The Boys

The Boys : A Memoir of Hollywood and Family

by Ron Howard, Clint Howard, Bryce Dallas Howard
Setting: California
Genres: 20th Century, Nonfiction, Personal Memoirs
Narrator: Ron Howard, Clint Howard
Published on October 19, 2021
Pages: 393
Format: Audiobook Source: Library

Happy Days, The Andy Griffith Show, Gentle Ben—these shows captivated millions of TV viewers in the ’60s and ’70s. Join award-winning filmmaker Ron Howard and audience-favorite actor Clint Howard as they frankly and fondly share their unusual family story of navigating and surviving life as sibling child actors.
“What was it like to grow up on TV?” Ron Howard has been asked this question throughout his adult life. In The Boys, he and his younger brother, Clint, examine their childhoods in detail for the first time. For Ron, playing Opie on The Andy Griffith Show and Richie Cunningham on Happy Days offered fame, joy, and opportunity—but also invited stress and bullying. For Clint, a fast start on such programs as Gentle Ben and Star Trek petered out in adolescence, with some tough consequences and lessons.
With the perspective of time and success—Ron as a filmmaker, producer, and Hollywood A-lister, Clint as a busy character actor—the Howard brothers delve deep into an upbringing that seemed normal to them yet was anything but. Their Midwestern parents, Rance and Jean, moved to California to pursue their own showbiz dreams. But it was their young sons who found steady employment as actors. Rance put aside his ego and ambition to become Ron and Clint’s teacher, sage, and moral compass. Jean became their loving protector—sometimes over-protector—from the snares and traps of Hollywood.
By turns confessional, nostalgic, heartwarming, and harrowing, The Boys is a dual narrative that lifts the lid on the Howard brothers’ closely held lives. It’s the journey of a tight four-person family unit that held fast in an unforgiving business and of two brothers who survived “child-actor syndrome” to become fulfilled adults.

I grabbed this audiobook as soon as I saw it on my library’s webpage. It is a fascinating look at the lives of people who grew up in front of millions of people but managed to come out of it with their lives and family intact.

Rance and Jean Howard were actors who met in college. They ran away and joined a traveling children’s theater troupe. They settled in New York and then moved to California to pursue their dreams. One day Rance came across a casting session for a child actor. He mentioned that he had a son who could act. Suddenly, the Howards’ show biz ambitions came true but not in the way they planned.

This book looks at Ron and Clint Howard’s lives through the life of their father. He stepped back from pursuing his acting jobs in order to help first Ron and then Clint. He never stopped acting. He got roles on his kids’ shows – sometimes just because he happened to be there when another actor pulled out of doing a part. He became known for his ability to teach dialogue to kids in a way that they understood it well and gave great emotional performances. He was hired as a dialogue coach for other kids too. He wrote screenplays including episodes of The Flintstones. In between his kids’ jobs he got parts himself. (When I was reading this I realized that I had just seen him in an episode of Angel that I was rewatching.) He worked up until a few months before his death.

They describe their parents affectionally as “sophisticated hicks.” I’m stealing that to describe myself. They were from Oklahoma. They never bought into the Hollywood star lifestyle. They kept their kids grounded and gave them the ability to be kids when not acting. I was surprised that the boys would go back to public school and play sports for half the year when they weren’t filming. They paid themselves a very modest fee to manage their kids’ careers and paid for most of their living expenses with Rance’s acting jobs and Jean’s work as a secretary.

Both Ron and Clint narrate the audiobook. Ron sounds like the perfect older brother – never in trouble, star at most everything he does, married his high school girlfriend, always knew he wanted to be a director and moved steadily towards that. Clint was the problem child. The book doesn’t shy away from discussing his alcoholism and drug abuse. He also works in several references to the fact that Ron made him act in the short films he made as a teenager and refused to pay him. He was a working actor. He got paid to act and then he had to do it for free as a favor to his brother. Typical good hearted (now) little brother complaints.

They discuss the difficulties transitioning from child star to adult actors and how they worked through it. This book would be great for anyone who loved any of the shows the Howards were on or who was interested in what it takes to survive a Hollywood career.