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Howard, Ron - Overview, Personal Life, Career Details, Social and Economic Impact, Chronology: Ron Howard

film television director films

Imagine Entertainment


Beginning his acting career before his second birthday, Ron Howard has represented an entire generation of baby boomers on film and television. American TV viewers watched Howard grow from the clean-cut, freckle-faced Opie Taylor on The Andy Griffith Show, into adulthood as the equally clean-cut Richie Cunningham on the popular Happy Days sitcom, after which the star left acting to work behind the camera as a film director. With such popular films as Apollo 13, Parenthood, and Cocoon to his credit, Howard has transcended his initial image as a naive farmboy and gone on to create sophisticated motion pictures that continue to reap major rewards at U.S. box offices.

Personal Life

With both parents working in the film industry, it was no surprise that Ronald William Howard would make acting and directing his life’s work. The older of two sons born to actor and director Rance Howard and actress Jean Howard, Ron was born in Duncan, Oklahoma, on March 1, 1954. His screen debut occurred 18 months later, in the film Frontier Woman; it would be followed by several other professional performances throughout his childhood, arranged through the Howard family’s connections to stage and screen. Remaining calm and composed even on the set, the young Howard gained a solid reputation with directors and was offered a succession of film and television roles. By the late 1950s, his career had become the focus of his family’s efforts; when young Ronny got a job as a regular cast member on the popular Playhouse 90 television show, the entire Howard clan left their Midwest home for Hollywood. Howard’s early fame instilled in the naturallyshy actor a strong element of self-confidence and also made it clear that a life in films would have to be an open book to both the press and the public. As Howard later remarked in an interview in Playboy, “I honestly can’t remember when I was anonymous. I learned to write so I could give autographs.”

Howard was soon a hot young commodity on television sets, as roles on The Danny Kaye Show, Dr. Kildare, The Fugitive, The F.B.I., The Big Valley, and I Spy came his way. Acting opportunities in films also materialized: a 10-year-old Howard appeared in 1962’s The Music Man and a year later, in The Courtship of Eddie’s Father. Such high-visibility roles attracted the attention of TV producer Sheldon Leonard, who cast the pre-teen as the son of Mayberry, North Carolina, sheriff Andy Taylor, played by veteran actor Andy Griffith, on the popular Andy Griffith Show. So successful was Howard in the role of Opie that viewers continued to identify him with the character throughout much of his adult career.

Although Howard grew up in a nontraditional manner, his parents attempted to instill whatever sense of normalcy they could in his childhood. Unlike other television stars, he did not have to travel the country to promote his series, and was able to attend local public schools, where the novelty of being an actor wore off and he soon became just another kid. By the time Howard reached high school in Burbank, California, The Andy Griffith Show had run its course, and he could settle down and concentrate on playing varsity basketball like an average teen. His role in the 1973 American Graffiti would change all that, however, as the George Lucas-directed film became a hit and Howard’s face once again became a symbol of nostalgia to his generation. His role in Graffiti would be somewhat reprised in the hit television sitcom Happy Days, in which a then 20-year-old Howard played a middle class teen from Milwaukee, a straight man to a wide assortment of lovably eccentric characters. The series, which also nurtured the career of actor Henry Winkler, ran from 1974 through the last years of the decade.

Film directing had been a hobby of Howard’s since his high school days; armed with a Super-8 movie camera, he had even won second prize in a film contest for high school students sponsored by Kodak. After his high school graduation, he enrolled in the University of Southern California’s film school, but left before completing the course of study due to acting commitments. The rest of his cinematic education would come on the set, where he spent countless hours with other actors, directors, and producers. Howard’s first significant non-acting work would be in 1977’s Grand Theft Auto, a film he co-wrote with his father and which received production assistance from veteran producer/director Roger Corman. The film also received reviews that were encouraging enough to persuade Howard—now married to high school sweetheart Cheryl Alley and expecting the first of their four children—that he had a future as a film director.

Career Details

The modest success of Grand Theft Auto allowed Howard to finance three films for television on which he could hone his directoral skills; the last of these in 1981 was Skyward, which featured noted screen legend Bette Davis. The following year, Howard would direct Happy Days’ co-star Winkler in his second feature film, Night Shift, which focused on two night attendants at the city morgue who dream up an idea to make some extra cash by operating a prostitution ring out of their grisly place of business. While the film received mixed reviews, critics did approve of Howard’s lighthearted comic touch, an approach that would become even more prevalent in his next film, Splash.

Splash was considered the film that established Howard as a serious director. Starring Darryl Hannah, Tom Hanks, and John Candy, the film not only boosted the budding careers of its young co-stars, but also captured the hearts of critics and viewers alike. In a review for Newsweek, film critic David Ansen called Splash “a romantic comedy that is truly romantic and truly comic, a deft blend of hip satire and fairy-tale charm.” Howard continued this positive rapport with viewers through his next film, Cocoon, which featured an impressive lineup of more mature acting talent—Jessica Tandy, Hume Cronyn, Don Ameche, Brian Dennehy, Maureen Stapleton, and Wilford Brimley among them—in the story of a group of retirees who become physically recharged after sharing a pool in their Florida retirement community with a group of alien beings.

By the late 1980s, Howard had left behind elements of fairy tale and fantasy and become slightly more earth-bound in his films. The 1989 film Parenthood, for example, presents a more realistic view of child rearing. Howard and the three other men who sat down to write the film’s screenplay had the experience of raising 15 children between them and developed these experiences into a hit script. Starring popular comedian Steve Martin, Keanu Reeves, Jason Robards, and Mary Steenburgen, Parenthood was an immediate success with both critics and viewers, grossing $135 million at the box office.

Through the 1990s, Howard has expanded his subject matter. Backdraft, an action film about Chicago fire-fighters, starred Kurt Russell, and the quasi-historical motion picture Far and Away starred Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise. Far and Away has been the only Howard film to lose money, and the director’s 1994 return to comedy in The Paper drew critical sighs of relief, although reviewers were still cautiously wondering whether Howard had lost his sure touch. It would take Apollo 13 to reassure them, and reassure them it did. The 1995 film, which covers the tense moments during the 1970 manned mission into space, received high marks for its sophistication and restraint, and was hailed as among Howard’s best directorial work. Howard saw Apollo 13 in terms of its human drama. “The bittersweet quality of astronaut Jim Lovell’s experience definitely drew me in,” Howard explained in Time. “Here was a guy, arguably the best-equipped individual to walk on the moon, and the opportunity was pulled out from under him. It was devastating, and we can all relate to that kind of disappointment.”

In addition to his work as a director, Howard’s partnership with producer Brian Grazer has resulted in the success of Imagine Entertainment. Introduced by a friend in 1977, the two men quickly realized that they made a good team; by the mid-1980s they had decided to take their film production partnership public to further finance both Howard’s pictures and those of other directors. Imagine produced several television series and pilots as a public company, until Howard, realizing that his responsibilities to company shareholders were beginning to conflict with his goals as a director, chose to return the company to private ownership.

Social and Economic Impact

Howard’s approach to his task as director seems to be as down-to-earth as the characters he once played on television. His films, which are tinged, rather than saturated, with warm-hearted messages of compassion and caring, are driven by the characters that they portray. While his first few directorial efforts were constrained by budgetary considerations, Howard consistently assembles a strong cast for each of his films, making his works strong box office draws.

Chronology: Ron Howard

1954: Born.

1955: Made film debut as an 18 month-old toddler in Frontier Woman.

1959: Cast as a regular on the television series Playhouse 90.

1960: Starred as Opie Taylor in The Andy Griffith Show.

1973: Starred in the nostalgic hit film American Graffiti.

1974: Starred in the television comedy series Happy Days.

1977: Directed his first film, Grand Theft Auto.

1981: Received Emmy Award nomination for television movie Through the Magic Pyramid.

1986: Cofounded production company Imagine Entertainment with Barry Grazer.

1995: Directed Tom Hanks in blockbuster Apollo 13.

Unlike many child actors, Howard successfully transcended the image of Opie Taylor that shadowed him throughout his career. But he has still retained a “nice guy” image as a director. While that image makes him popular to work for, Howard has also recognized that critics could see it as a handicap if it appeared to constrain his subject matter in any way. As he told Playboy, the nudity in his first film, Night Shift, was included partly to erase any vestiges of his “goody two shoes” image. As a director, Howard has a reputation for being reasonable but very much in control. He can be credited with jump-starting the careers of actors Michael Keaton, then an unknown doing stand-up comedy whom Howard featured in Night Shift and The Paper, as well as Tom Hanks, whose first major film role was in Splash.

Howard consistently strives to create films that reach audiences on an entertaining and accessible level. Unlike some film directors whose more mature work has evolved along experimental or philosophical lines, Howard has preferred to maintain a mainstream cinematic standard. “I know I carry a sensibility born out of the kind of popular entertainment I grew up being a part of,” he told Playboy. “That’s part of my outlook. Likable characters. And there’s the celebration of the human spirit. I look around, I talk with people, look at their lives, read the paper, and notice even with my own life that there are those moments when a person feels victorious. They feel they’ve achieved something very difficult. That’s the stuff of memories, what makes life worth living I find those moments rewarding as a moviegoer.” Such an approach has resulted in films that earn consistent approval from audiences.

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about 5 years ago

Wow your so successful

How do you sleep at night knowing what you know about erin moran?

Maybe she refuses charity but being the person you are can't u get hera a part in one of your trillion movies u make?


Marie Breen