Clint and Ron Howard’s Parents Saved (Almost) ‘Every Penny’ of the Money Their Sons Earned as Child Actors

In their recent joint memoir, The Boys, actor brothers Clint and Ron Howard revealed what it was like for them to grow up in Hollywood — from their years on The Andy Griffith Show to early adulthood.

With at times brutal honesty about their childhoods that had been shrouded in the nostalgia of early television, the siblings opened up about their parents, Rance and Jean Howard. They shielded their sons from the harshness of Hollywood and in the end did right by them financially.

Ron Howard (right) and brother Clint Howard on 'The Kelly Clarkson Show'
Ron Howard (right) and his brother and fellow actor, Clint Howard, appear on ‘The Kelly Clarkson Show.’ | Weiss Eubanks/NBCUniversal/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

‘Sophisticated hicks’ raised Ron Howard and brother Clint Howard

In an appearance on The Rachael Ray Show, the brothers opened up about the writing process. They also discussed their parents’ unique love story.

“We are five years apart,” Clint said. “So our perspectives are different. This is really a love letter to mom and dad; it really is.”

And in the book, he described his mother coining “a term for herself and Dad: ‘sophisticated hicks.’ Worldly enough to broaden their horizons through travel and the performing arts, yet homespun enough to live simply and humbly. … Ron and I decided to share our story of growing up as the products of these sophisticated hicks: just your typical postwar tale of a tight nuclear family whose two kids happened to be on TV all the time.”

The Howards saved nearly every cent of their sons’ earnings for them

“Our folks were scrupulously honest about money,” Clint wrote. Unlike other young actors’ guardians who withheld love and misused their children’s pay, he added that Rance and Jean Howard “never lived outside of their means.”

The Gentle Ben star revealed his father talked frankly with his sons about their finances. He told them “what was happening to the money we earned. By state law, 15 percent of our earnings were automatically placed in a Coogan Trust Account, whose funds could not be accessed by anyone but us when we turned 18.”

The Coogan Law, officially the California Child Actor’s Bill, passed in 1939 to protect young actors’ earnings. It arose after actor Jackie Coogan sued his mother for squandering his money on expenses unrelated to his career. Coogan, who later gained fame as Uncle Fester on the television comedy The Addams Family, had earned millions as a child actor. And even after suing his mother and stepfather, he was left with nearly nothing.

Clint continued: “Mom and Dad put every penny into savings accounts and U.S. bonds in our names, apart from a five percent managers’ fee that they drew for looking after our careers. That’s a bargain — most managers charge triple that amount.”

Ron and Clint Howard realized their parents were the exception, not the norm

The two gave their parents credit for their faithful care and not letting fame go to the boys’ heads. They instead instilled in them a strong sense of identity and family, Clint wrote.

“We were precocious and talented, but still very much children,” he said. “Most of the time, fortunately, Mom and Dad zealously protected us from the dark and predatory aspects of the business. A lot of child actors weren’t as fortunate; their own parents were the predators.”

In a 1998 interview with the Television Academy Foundation, Andy Griffith remarked on his co-star Ron Howard’s upbringing and the part it played in allowing him to grow up into an emotionally balanced and happy adult.

“Ronny has a wonderful mother and father,” Griffith said. “That is perhaps the principal reason he turned out the way he did. He was always a good kid. And he never considered me his father. He considered me not even a father figure. He considered me his friend. I was playing his father; he knew that.”

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