R.I.P. Rance Howard, actor and father of Ron Howard
"Clint & I have been blessed to be Rance Howard's sons," Ron Howard said.
Born Harold Rance Beckenholdt, Rance Howard began his acting career after making the move from Oklahoma to New York City in the late 1940s. He got his start on the stage, landing a role alongside Peter Fonda in the touring company of the popular World War II play Mister Roberts.
In 1954, Howard nabbed his first film role — and so did his two-year-old son, Ron. The pair appeared in Frontier Woman, a tale of Davy Crockett's daughter. A few years later, the Howard family moved to Hollywood, renting a house that sat just a block away from Desilu Studios. Not long after, Rance and his wife Jean had their second son, Clint.
The Howards would soon find regular work on the nearby Desilu lot. Ron Howard, of course, was a precocious talent, winning a regular gig as Opie Taylor on The Andy Griffith Show. Young Clint frequently appeared on the sitcom, too, as Leon, the little cowboy who frequently offered Mayberry residents a bite of his sandwich. Rance popped up on The Andy Griffith Show a handful of times, as well, notably as the governor's chauffeur in "Barney and the Governor." You can also spot Rance in "Cousin Virgin" (as a bus driver), "A Black Day for Mayberry" and "The Rumor."
Rance scored a more regular role alongside his son Clint on Gentle Ben, appearing in about half of the episodes of the family adventure series Gentle Ben. From there, he turned up often on the small screen, in guest spots on shows such as Bonanza, Gunsmoke, The Waltons, Battlestar Galactica and Mork & Mindy. He teamed up with his eldest son again in three episodes of Happy Days.
On the big screen, Rance Howard could be seen in bit parts in classic films, from Cool Hand Luke to Chinatown. It should come as no surprise that Ron also cast his father in his own pictures, such as Splash, Apollo 13 and How the Grinch Stole Christmas.
On Saturday, November 25, Rance Howard passed away at the age of 89. He was still a busy actor, having recently wrapped a movie with Clint called Apple Seed.
Ron Howard expressed his feelings on Twitter, and continued to share the kind thought that poured in for this beloved professional, an actor with 60-plus years of credits to his name. He will be missed, and his Hollywood legacy will live on through his two sons and grandchildren.
Clint & I have been blessed to be Rance Howard’s sons. Today he passed at 89. He stood especially tall 4 his ability to balance ambition w/great personal integrity. A depression-era farm boy, his passion for acting changed the course of our family history. We love & miss U Dad.— Ron Howard (@RealRonHoward) November 25, 2017