Happy Birthday Ron Howard: Celebrating the Hollywood Legend’s Best Moments

by Joe Rutland
(Photo by Richard Bord/Getty Images for Cannes Lions

TV viewers have watched Ron Howard grow up on “The Andy Griffith Show” and “Happy Days.” Today, Howard celebrates his birthday.

Howard turned 67 years old on Monday, March 1. His career has expanded beyond being in front of the camera. Howard has quite the record put together as a movie director for films like “Splash,” “Night Shift,” “Cocoon,” “A Beautiful Mind,” “Apollo 13” and many more.

He’s also won numerous awards for his professional work, too. But today, we’re going to be celebrating his television work with Griffith and on ABC’s “Happy Days.”

People all over the world see Opie Taylor and Richie Cunningham, respectively, a lot so it makes sense to honor Howard and these two characters.

Ron Howard And His Work On ‘The Andy Griffith Show’

Howard was a young boy when selected to play Sheriff Andy Taylor’s son on the then-new CBS situation comedy, “The Andy Griffith Show.” Ron Howard first played Opie, though, in an episode of Danny Thomas’ popular “The Danny Thomas Show” on CBS in 1960.

Thomas and executive producer Sheldon Leonard, a veteran actor in his own right, were business partners in real life. They saw something in Griffith, who had built up success on Broadway and movies through “No Time For Sergeants” and “A Face In The Crowd.” His rather country-bumpkin-ish style of humor and way of speaking was intriguing to them.

So Griffith and Howard both appear in the episode “Danny Meets Andy Taylor.” It turns out this becomes the test show that would eventually lead Howard to playing Opie for eight seasons on “The Andy Griffith Show.”

Howard would grow up pretty much before viewers’ eyes from the show’s start in 1960 through its end in 1968. He and Griffith had a pretty wonderful relationship. In fact, Howard’s father played a role in helping Griffith learn how to connect with a child.

Looking back on those times, Howard has said he learned so much from Griffith and the show experience itself.

Here’s a clip of Griffith and Howard in their first scene together on camera as Andy Taylor and Opie Taylor. It comes from “The Danny Thomas Show.”

Howard Finds Even More Success On ‘Happy Days’

After his run with “The Andy Griffith Show” ended, Howard kept busy honing his skills as a director. But he was looking for another acting role. One turned up and involved another brilliant television producer’s mind in Garry Marshall.

In 1973, director George Lucas was putting together a movie called “American Graffiti” about teenagers living in the early 1960s. He put Howard in the lead role and it became a hit. This gave Marshall an idea to produce a TV series that looked back on those times.

“Happy Days” became the finished result. Ron Howard, who Marshall knew about from his previous work on the “Griffith” show and movies, was hired to play Richie Cunnigham. Other cast members including Tom Bosley, Marion Ross, Erin Moran, Anson Williams, Donny Most, and Henry Winkler joined in the show.

Marshall initially put the focus on Howard’s character, making everything swirl around him. But the show wasn’t getting the response in ratings, so Marshall made a couple of adjustments. Howard was still a featured character, but the show went from a bit of dry humor to a seriously more comedic bent. Winkler’s Arthur Fonzarelli, or “Fonzie,” became featured more on the show.

The revamp of “Happy Days” saved it from the cancellation floor. It went from nearly being cut by ABC to being the No. 1 show on television in 1976-77. There was a special relationship between Howard and Winkler on the show. Take a look at this “Happy Days” clip between Richie and “The Fonz.”

It’s worth noting that Ron Howard’s father, Rance, and brother Clint also were actors, too. Neither one, though, reached the on-screen heights of Ron.

In the past number of years, Howard has definitely spent more time behind the camera. His earliest dream was to be a movie director. As it worked out for him, he could blend his acting abilities and turn them into learning the in’s and out’s of directing.

Ron Howard has brought millions of people hours of joy and happiness through his work on “The Andy Griffith Show” and “Happy Days.” Opie Taylor and Richie Cunningham are characters that people will never forget.

Today, though, let’s celebrate the life of this talented and gifted actor and director. Happy birthday, Ron Howard.