Inside Buddy Ebsen and Ron Howard's professional relationship
The pair met during The Andy Griffith Show and never looked back.
Buddy Ebsen and Ron Howard both have incredibly storied and valuable careers independently, but more than once, their paths crossed to combine forces and make some equally amazing content.
In Buddy Ebsen's autobiography, The Other Side of Oz, he detailed his relationship with Howard, which began with The Andy Griffith Show episode, "Opie's Hobo Friend." Ebsen described, "I played a shiftless drifter who befriends Opie Taylor." Ebsen was also quick to credit the then-very young Howard with the show's prosperity. He wrote, "One of the key elements in the show's success was that bright little redheaded kid."
He continued, "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."
Later, the two co-starred in a television movie of the week, Fire on the Mountain, in 1981. By that time, Howard was no longer little Opie Taylor, but he still held the same charm that had endeared him to Ebsen the first time they met. Ebsen wrote, "Ron and I got along very well working together, and we often reminisced about Mayberry."
Ebsen also noted that Howard spent quite a bit of time on set carrying around a video camera and conducting interviews with those nearby. Ebsen commented, "Little did anyone suspect that this activity may have been part of his preparation for a major transition from actor to director."
Just a few years later, Howard began being recognized, not for his success as an actor, but rather, as a director. Despite this fame, or even because of it, Ebsen felt that it was important to keep his distance. He explained, "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 clarified, "If you are a real friend, however, you never crowd in at a time like this."
Even so, Ebsen and Howard's time together was not lost on Howard, who became interested in casting Ebsen in his film Cocoon. Unfortunately, Ebsen was already involved in the series Matt Houston, so he had to refuse the part due to unavailability. The role subsequently went to Don Ameche, who Ebsen claimed later jokingly thanked him for being unavailable to play the part during a public acceptance speech.