Ron Howard’s Brother Clint Remembers Playing Opposite a Live Black Bear as a Child

by Joe Rutland

What is it like to work with a black bear on TV? Well, Outsiders, that’s the question Clint Howard, brother of Ron Howard, will address.

Clint Howard was part of the classic TV show “Gentle Ben,” which ran on CBS. He talked about it with AV Club while plugging his and Ron’s new book, “The Boys: A Memoir of Hollywood and Family.”

The show ran between 1967-69 with Clint Howard playing Mark Wedloe, who was a close friend of a black bear named Ben. It was a hit during its first season, but would lose steam in its second and eventually was canceled.

Ron Howard Brother Clint Remembers How Bear Would Sweat Profusely

Clint Howard, brother of Ron Howard, talks about working with a live bear. In today’s world, that bear probably would have been produced on CGI.

“No computer can generate that smell!” he said. “He was always sweating. It was a black bear living in Florida, and he weighed 650 pounds and ate prodigiously. They had to keep weight on him. So he just sat around, made some prodigious dumps, and smelled just awful.”

The bear’s handlers, Howard says, did show him that Bruno the Bear has no interest in eating Clint.

“And he was always based on treats,” Clint Howard said. “They kept him a little hungry, so he would always respond to anyone that had a cookie. That’s how they would get him to follow me around: They would put some cookies in my pockets or some honey on my right ear and the bear would nuzzle up to me all the time.”

Clint Howard Said He Never Felt Afraid While Working With His Bear Co-Star

Howard said he never felt afraid while being around the bear.

“Also, we had some great animal trainers,” he said. “Bear wranglers. There was one guy named Vern Debord. There was a guy named Monte Cox. They were all there to offer me protection—I didn’t need protection.”

Many pages of dialogue are for reading on the set, Howard says. The black bear wasn’t always willing to stay still.

He said, “Here I was, 7, 8, 9 years old, and I had to do dialogue, and this bear is just making a lot of racket. I literally had to yank him by his chain and say, ‘Stop it, Ben. Knock it off!'”

Outsiders, here’s some more “Gentle Ben” trivia for you to pocket away. First, Ron Howard appeared in two episodes of the show even while nearing the end of “The Andy Griffith Show.” Second, Dennis Weaver played Mark’s father Tom Wedloe and, of course, he played Chester Goode on “Gunsmoke.” Finally, two names stand out among writing credits for the show in Earl Hamner Jr. and Rance Howard.