Why Ron Howard’s Dad Rance Said ‘The Andy Griffith Show’ Was ‘Always Fun’

Ron Howard’s father Rance has to be one of the most unseen – and most underappreciated – contributors to The Andy Griffith Show. Serving mostly as a support to his young son actor Ronny Howard, Rance also guest-starred on the series from time to time and made valuable suggestions that Griffith and the show’s producers put to good use.

Here’s what the elder Howard had to say about the atmosphere on the show’s set.

On 'The Andy Griffith Show' set: Rance Howard, Ron Howard, and Clint Howard pose glance towards one another in this posed photograph.
Rance Howard and his sons Ron and Clint on ‘The Andy Griffith Show’ set | CBS via Getty Images

Rance Howard was 1 of the ‘Griffith Show’s unseen and most important contributors

Unknown to many Griffith Show fans, it was Ron Howard’s father Rance who set the tone for the relationship between Sheriff Andy Taylor and his son Opie. Initially, the scripts between the on-screen father and son mirrored that of the father and son on The Danny Thomas Show, which the Griffith Show was more or less spun off from. On the Thomas Show, the son played by Rusty Hamer was a sassy, wisecracking child who always showed his dad up.

Rance saw this dynamic and suggested a change, as Ron told the Television Academy Foundation.

 “Early on, they wrote Opie a little differently. More like the typical sitcom kids who were always having the wise comebacks, jokes, punchlines,” he said. “Later, I heard that my dad was talking to Andy about this, the Andy/Opie relationship, and Andy was talking to my dad about our relationship, because my dad and I were very close.

“My dad was around the set quite a bit, and somehow my dad said, ‘What would happen if Opie knew that Andy was smarter than him? How about if Opie actually respected his dad? I just thought it might be different.’” 

Ron Howard’s father said the ‘Griffith Show’ was wonderful

In a 2016 conversation with an Andy Griffith Show fan podcast, “Two Chairs No Waiting,” Rance offered a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at what really took place on the show’s set.

The Andy Griffith Show was always fun,” Rance said. “Andy was fun. Andy worked hard and was very serious, but he could laugh and he loved to laugh. And Don Knotts was the same way. Aaron Ruben, the actual producer and story editor, he was like that.

“That was really a family friendly, kid-friendly show. What a wonderful atmosphere for a young boy like Ron to grow up in. He did it for eight years.”

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Rance spoke on how the show influenced Ron to become a director

The stage dad explained that it was while his son was part of the Griffith Show that his passion for learning the craft of film directing was born.

“He became interested in directing, in the technical side of the business early in his life and he would ask a guy named Sid Hickox, who was the cinematographer,” Rance said. “And Ron would say, ‘Mr. Hickox, why are you moving that light over there?’ And Sid would say, ‘Get up here, Ron, and look through here, and I’ll show you. I’ll explain it to you.’ And he would.

“Ron early in his life had learned technically everything about filmmaking, about shooting a film. And the director, a guy named Bob Sweeney, was the same way. He was very helpful.”