‘The Andy Griffith Show’: Ernest T. Bass Actor Howard Morris Described Ron Howard as a ‘Doll To Work With’

by Joe Rutland
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When you can impress a TV veteran like Howard Morris, then you’ve done something. Ron Howard did it on “The Andy Griffith Show.”

Morris, who appeared as mountain man troublemaker Ernest T. Bass, directed some of the show’s episodes. Working with Howard, who played Opie Taylor, proved to be a fantastic experience. Morris came into the show after working for years with comedian Sid Caesar on “Your Show of Shows” as both an actor and writer, too.

“He was 5 or 6 then and a doll to work with,” Morris said of Ron Howard in an interview with the Television Academy Foundation. “Well trained by his actor-father [Rance Howard] and his mother [actress Jean Howard].”

Now getting praise from a guy like Morris is worth noting. Ron Howard was billed as Ronny Howard in the early seasons of “The Andy Griffith Show.” Being around people like Morris, Griffith, Don Knotts [Deputy Barney Fife], and show executive producer Sheldon Leonard provided Howard with a lot of experienced TV minds.

‘The Andy Griffith Show’ Provided Morris With Another Stage For His Comedy

Playing Ernest T. Bass just added to the already incredible resume’ of Morris, who died on May 21, 2005, at 85 years old. Bass definitely wanted to find him a woman to marry, focusing on Charlene Darling. You remember that episode, don’t you?

No? OK, here’s a refresher. Bass is causing all types of trouble around the Darlings. He’s throwing rocks through their windows, yelling out his undying love for Charlene. It starts to get on the nerves of Briscoe Darling [actor Denver Pyle, who later would play Uncle Jesse on the “Dukes of Hazzard”].

Here’s a scene involving Bass, Griffith as Sheriff Andy Taylor, and Pyle from “The Andy Griffith Show.”

Ernest T. Bass [Howard Morris] tries his best to “woo” Charlene Darling on “The Andy Griffith Show.”

Morris was a multi-faceted actor and director. He directed episodes of other shows like “Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.,” “Hogan’s Heroes,” and “The Dick Van Dyke Show.” Morris also was a versatile voice actor, providing his talents to different cartoons like “The Jetsons,” “The Flintstones,” “The Atom Ant Show,” and other Hanna-Barbera shows.

One more quick note about Morris and “The Andy Griffith Show.” When the TV movie “Return to Mayberry” appeared in 1986, Morris made one last appearance as Bass around Mayberry.

One Director Listening To Idea From Howard Helped Young Actor

Howard would go on beyond his Opie role and, obviously, find success on “Happy Days” and as a movie director. But there was one moment when he was on the “The Andy Griffith Show” that helped make him a part of it on a deeper level.

Director Bob Sweeney was behind the camera for an episode. Howard was trying to say a line of dialogue but it just didn’t sound right to him.

“‘What is it?'” Howard said Sweeney asked him. “And I said, ‘I don’t think the kid would say the line that way.'” Sweeney told Howard to tell him what the line should be. Howard pitched his rewrite. Sweeney’s reply? “‘Great, say it that way. Let’s go.'”

That moment actually played a role in making the young Howard feel he was a part of the creative decision-making process.

Outsider.com