ron Howard wrote.

Cash played a hired hoodlum who takes the wife (Cay Forester) of a bank employee hostage for ransom. Tension and anger build in Cash to the point that he picks up the wife’s son, played by Howard. Cash holds Howard at gunpoint. Forester wrote the movie’s screenplay.

But the sweat seemed to work well with the intensity of the scene. Cash kept picking up the young Howard despite all the sweat, and they went with it after a few takes. 

Country singer Merle Travis also starred in the film.

The film had a successful take at the box office. It made $5,655,000 ($51,880,369 by today’s inflation rate).

Johnny Cash A Newbie?

Though Cash hit the scene in 1956 with “I Walk The Line” and other performances on “The Ed Sullivan Show” and “American Bandstand,” acting was a different beast. 

His first role was in a 1959 TV series “Wagon Train” episode titled “The C.L. Harding Story.” 

Then, Cash advanced to the Howard movie.

Howard had years of experience at that point. The boy had done over a dozen shows like “The Twilight Zone” and “Dennis the Menace” by 1961. Not to mention all of his work on “The Andy Griffth Show.”

Want to watch the Cash-Howard film? It’s available in a free download at Internet Archive and on YouTube.

At one point, there was talk of a remake in 2012 or 2014. At the time, Joaquin Phoenix was reportedly among the choices for the main role. Phoenix played Cash in the 2005 biopic “Walk The Line.”