‘The Andy Griffith Show’: Why Ron Howard Could Barely Stomach Opie’s Ice Cream Scenes

by Joe Rutland
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There’s no doubt that Opie Taylor loved him some ice cream on The Andy Griffith Show and Ron Howard had to eat it. Or did he really do so? As a young child actor, Howard probably had a love for ice cream. After all, he’s playing a boy who is the son of Sheriff Andy Taylor, played by Andy Griffith. There can be a lot of perks when playing that role. One of them probably included a lot of ice cream. Yet would you believe that Howard had some trouble in those ice cream scenes? He did and had to really make us believe that ice cream was good.

Yep, he was really acting at that point. What Howard said he received in those scenes from the prop guy was not ice cream. He would talk about it in an interview with the Archive of American Television. “Well, you know, Opie had a real penchant for ice cream,” Howard said. “So Reggie Smith, the prop guy, would come around with the ice cream cone, and the first time my eyes jumped. I’d think, ‘This is gonna be great.’ And you know what it was? Colored mashed potatoes. Cold, colored mashed potatoes. You know, licking that, that takes acting: licking mashed potatoes to make anybody believe it’s ice cream.”

Ron Howard of ‘The Andy Griffith Show’ Had To Deal With Hot Lights

If you are wondering why that was done instead of ice cream, then there’s a good reason. Back then, the lights on a television studio’s set were extremely hot. “It would be so hot, I’d squint in an interior scene,” Howard of The Andy Griffith Show said. “Your makeup would just melt. So you couldn’t use ice cream.” The lights had to be bright, too, so that the filming could be done really well. The heat would, of course, melt that ice cream.

What looked like ice cream was, well, you know from above. As a young boy, you also know Howard wanted to have some. Some scenes where Howard had the “fake” ice cream would include visiting Ellie Walker, played by Elinor Donohue. Still, another time he got some money from the fabled Mr. McBeevee. He turned that into some ice cream, too.

Howard was quite the young actor at the time. He also had turns in movies like The Music Man starring Robert Preston and The Courtship of Eddie’s Father starring Glenn Ford. Still, Howard is fondly remembered for his eight seasons on the Griffith show as well as his later run on Happy Days. Generations, too, have followed his career as a very successful movie director.

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