‘The Andy Griffith Show’: Ron Howard’s Dad Rance’s Favorite Show Memory Offers a Rare Peek Behind the Scenes on the Comedy’s Set

As dad to one of television’s most famous child actors (then adult actor, then Oscar-winning director), Rance Howard didn’t just sit on the set of The Andy Griffith Show. He assisted his son Ron with dialogue and at times even took on a role himself on the show that debuted in 1960.

And in one of his final interviews, Rance shared one of his best memories from the show’s set.

Actor Rance Howard and son, director Ron Howard, at premiere of 'Cinderella Man,' 2005
Rance Howard and son Ron Howard, 2005 | Kevin Winter/Getty Images

The Howard family lived very close to ‘The Andy Griffith Show’ set

In a 2016 interview with Andy Griffith Show fan podcast “Two Chairs No Waiting,” Rance Howard, whose Griffith Show perspective had largely been unheard from over the years, shared a detail many of the show’s fans were unaware of: that the Howard family lived so close to the show’s set, the comedy’s staffers would come fetch Ron for his scenes.

“I have a memory, one time, of pretty early in the show, maybe the first possibly second year,” Rance said. “We lucked out; we were able to lease a house right across the street from the studio. It had a wonderful backyard.

“The reason I mention the house is to show you how the show appreciated Ron and cooperated. He sometimes didn’t have to come to work until they needed him. And then the first assistant director would run across the street and knock on the door of our house and say, ‘Hey Ron, they’re ready for you!’ And he would come to work.”

The cast and crew played a part in Rance’s favorite memory

Rance who died in 2017 at age 89, laughed when asked about his memories from the show’s set. His recollections from his son Ron’s eight years on the show must have been too numerous to pick only one; there was one, though, that remained with him. It had to do with a special gift the cast and crew of the Griffith Show surprised Ron Howard with on his birthday.

“One year for Ron’s birthday, the cast and crew chipped in and bought him a swing set, you know, the kind of A-shaped thing that has a swing and a slide and a teeter-totter,” he recalled. “It was really a great swing set. Anyway, they had set it up for him on the stage. And he was called out for his birthday cake and for happy birthday song, and there the swing set was.”

Rance explained that his son was overcome with emotion when he was presented with the overwhelming gift.

“Somebody said, ‘Well, hey, Ron, this is your birthday present, happy birthday! Right after the show, we’ll send the crew over and set it up in your yard,'” Rance revealed. “And Ron was so floored, so knocked out, that he burst into tears and was trying to say thank you to everyone. Finally, the sound guy, sitting up on the boom, reached over and nudged Ron with the microphone, and said, ‘Get out of here, you dirty rotten kid!’ So Ron was excused and dried his eyes. He was so touched by that gift from the crew.”

Rance loved the ‘Griffith Show’ set’s atmosphere

Rance added that “there were so many instances similar to that. The show was so kid-friendly, ‘Ronny,’ they always called him ‘Ronny’ at that time.”

He noted that his son’s years on the show benefitted Ron not only at the moment but in his career to come.

“I just have to again realize how important and how formative this show was for Ron during his formative years,” he said. “I bet you today he knows things that he doesn’t even know he knows; but he knows things that he learned on The Andy Griffith Show.”

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