Ernest T. Bass actor Howard Morris predicted Ron Howard would be a director
Morris observed little Ronny’s curiosity on the Mayberry set and knew the young star was destined for great things behind the camera.
Howard Morris was one of the funniest character actors on TV for decades. Best known for playing trouble-making hillbilly Ernest T. Bass on The Andy Griffith Show, Morris also voiced many animals in The Flintstones as well as futuristic rockstar Jet Screamer in The Jetsons. He started his career in live sketches on Sid Caesar’s Your Show of Shows alongside Carl Reiner.
While his talents in front of the camera are obvious, Morris had a completely different and equally successful side to his career. He jumped behind the camera in the 1960s and began directing episodes of the decade’s most popular sitcoms.
Morris’ directorial debut was the Dick Van Dyke Show episode “The Ballad of Betty Lou,” reuniting him with fellow Sid Caesar protégé Carl Reiner.
Morris soon graduated to helming episodes of Bewitched, Hogan’s Heroes and, of course, The Andy Griffith Show.
It was on the Mayberry set that Morris met a young man he predicted would also make the transition from acting to directing. That kid was none other than Ron Howard!
Howard (Ron Howard, that is) recently told The Hollywood Reporter about how being on-set sparked his curiosity for filmmaking and how Howard Morris could see a bright future behind the camera for the young star.
“I was curious about the camera, I loved listening to the writers talk about rewrites, and I began to see that almost all of our directors had been actors first, among them the great comedy star Howard Morris, who was also an excellent director,” Ron Howard remembered. “When I was about 10, he said, ‘I see you looking around, asking questions. I’ll bet you wind up being a director.’”
Morris could not have been more right, although with Howard’s $4.3 billion in box offices receipts to date and two Oscars, “wind up being a director” reads like quite an understatement.
We wonder if Howard Morris ever played the lotto with that kind of foresight. Although many would say he had already won — playing one of Mayberry’s most memorable characters, not to mention his long career both behind and in front of the camera on some of TV’s greatest shows.