Movie director and former actor Ron Howard has been happily married to Cheryl Howard since June 7, 1975. They’ve been an item since they dated in high school in 1970. They have four children together, some of whom are now successful actors and directors themselves. But, Ron’s first crush dates back even further. Disneyland brought them together and facilitated their kiss.
Ron was a guest on the Sibling Revelry podcast with his brother Clint on Feb. 17 to discuss their memoir, The Boys: A Memoir of Hollywood and Family. When co-host Kate Hudson asked them their first crushes, Ron shared a story of falling for one of his co-stars as a child actor.
Ron Howard had a crush on his child co-star
Howard became a child actor when he was still in the single digits. He started The Andy Griffith Show when he was six in 1960. Prior to that, he appeared on The Many Lives of Dobie Gillis, Dennis the Menace, and The Twilight Zone. By 1967 he was doing TV movies of the week, including the Disney movie A Boy Called Nuthin’. The movie aired in two parts as part of Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color.
“For me, it was a girl that I was acting with in a movie at Disney,” Howard said on Sibling Revelry. “She recently passed away. Her name was Donna Butterworth. She was a singer, she’d done an Elvis movie.”
Donna Butterworth and Ron Howard’s TV movie ‘A Boy Called Nuthin’
Butterworth died in 2018. A Boy Called Nuthin’ was her last acting credit of four. Her Elvis movie was Paradise, Hawaiian Style and she was in the Jerry Lewis movie The Family Jewels. Those and an episode of the TV series Summer Fun were her only acting roles. She lived out her life in Hawaii as a singer and recording artist, according to the Hawaii Tribune-Herald.
In A Boy Called Nuthin’, Howard played Richie Caldwell, nicknamed “Nuthin’”. The Chicago big city boy has to go live with his uncle out in the country town of Big Sun, where he learns survival skills. Butterworth played Laura-Kate Brackney, presumably Richie’s love interest given the story Howard tells.
The film was based on the Harry Webb novel, simply called Nuthin’. Writers Lowell S. Hawley and James Leighton adapted the book. Norman Tokar directed.
Disneyland was where the magic happened
By 1967, Howard was an old pro in Hollywood. So, when Disney sent him and Butterworth to Disneyland to promote A Boy Called Nuthin’, he wasn’t exactly riding the Matterhorn. However, Disneyland attractions did provide Howard a kiss.
“We were in this TV movie together, we got to do a publicity trip to Disneyland at one point and we kissed on the Monsanto ride,” Howard said.
Howard did not say whether or not that was his first kiss. Even if it was not, it’s clear he was smitten by Butterworth.