Ron Howard on directing Hollywood legend Bette Davis

Ms. Davis was not very nice!

Mayberry sure seems like a far cry from the glitz and glamour of Hollywood. 

The reality, of course, is that Mayberry was Hollywood. The fictional locale was actually filmed on a series of sets at Desilu Productions, cozily nestled into LA County's Culver City. While the cast and crew did everything to soak each shot in Southern charm, the truth was that there was moviemaking history just outside each frame. 

It's difficult to picture any of Mayberry's citizens wheeling and dealing in a Hollywood production office. The Andy Griffith Show was special because it existed outside of that world, rewriting norms to allow for more kindness and patience. But, one tiny Mayberry citizen grew up to be one of the most important figures in all of Hollywood. 

"Little" Ronnie Howard didn't stay little forever. In fact, he grew up to be quite a big deal, as anyone familiar with Ron Howard's filmography can attest.

Audiences readily accepted Howard as a serious director, but what about the stars of the screen? As it turns out, there was some reluctance from the old guard when it came to recognizing this (then) young, up-and-coming talent.

When he was just 26, Howard was tasked with directing Hollywood legend Bette Davis in the TV movie Skyward. Fifteen years later, the former Opie Taylor spoke with the Associated Press about Davis and the associated stress.

"She used to refer to me as 'Mr. Howard,' a bit sarcastically," Howard recalled. "And I kept saying 'Please Miss Davis, call me Ron.' And she would say 'I'll call you Mr. Howard until I decide whether or not I like you.'

"The first time I went up to give her some direction she acted very started. And she said, loud enough for the crew to hear, 'What of any consequence could this child possibly have to say to me?' I kind of laughed along with the crew nervously."

Thankfully, Howard persevered. His resume reflects that he was indeed the man for the job.

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ChristopherMorrow 8 months ago
I don't think many people will agree with me, but I really like what Davis said about calling him Mr. Howard until she decided if she liked him. That kind of old fashioned formality is a form of mutual respect and it was typical of her generation. In 2023 it's called establishing boundaries.
BayouBlue35 8 months ago
So this is what caused the poor man's hair to fall out- working with Bette. Mystery solved
LoveMETV22 8 months ago
Have read that fact in other articles. Ron Howard handled his interactions while directing Bette Davis very professionally. Would imagine some directors might be a little rattled working with Ms. Davis. I'm sure
Mr. Howard chalked the experience up as a valuable lesson.
Runeshaper 8 months ago
Definitely sounds stressful. This was also probably a great learning experience (-:
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