‘The Andy Griffith Show’: How Old was Ron Howard When He First Portrayed Opie?

by John Jamison

America knows Ron Howard these days as the talented director behind films such as “Apollo 13,” ” A Beautiful Mind,” and “The Da Vinci Code.” He’s had an extremely accomplished filmmaking career with some classic titles to his name. But an entire generation remembers him fondly as Richie Cunningham on “Happy Days.” And before that, folks recognized him as the adorable son of Sheriff Andy Taylor on “The Andy Griffith Show.”

Ron Howard has become an American icon for things he went on to accomplish. But how old was he when he got his humble start as Opie Taylor?

The youngster was a mere six years old when he first appeared on “The Andy Griffith Show.” For reference, the video clip below features the first few moments of the show’s first episode. It premiered in 1960 and is titled “The New Housekeeper.”

The series opens on Sheriff Andy Taylor officiating the wedding of his housekeeper Rose. Introduced as “Ronnie” in the credits, Howard’s Opie is hilarious from the get-go. When Griffith’s character says the obligatory, “speak now or forever hold your peace,” Opie doesn’t hesitate.

“I know why they shouldn’t be married!” Opie interjects right before Andy can declare the couple man and wife. “I’m speaking now so’s I won’t have to forever hold my peace.”

When Don Knotts’ Barney Fife tells Opie that he’s not supposed to speak, Opie brings up a good point. Why did he ask?

The opening scene of “The Andy Griffith Show” is pure gold. And it’s no wonder why Ron Howard went on to have such a successful career. At only six years old, the kid seemed sharp as a tack, earning laughs from the audience left and right. He wasn’t just a passive bystander on the show, however.

Ron Howard Remembered the First Time ‘The Andy Griffith Show’ Took One of His Suggestions

At six years old, Ron Howard could barely read the scripts that he was expected to memorize. But that didn’t stop him from making creative suggestions to improve the quality of the show.

In an episode from Season 2 of “The Andy Griffith Show,” Ron Howard pitched an idea that they actually used. In an interview with the Archive of American Television, he recalled the details of the situation.

After messing up the delivery of a line, Howard remembered saying something along the lines of “a kid my age wouldn’t say it this way.” Then they asked him for a better idea. He obliged. And apparently, they went with the new line. How did the seven-year-old Howard react? “My recollection is I just stood there and started grinning,” he said in the interview.