Today, the classic show Happy Days still remains one of the most dearly beloved sitcoms to ever grace American television screens. The very first episode aired on January 15th, 1974 on ABC. While the original creator of the show, Gary Marshall, had some difficulty getting it approved. Once the show finally made it on air, it was received with glowing approval. Overall, the show lasted for eleven amazing seasons, and aired a grand total of 255 episodes! Even though Happy Days ended decades ago, it still remains a favorite across the United States.
Happy Days created in a time when many Americans were feeling nostalgia for the supposedly simpler times of the 1950s. New technologies and rapidly shifting political ideologies caused many to daydream back to the quieter times of their adolescence. As a result, many television series at the time took place back in the 1950s. Of course, the most popular example of these shows is Happy Days. Happy Days portrayed through the perspective of a young teenager, Richie Cunningham. The show highlighted his innocent nature and reinforced traditional family values. It also so popular that it inspired a bunch of other spin-offs, such as Mork & Mindy, Joanie Loves Chachi, and Laverne & Shirley.
Nostalgic adults, bright-eyed teens, and even children could all find something to love about Happy Days. During the second season, however, the wholesome appeal began to wear off, and the show was in danger of cancellation. It revived in season three, which emphasized a more comedic element. And also fleshed out the increasingly popular character, Fonzie, to give him a more central role within the show.
While Fonzie is largely remembered as one of the most popular characters of the show. Richie Cunningham still remains a fan favorite across the board. And, of course, we wouldn’t have the Richie Cunningham we all know and love without the talented actor Ron Howard.
In today’s video, we’re going to take a look at Ron Howard’s amazing contributions to Happy Days, his legacy as an actor. And we’re even going to include a few fun facts about the show that you might not know! Make sure you stick around, because we’re also going to reveal the exact reason why Ron Howard chose to join the show in the first place. Here’s a hint: there’s a lot more to the story than simple dreams of becoming an actor!
Ron Howard’s Impressive Past
Many beginning stars found fame in Happy Days. For example, Henry Winkler, who played the legendary role of Fonzie, was virtually unknown as an actor until he came into the role. Ron Howard, however, had already made a name for himself long before starring in Happy Days.
Ron Howard was born on March 1st, 1954, to Jean Speegle and Rance Howard. Both of his parents worked as actors, and his father also worked as both a writer and a director. Due to the influence of his parents, Howard began acting very young. His first credited role in a film was in 1959, when he appeared in the movie The Journey. His first recognizable role was in an episode of The Twilight Zone. But he would truly find fame as the beloved character Opie Taylor in the classic Andy Griffith Show. After that, audience members had high expectations for young Ron Howard. A few years later, he would beat all of those expectations after joining Happy Days.
Why Ron Howard Joined Happy Days
When beginning life as a child actor, it might seem only natural to continue acting for the rest of your life. However, not everybody chooses to follow this path. In fact, a lot of child actors realize the pressures of film and television at a young age. And choose to live a life out of the limelight. Ron Howard’s reason for choosing to accept the lead role of Richie Cunningham in Happy Days was a bit more surprising, though.
At the time, the bloody Vietnam War still raging overseas, and the draft had many young men in shambles, hoping they wouldn’t be forced to enter. At the time, Howard was attending The University of Southern California. He then heard that, if a person drafted, so long as they employed at a place with at least thirty other people, they could deferred. Believe it or not, Howard’s main reason for joining Happy Days was so that. And should his number come up, he would have a valid reason not to fight in the war!
It was a clever solution, and it ended up being one of the most memorable parts of Howard’s career. In the end, his number didn’t actually end up being pulled. But Howard at least managed to have a lot of fun acting, and boost his career and experience at the same time!
A Bitter Rivalry
While Ron Howard was ultimately grateful that he ended up playing the leading role in Happy Days, there were times where he had his regrets. For example, he’s not always pleased with how silly the show got, as he preferred a slightly more serious tone. Even worse, however, was his bitter rivalry with Henry Winkler.
Being cast as the lead in the show, Howard used to getting all of the praise and attention. In season three, however, all of that would soon change. As the “cool biker” character, Fonzie, grew ever more popular, Howard found that his role became smaller and smaller. Not only were all of the girls in the audience suddenly swooning over Fonzie. But Howard even found that a lot of his lines being cut!
Howard’s co-star, Marion Ross, even mentioned in an interview that Howard once stated gloomily that the show was “All about the Fonz.” At times, he even grew so upset that he seriously considered quitting. In the end, however, Howard was able to put aside his rivalry with Fonzie’s actor, Henry Winkler. And the two remain close friends, even today! In fact, they’ve even collaborated in the industry from time to time.
As we’ll reveal later, Ron Howard ultimately did end up leaving the show, but not for the reason you might expect. Make sure you stick around until the very end, because we’re going to give you the exact reason why Ron Howard finally called it quits and left the cast of Happy Days. And if you’re enjoying this video so far, please take a moment to like this video, and don’t forget to subscribe to Facts Verse for more!
He Owes a Lot of His Success to His Parents
As we mentioned earlier, Ron Howard was born to two actors. They helped him involved in acting when he just two years old! However, Ron Howard doesn’t just owe his parents his career because they helped him get into the industry in the first place. They were also incredibly supportive figures throughout his life, and helped him learn how to retain a healthy work-life balance. It’s easy for actors to get sucked into the entertainment industry. And don’t really know how to have a life outside of acting.
Howard, however, taught by his parents at a young age how to balance his life as an actor with his life outside of work. They helped him learn how to develop healthy and stable relationships. And also taught him that he should never be working as an actor if he doesn’t enjoy what he’s doing. They never pressured him into acting, and always made sure he knew that he had the choice to opt out if he so wanted. And, of course, his parents also gave him plenty of invaluable acting lessons!
The Real Reason Ron Howard Left Happy Days
Earlier, we mentioned tensions onset with Howard’s bitter rivalry, Henry Winkler. Many times, Howard felt like quitting because he felt upstaged by the other actor. However, when Howard did end up leaving the show after season seven, it was for a surprisingly different reason.
While Howard’s career as an actor had been going quite well up until then, a slightly different childhood dream was calling him. From a very young age, Howard had hoped to become a director like his father. After years working in the industry as an actor, he had gained all the experience he needed to truly launch that career. After season seven, Howard said a sad goodbye to his fellow cast members, and went out into the world to do even bigger and better things. He is now revered as an Oscar-winning director, creating films such as A Beautiful Mind, Apollo 13, and Cinderella Man.
Even at age 66, Ron Howard is still making great strides in his career. In 2018, he directed the hit film Solo: A Star Wars Story. Most recently, in the year 2020, he directed and produced the Netflix drama film, Hillbilly Elegy. While we don’t yet know what other films he plans to direct, we’re all expecting some great things from him!
While many fans devastated to see Ron Howard leave Happy Days, we can all agree that he went on to accomplish some pretty great things. Were you more surprised to learn Howard’s reason for entering the show in the first place, or the reason he ultimately ended up leaving it? Let us know in the comments below, and don’t forget to subscribe to Facts Verse for more!