‘The Andy Griffith Show’: Ron Howard’s Dad Spanked Him on the Set in Front of Cast and Crew – ‘I Don’t Care Who’s Watching’

One of the best-loved and timeless series in television history, The Andy Griffith Show displayed the strong and loving relationship between single father and town sheriff Andy Taylor and his young son, Opie.

Andy Griffith as Andy Taylor took every occasion to teach his son respect for life and others in the community. Opie, played by Ron Howard, also once in a while was the lesson-giver, showing his father that even the young have wisdom to impart.

Griffith’s example for his on-screen dad role was Ron Howard’s father, Rance, who at one time on the show’s set had to physically discipline his son.

Ron Howard and Andy Griffith in a scene from 'The Andy Griffith Show'
Ron Howard and Andy Griffith in a scene from ‘The Andy Griffith Show’ | CBS via Getty Images

Rance Howard helped make ‘The Andy Griffith Show’ more realistic

Thinking back to his days on The Andy Griffith Show, filmmaker Ron Howard spoke with the Archive of American Television about how his character of Opie changed drastically from the first script because of his father, Rance.

The series was born out of The Danny Thomas Show and so, the character of Opie initially was modeled after Thomas’ on-screen son, Rusty Williams from that program. Rusty was a wise-cracking, smart-mouthed kid and Opie was headed down the same path until Rance Howard spoke up.

Ron Howard and Andy Griffith
Ron Howard and Andy Griffith | CBS via Getty Images

“Early on, they wrote Opie a little differently,” Howard explained. “More like the typical sitcom kids who were always kind of the wise-ass comebacks. Later I heard that my dad actually was talking to Andy about it.”

The Apollo 13 director continued, “My dad apparently said [to Andy Griffith], ‘What would happen if Opie knew that Andy was smarter than him? How about if Opie actually respected his dad? As opposed to sitcom kids who are always kind of making the dad look bad.’ Andy really took to that and that’s how they began to write that.”

Ron Howard needed a spanking

On the show set one day, Rance Howard saw his son behaving in a manner that required discipline. As Ron recalled, he was “probably acting up” and so his father had to step in.

In his 2015 book, Andy and Don: The Making of a Friendship and a Classic American, author Daniel de Visé (who also was Don Knotts’ brother-in-law) described Rance’s correction of his son.

Rance Howard, left, and his son, Ron Howard
Rance Howard, left, and his son, Ron Howard | Gregg DeGuire/WireImage

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“Everyone on the Griffith set witnessed the dynamic between Rance and Ronny in its full complexity,” de Visé wrote. “One day, Rance surprised everyone on the set by bending the child star over his knee and administering a spanking. It happened only once.”

Rance Howard may have been the inspiration for Andy Taylor

According to de Visé, Rance explained to his son why he had to spank him, delivered in an Andy Taylor-esque moment.

“Anywhere you are – I don’t care who’s watching, I don’t care what’s going on, I have only one job, and that’s to be your father, and that’s to teach you right from wrong,” Rance reportedly told his son. “And nothing about that job embarrasses me.”

After Rance’s suggestion to Griffith that the character of Opie be more respectful of his father, de Visé writes, Andy sought Rance out to let him know his idea was being implemented.

Ron Howard
Ron Howard | CBS via Getty Images

“Andy came up to Rance,” the author reported. “‘You know what, Rance? You’re right about that, between Andy and Opie. We’re gonna change it. We’re gonna try to develop a relationship between Opie and Andy the same as your relationship with Ronny.'”

Clearly, it worked, because viewers responded to the realistic relationship between father and son and kept the show a regular top 10 hit back then, and a beloved favorite to this day.