‘Happy Days’: Ron Howard’s Father Remained ‘Aloof From the Cast’ for This Reason

Ron Howard as Richie Cunningham on 'Happy Days'
Ron Howard as Richie Cunningham on ‘Happy Days’ | Walt Disney Television via Getty Images Photo Archives/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images

A constant presence throughout legendary actor Ron Howard’s career was his father, Rance.

An accomplished actor himself, Rance prepared his son for the award-winning career ahead of him from his years on The Andy Griffith Show and onward.

During Ron’s early years on the hit comedy Happy Days, Rance stayed off to the side – and steadfastly to himself – according to one cast member.

Ron Howard’s father was also his acting coach

At The Andy Griffith Show‘s debut in 1960, Ron Howard was just barely 6 years old when he took on the role of Sheriff Andy Taylor’s son Opie on the now-classic series.

Ron was too young to read his lines to memorize them. Instead, he told the Archive of American Television in 2006, it was his father Rance Howard who “taught me my lines. I couldn’t read.”

Rance acted professionally and performed on shows including The Virginian, That Girl, Bonanza, and on Gentle Ben.

Ron explained that his father, especially in the Andy Griffith Show years, would “teach me the dialogue. The great thing he did was he was teaching me good, solid fundamentals about acting. My dad was teaching me to act.”

Rance even contributed a script to ‘The Andy Griffith Show’

Ron Howard, left, with his father Rance on the set of 'The Andy Griffith Show,' 1962
Ron Howard, left, with his father Rance on the set of ‘The Andy Griffith Show,’ 1962 |
CBS via Getty Images

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Rance, who appeared on several episodes of the Griffith show including “Cousin Virgil,” “A Black Day for Mayberry,” “Barney and the Governor,” and “The Rumor,” also contributed towards an episode of the series called “The Ball Game.”

The episode, which appeared in the show’s seventh season was “based on real life. My dad actually wrote the story for it.”

In the episode, Andy umpires Opie’s softball game and calls his own son out. Opie and Ron — were not pleased with their fathers.

“That had happened to me and my dad,” Howard told Larry King in 2013. “He called me out at home at a ball game that was on my birthday. But I couldn’t believe he called me out!

“My dad thought that was hilarious that I was so upset about it. He took the idea to Andy [Griffith] and they made an episode out of it.”

Why Rance was standoffish from the ‘Happy Days’ cast

In her memoir My Days: Happy and Otherwise, Happy Days star Marion Ross stated that Rance stayed very much by his son’s side. Especially at the show’s start when Ron was just entering young adulthood, his father remained in the wings for him.

Ross, who has also post-Happy Days appeared on Gilmore Girls, noted that Ron was “very serious about his future,” and that he had “inherited that seriousness” from his father.

The cast of 'Happy Days'
The cast of ‘Happy Days’ | Walt Disney Television via Getty Images Photo Archives/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images

Rance, she said, “was all business when it came to Ron’s work on Happy Days. He made it a point to remain aloof from the cast and was always just quietly watching everything that was happening.”

The reason, Ross said, was it seemed he didn’t want his son getting ensnared in any after-hours shenanigans with other cast members. He made sure “in those first few years of Happy Days that as soon as we were wrapped each evening, it was back home to Burbank for Ron.”

Although Ron was of adult age, his father “was not going to hear of his son going partying and getting into any child actor mischief.”

Ron Howard’s directorial work on dozens of beloved and box-office successful films as well as his Best Director Oscar for 2001’s A Beautiful Mind are proof that his dad knew what he was doing.