The revolving door that is entertainment means that actors are always saying goodbyes. Such was the case with Happy Days and many more shows.
It makes sense. When shows run for years, or decades in the case of something like Gunsmoke, something’s got to give. It’s eventually what happened to names like Don Knotts on The Andy Griffith Show, Richard Thomas on The Waltons, and Ron Howard on Happy Days.
Howard left the show in 1980, prior to the show’s eighth season. With the desire to pursue directing (considering his success, thank goodness,) Howard left under the on-screen premise that Richie Cunningham had joined the military.
While unfortunate for die-hard fans of the show, hindsight shows it was for the best. And, according to “Fonzie” actor Henry Winkler, it was totally understandable.
However, he viewed it differently than Howard. In an interview with crazedfanboy.com, Winkler was asked about Howard’s departure and if he ever considered doing the same.
“No. I never thought of leaving,” Winkler explained. “I thought, ‘If I sign my name to the paper, I’m going to honor my commitment.’ Ron’s choice was completely different. He knew from a very early age, maybe 15, that directing was going to be his path. So after his commitment of 5 years was over, he left to pursue his passion. And luckily for us, he did, because he is truly one of the most successful directors in the world. And truly great at what he does.”
There’s no doubt about that. But while Howard may have garnered even more success for directing, Winkler hasn’t done bad in his own right. He’s been in countless films and shows, and even in 2021 is receiving plaudits for his work on HBO’s Barry.
Ron Howard Leaves Happy Days for Directing
The switch from being in front of the camera to behind it isn’t uncommon, but few have the success Howard has had. Likely the biggest testament to his career is how he has tackled a wide variety of subjects and styles.
The praise for Howard as a director truly hit a zeitgeist when he released Apollo 13 in 1995. The dramatized story of the 1970 Apollo 13 mission with Tom Hanks and Kevin Bacon was a smash hit with fans and critics, making $355.2 million at the box office.
He followed strongly with films like A Beautiful Mind and kid cult classic How the Grinch Stole Christmas. In 2005, it was his work on Cinderalla Man that reminded many of his skill as he took on the life of boxing legend James J. Braddock.
He then tackled the Da Vinci Code trilogy, but Frost/Nixon may be his best work. The movie adaption of a play about the legendary interviews between David Frost and Richard Nixon was as gripping as any film that year, and received five Oscar nominations because of it.
Hell, this man even got to handle a massive task in the world of Star Wars: telling the story of Han Solo without Harrison Ford. Solo: A Star Wars Story was a general success and did cinema’s favorite intergalactic smuggler justice.