Book review: Reflections on a normal, happy Hollywood childhood

"The Boys" by Ron Howard and Clint Howard
"The Boys" by Ron Howard and Clint Howard

"The Boys: A Memoir of Hollywood and Family"

Authors: Ron Howard and Clint Howard

William Morrow, 371 pages, $28.99

It’s rare to read a memoir or a biography these days about someone in the movie, television or music world — or their cohorts or their parents — who hasn’t become involved with sex, drugs and alcohol. (Well, toward the end, a bit of experimenting goes on in this book.) The Howard parents brought their kids up right. They gave them the ethics that all parents should strive to impart to their young ones and teens. Ron and Clint listened and followed their parents’ advice. Their father took over coaching them and taught them how to act; their mother taught them how be loving responsible people.

Featured reviews by prominent people in the entertainment industry have lauded the Howard parents as ones we should all emulate. We follow how the father of the boys raised them: how to behave in front of the camera and in real life as well. This book is a pleasure. It alternates every few pages with first Ronnie’s writing and then Clint’s, chronologically. The father often put his own career in the background, in order to bring up his kids to get a particular part in a movie or TV role.

Ron, early on known as Ronnie, was particularly destined to act. At the age of three, just for fun, he memorized the role of Ensign Pulver, listening to his father recite the lines as he studied the great part in “Mister Roberts.” Before he learned to read, Ron got every role he auditioned for. His father prepared the boys so well that retakes were rare, and no fits of temper such as those seen on other sets with childhood actors were evidenced. His first acting role was in “The Journey,” when he was 4 years old. His curious mind wanted to know how everything worked even as far back as that movie.

Then came the blockbuster television hit, “The Andy Griffith Show.” Readers will be amazed as to how much of a sponge 6-year-old Ronnie was. The series continued until he was in his early teens. He then had a short role in the musical “The Music Man,” followed by “Happy Days” (with a bit of a dust-up with the Fonz). Then he was cast in the movie “American Graffiti.”

Ron’s first debut as a director was for “Grand Theft Auto,” in 1977. One man had predicted he’d be a director, and he was right. From an early age he was fascinated with how special effects could look so realistic. He followed around people who had specialized jobs on his sets.

The theme of this book is that the parents placed normalcy above all else — it was the family’s watchword. They gave the boys a good sense of values regarding money, and the brothers never became toxic Hollywood brats. When Ron’s father vetoed Ronnie’s buying a fancy, expensive car with his own considerable amount money he had earned, Ron listened to him and bought instead a VW bug.

The two boys never clashed or were particularly competitive regarding their careers. Clint, five years younger than Ronnie, was given a big time slot in “Gentle Ben” and later in “Star Trek.” He also had roles in numerous TV shows and movies. He later acted in the plays Ronnie created and was always given a role in them.

The brothers were fast friends and truly loved one another. They always had each other’s back. Thanks to their parents they were taught how to act and also how to behave as decent human beings.

Mims Cushing lives in Ponte Vedra Beach and has written three books.

This article originally appeared on Florida Times-Union: Book review: 'The Boys' by Ron Howard and Clint Howard