‘Happy Days’: Tom Bosley Explained Why Ron Howard Was the ‘Storybook’ Person ‘You Don’t Find in LA’

by Suzanne Halliburton

Happy Days truly did define wholesome television. The non-controversial was its bedrock. High school dances. Basketball games. Drinking malts and swinging to the tunes blasting from a jukebox.

Happy Days felt Heartland authentic when it started its run in 1974. And there was a reason for it. One of the biggest stars of the show was a guy who was raised right, who didn’t view himself as anyone that special.

Tom Bosley, who played Howard Cunningham, praised the actor who portrayed his son during an interview with the Television Academy Foundation in September 2000.

Bosley lauded Ron Howard. We all know Howard is talented. When this interview was conducted, Howard was a movie away from A Beautiful Mind. That’s the movie that won Howard his first Academy Award for directing.

Bosley said Howard helped Happy Days succeed because he was experienced. So check that obligatory box.

“He’d been front of the cameras since he was this big,” Bosley said, nodding back to Howard’s time playing Opie Taylor on The Andy Griffith Show.

But Cunningham also had another trait that translated well on to TV screens.

Bosley continued: “Ron Howard is a very rare individual in this business. Great parents, parents who knew exactly how to raise him. He just lost his mother and we went to a memorial. It was just the most beautiful thing you can imagine because it was a celebration. And that’s the way he and his brother were raised by these people, just wonderful.

“His mother was an actress at one time. And his father is an actor and a writer. It’s all there. But he was Mr. Regular Kid. He went to public high school. He married his childhood sweetheart. I mean he was the storybook you don’t find in LA. He was the storybook you find in like Iowa, you know what I mean? And he just permeated (normalcy) … never flaunted his position. We were all equals on the show.”

Ron Howard Was Big Focus on Happy Days

Howard, as Richie Cunningham, was supposed to be the focus of the show, which told the story of a family living in 1950s-era Milwaukee. But Henry Winkler, eventually, became the show’s center, or at least its co-center when fans loved Fonzie. So Fonzie became a regular cast member, as opposed to a recurring character.

Ron Howard stuck with Happy Days until 1980. Along with Donny Most, Howard left the cast on May 6, 1980, to focus on directing. It was a lofty goal for Howard, who was then only 26 years old. His directorial breakthrough came two years later. Howard brought along Winkler to co-star in Night Shift.

Tom Bosley also enjoyed a charmed life in Hollywood. He was America’s favorite dad in Happy Days. He played a crime-solving priest in the Father Dowling Mysteries. And he was the sheriff in Cabots Cove during Murder, She Wrote.

Bosley died a decade after this interview. He was 83.