Ron Howard, who is one of the few true artistes of a higher caliber in Hollywood and who has excelled as a virtual Renaissance man in that industry as an actor, director, and producer, celebrates his 60th birthday today.
It almost seems that for the entire world, there has never been a time that Ron Howard hasn’t been in our consciousness in one way or another. From his earliest starts as a pint-sized cute redhead who follows Robert Preston around in The Music Man, to being the son of the conscientious TV star Andy Griffith on CBS’s The Andy Griffith Show as Opie Taylor, to seemingly sprouting up overnight and becoming a tall teenager with multitudes of growing pains as one Richie Cunningham on the smash sitcom Happy Days (which just unbelievably celebrated its 40th anniversary earlier this year), Ron Howard seemed to tackle all of those aforementioned roles with a grace and an aw-shucks charm that never turned him off to audiences because of it — it was quite the contrary actually.
Howard also had a plethora of other roles in films (like the ones in American Graffiti and John Wayne’s final picture The Shootist), which finally transcended to a directing career which started with hilarious successful comedies like Night Shift and Splash and eventually even also grew up like man himself, and eventually became one which netted Academy Award Gold, as his A Beautiful Mind won him a Best Director and co-Producer (along with long-time producing partner Brian Glazer) statuette.
His diversity as a director knows no bounds. He has a sweeping style in his pictures, usually propelled by sure-footed ensembles of actors of the A-list caliber (Tom Hanks comes to mind), and his tones and genres shift like chaotic ocean waves. Just a quick reading of some of his pictures — the almost operatic swell of firemen’s plights in Backdraft, the cerebrally Sci-Fi Cocoon, Parenthood, the Houston-we-have-a-problem-isms of Apollo 13, the adaptation of the Dr. Seuss holiday classic How the Grinch Stole Christmas, The Da Vinci Code, and last year’s high octane oil and tires squealing majesty of Rush — show that the Ron Howard directorial oeuvre is challenging, ever-changing, genre and shape shifting, and while possibly not always one hundred percent successful, always entertaining.
Howard’s success is blue tanzanite dazzling; it’s like the kind of success Steven Spielberg has in a way, with Howard also having his hand in producing some great pictures as well, and running both sides of that Hollywood gambit. Like a Jodie Foster, he’s coasted a career from standing in Buster Browns to wearing the most elegant tuxedo shoes.
Watching Ron Howard grow up in pop culture is seeing us grow up in a way, and one of the true benchmarks in measuring how far he has come is by witnessing the first film he directed, a Roger Corman ham fisted B quintessential 1970s muscle car vehicle (pun not intended) called Grand Theft Auto, and ironically, currently had just done the opposite spectrum, but yet still in the same genre ballpark in a way with Rush. Maybe what it shows is that underneath it all, the tightrope of helming huge Hollywood productions which by this point, Howard does with a sense of ease, everything in way he always did seemed with such a sense of ease, that there’s still the young, puckish redhead there, still metaphorically gleaning wise old life lessons from Andy Griffith (as Andy Taylor). In a way, the same goes for us: what we take from most of Howard’s productions, and that’s the essence of what makes movies and art tick ultimately, is the serious non-seriousness it requires for full absorption and satisfaction. No one seems to understand what makes these ingredients blend into a full on seamless end result of a product like Ron Howard.