The threat of being drafted loomed over Ron Howard in the beginning of Happy Days

The show could've meant deferment for the young star

CBS Television Distribution

By the time he was a USC undergraduate, Ron Howard was hoping audiences would allow him to reintroduce himself as a more mature television performer. He'd, of course, been famous as Opie on The Andy Griffith Show, but that was when he was a kid. He'd since spent time learning the filmmaking craft, observing many directing greats in their element. Now, it was time to re-emerge on TV as a young man. 

The gambit: Howard would star in Happy Days, a brand-new sitcom set in the golden age of the 1950s. Doo-wop and poodle skirts would make the scene once more, but only if the network agreed to air the show. In a 1984 interview with The Washington Post, Howard discussed efforts to get Happy Days onto TV, and how the show may have saved more than his career.

"ABC didn't feel that the '50s would fly," said Howard. That changed quickly, when Howard starred in George Lucas' hit movie American Graffiti which was set in the same decade. Suddenly, mid-century nostalgia was all the rage once again, and ABC wanted to hop on the trend. 

There was just one issue: Howard was still at risk of being drafted for the Vietnam War.

"The war was still going on and I had a lousy number," he recalled. "But I had read somewhere that if your job could be directly related to the employment of 30 or more people, that would be a deferment. I thought, 'If this series goes, I bet you could get that deferment.'"

The draft ended just a few months later. Happy Days well outlasted it, running for 11 years and spinning off several successful sitcoms and stars.

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7 Comments

rah111 28 days ago
Too bad that he wasn't drafted...he could have been a war hero, ala Audie Murphy, rather than just "opie".
dgoard rah111 19 days ago
He was not just "Opie". I don't know if you've heard but this very article references his long career role of Richie Cunningham, oh and he's directed dozens of blockbusters and has won 2 academy awards to name just a few of his accomplishments.
editorsnote dgoard 18 days ago
Before the draft ended he was Richie and directed several bad movies?

The article was about pre draft ending, not post.

It wasn't like this spoiled Hollywood kid would have ever been drafted. He's just meant to reap the benefits of other people's kids fighting for it, and then complaining how unfair it is.
Lantern 30 days ago
American Graffiti was set in 1962 (but admittedly that was kind of the tail end of the 50s).
cperrynaples 1 month ago
I remember the end of the draft! It didn't affect me since I turned 18 in 1976! Yes, the Happy Days pilot was rejected and became an episode of Love American Style! Most of the actors were recast after the ABC pickup!
PS One star that didn't get a deferment was Bob Denver! He was going to be recast on Dobie Gillis until he was declared 4-F! Ironically, Dobie & Maynard spent half a season in the Army!
Runeshaper 1 month ago
That must have been a relief to Howard and his loved ones!
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