‘Happy Days’ Star Ron Howard Starred in Film as Huckleberry Finn with Costar as Tom Sawyer

by Joe Rutland

“Happy Days” star Ron Howard played the lead role of a film version of “Huckleberry Finn” alongside a costar from the ABC sitcom.

In 1975, Howard played Finn while Don Most, who played Ralph Malph on “Happy Days,” portrayed Tom Sawyer. Ron Howard played Richie Cunningham on the TV sitcom.

“Huckleberry Finn” focused on Finn, who left behind his boring home life and headed down the Mississippi River in a raft. Antonio Fargas played Jim, a slave who joined Finn on his raft. Fargas’ name might sound familiar to classic TV fans as he played “Huggy Bear” in the 1970s cop show “Starsky & Hutch.”

‘Happy Days’ Premiered One Year Before TV Movie Gets Released

Obviously, the movie was based on the Mark Twain novel “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.” It won a Primetime Emmy Award for “Outstanding Children’s Special.”

One year earlier, “Happy Days” premiered on ABC in 1974. The show ran for 11 seasons, but Howard and Most both left after seven seasons with guest appearances in its final season.

Howard had other family members in the movie. Rance Howard, Ron Howard’s father, played Pap Finn, while Ron Howard’s mother, Jean Speegle Howard, played Widow Douglas. His brother Clint Howard played Arch. One more interesting name in the cast was country music legend Merle Haggard, who played Duke.

Ron Howard started his TV career as Opie Taylor on “The Andy Griffith Show.” After his time on “Happy Days” ended, he would go to become a successful film director. His movies have included “Splash,” “Cocoon,” “Willow,” “Cinderella Man,” and “The Da Vinci Code.”

Howard Received Precious Piece Of Advice From Classic TV Show’s Creator

Ron Howard never forgot a piece of advice given to him by “Happy Days” creator Garry Marshall. He recalled what Marshall told him in a 2016 interview with “Entertainment Tonight.”

“Garry became one of these guiding forces, and not just creatively,” Howard said. “Because Garry Marshall, as successful as he was – whether it was stage, big screen – his mantra to anyone who was beginning to succeed in the business was simple.

“He said, ‘This is great. It’s fantastic. But don’t ever forget that life is more important than show business,'” Howard said. “And he lived that. And you could see it demonstrated in the choices he made.”

Marshall created other TV shows, including two spinoffs from “Happy Days.” They were “Laverne & Shirley” and “Joanie Loves Chachi.” His films included “Pretty Woman,” “The Princess Diaries,” and “Beaches.” He died on July 19, 2016, at 81 years old.

“Happy Days” featured Ron Howard yet Henry Winkler would soon take over front and center. Fans loved Winkler’s “The Fonz” so much that episodes began to focus on him more than Richie. Both actors remained friends during and after the show’s ending.