Ron Howard truly paid attention to Andy Griffith’s work ethic while playing young Opie Taylor on CBS’s “The Andy Griffith Show.”
Howard, who went on to play Richie Cunningham on “Happy Days” and directed many hit movies, could already tell at a young age how important Griffith took part in the CBS sitcom.
“He was really the rock upon which the show was built in every way,” Howard said in an interview with the Archive of American Television. “He was the one that established the tone of that set which was playful when it was appropriate to be having fun. But when it came time to make the show, do the shot, to get the joke, that was pretty serious.”
Howard: Having Fun OK On ‘The Andy Griffith Show’
Howard said he gained a sense from being on “The Andy Griffith Show” set that having fun was OK. But one should never forget about the responsibility of the show.
“It’s an opportunity not to be wasted,” Howard said. “And so Andy was a really great, natural leader even though he wasn’t formally a producer on the show, formally a writer. He was a tremendous contributor and often was kind of an arbiter, you know, what was right and what was wrong with a scene.”
Griffith brought into the show a history of being a comedian who would do monologues. Howard, in fact, compared Griffith’s style of on-stage presentation to that of Will Rogers.
Established Entertainers Helped Educate Young Star
“The Andy Griffith Show” was quite a learning ground for Howard. He watched talented actors and producers all around him. Howard listened and observed from a lot of show-business legends. Griffith was an established star through TV appearances and playing Will Stockdale in “No Time For Sergeants.”
Don Knotts, who played Deputy Barney Fife, entered the show from “The Steve Allen Show” comedic ensemble. Knotts and Griffith worked together before in the film version of “No Time For Sergeants.”
Danny Thomas, an established comedian/actor, produced “The Andy Griffith Show” along with his business partner, Sheldon Leonard. People see Leonard every year at Christmas as he plays the bartender in Frank Capra’s “It’s A Wonderful Life.”
It was through these people that Howard gained an education in entertainment, one that has helped him for many years.