Ron Howard left such an impression on Buddy Ebsen after the two met on The Andy Griffith Show that Ebsen dedicated a section of his 1994 memoir to his former co-star.
In The Other Side of Oz, the late classic TV star wrote about his trials and celebrations during his career in Old Hollywood and beyond. The actor, who got his start in Vaudeville, appeared in dozens of black and white films, nearly died on the set of The Wizard of Oz, and earned a star on The Walk of Fame before becoming the Beverly Hillbillies icon we know today.
And it was his jump into sitcom fame that brought him face-to-face with the now-Oscar-winning director, Ron Howard. One year before he debuted as Jed Clampet, he took a guest role in The Andy Griffith Show episode titled Opie’s Hobo Friend.
The story had Ebsen’s “shiftless drifter” befriend Howard’s Opie Taylor. So, the two worked very closely with each other. And Ebsen couldn’t get over how professional Howard was at only seven years old.
“One of the key elements in the show’s success was that bright little redheaded kid,” Ebsen wrote in his book. “Everyone was impressed with Ronny Howard, as was I. I was also impressed with his parents and the cool, intelligent way they had done their part; there was nothing of a spoiled brat about him.”
Ron Howard Asked Buddy Ebsen to Star in ‘Cocoon’
The two connected again for the 1981 movie of the week, Fire on the Mountain. By that time, Ron Howard had already jumped to a new level of stardom after working on Happy Days and American Graffiti. He also had six directing projects on his resume. Nonetheless, Howard was still the down-to-earth kid Buddy Ebsen met decades prior.
“Ron and I got along very well working together,” he continued. “And we often reminisced about Mayberry.”
It wasn’t long after that Ron Howard became an A-list director with movies like Willow and Apollo 13. He won his first of two Oscars for A Beautiful Mind in 2002, and he’s been one of Hollywood’s most sought-after people ever since. When that happened, Ebsen backed off and let Howard deal with his huge success.
“Something seismic happens when an artist is suddenly a major success in Hollywood. Not so much that it brings about a change in the artist, but it sure makes a difference in the world’s attitude toward him or her. Suddenly all doors are open and everything previously unattainable seems to become attainable. The phone rings incessantly, and friends you never knew you had come running,” he noted before adding, “If you are a real friend, however, you never crowd in at a time like this.”
Despite Howard’s celebrity status, he never forgot his pal, Buddy Ebsen, though. Howard proved that he had the same admiration for the actor when he personally sought him out to star in Cocoon in the mid-1980s. Unfortunately, Ebsen was busy with the series Matt Houston and couldn’t accept. But the consideration was enough for Ebsen.
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