by Ron Howard and Clint Howard (William Morrow)
“What was it like growing up on television?” It was the question, along with their father’s death in 2017, that prompted Ron Howard and his brother Clint to co-write a memoir about their childhood.
“The Boys” is exactly what you would expect from the big brother who played Opie Taylor and Richie Cunningham and his younger brother, most famous as a child actor for his three year old role facing a bear in “Gentle Ben. “. It’s healthy, serious, and has just enough goodies on Mayberry and “Happy Days” to satisfy ardent fans.
The brothers take turns writing parts of most of the chapters, sharing their stories, and reflecting on how lucky they are to survive in Hollywood as child actors. The book is dedicated to their parents, Rance and Jean Howard, who deserve all credit for helping their children navigate to stardom. At one point in the 1960s, Ron – his name was Ronny then – was one of the most famous people on television. He did the math one day during Sandy Koufax’s contract dispute and realized he was making more money than the Dodgers left-handed ace.
It’s a lot of pressure to put on a kid still in elementary school, but the Howards aren’t your typical Hollywood family. Rance moved the family west to New York City (he and Jean actually grew up in Oklahoma and pursued their own acting dreams in the Big Apple) to capitalize on the growing popularity of television. The intention, of course, was to support his family as a middle-aged actor in westerns, military dramas, and crime shows. “But the Howard who kept getting picked was me,” Ron writes. “I’ve had almost every role I’ve auditioned for. Thanks to my freckles and red hair, I had the perfect, healthy look for the late Eisenhower era gee-willikers.”
Ronny wore Opie’s Keds for eight years on “The Andy Griffith Show,” adhering to California child labor laws and attending elementary, middle and high school when not supervised on the job. tray. But it wasn’t all whistling theme songs and laughter tracks. Ron shares quite a few examples of what he calls “Opie shaming” and thanks his father for teaching him to be tough enough to occasionally fight bullies.
Clint’s story is also flawless. He didn’t sail to fame as skillfully as his older brother and started abusing drugs as a teenager. But he’s been sober for decades now and still works as a character actor, in part because that’s what his father always did, taking care of the housework while “waiting for the phone to ring.” In fact, throughout the book, it’s clear that both brothers revere their father – for the careers he provided for them, the guidance he gave them throughout their lives, and the shining example of his marriage to their mother.
There’s a lot more to recommend, but, alas, AP reviews don’t last as long as popular serial TV. Readers will therefore have to buy it if they want gossip about “Happy Days” or details on how Ron managed to go from a successful child actor to an Oscar-winning director. Ultimately, this is the remarkable story of a family who chose a very public job but managed to live by their own private values in an America that gave them the space to do so.
–By Rob Merrill
The Associated Press