Way before Happy Days, Ron Howard became Garry Marshall's dream TV star
They met tossing baseballs at Desilu Studios when Ronny was just a boy.
In the mid-Sixties, Garry Marshall started writing for The Lucy Show, and he found himself frequently at Desilu Studios.
Any time he visited the studio, he’d be drawn to interact with the star of a different show filming there: Ron Howard of The Andy Griffith Show.
Approaching the young star during his rehearsal breaks, Marshall didn’t immediately begin plotting the eventual series he would do with Howard, but instead, he simply tossed around a baseball with Ronny.
That’s how they got to know each other, way before Happy Days started.
"I had known him since he was a little kid," Marshall wrote in his memoir My Happy Days, adding, "From the time he first appeared on television, he had the dream temperament of an actor."
To Marshall, the "dream temperament" meant that "his personality was on an even keel, and not subject to the slightest high or low."
Marshall knew even way back then, "If I had to pick the perfect actor to work with on a sitcom, Ron was it."
Almost exactly a decade later, Marshall’s dream would come true when Ron Howard joined the cast of Happy Days.
"He reminded me of a professional basketball player," Marshall wrote. "He had the ability to shoot the ball and score, but also the strength and focus to pass the ball to others to let them score, too."
Of course, on Happy Days, Henry Winkler famously stole the spotlight from Howard and eventually Howard left the show.
Marshall had no hard feelings over Howard’s departure, though.
He was still caught up in gratitude that he’d gotten a chance to work with his dream TV star for such a long stretch of time.
"To have him on Happy Days as long as we did was a gift not only to the show, but also to me and the other actors," Marshall wrote.
Marshall was a TV writer who dreamed big, and if you’re a fan of his shows, you know that his characters also had similarly big dreams – as well as literal dreams that haunted them.
On Happy Days, dreams became a more dominant recurring theme once Fonzie took over as star, with several episodes like "Welcome to My Nightmare," "The Spirit Is Willing," and "My Favorite Orkan" spinning out plots where whole episodes vaguely or directly seemed to be all just a dream.
But Marshall did give Richie the first dream sequence of Happy Days in an episode called "R.O.T.C."
In "R.O.T.C.," Richie has a nightmare where all his friends and family put him on trial for being bossy and generally the absolute worst, with Fonzie serving as judge. The dream sequence ends with Richie declared guilty of his social crimes and covered in whipped cream.
Though he punished Howard in this nightmare scene, Marshall was always loyal to his original Happy Days star.
To him, Ron Howard remained a dream to work with every day he stayed on set, which was why Marshall agreed with Howard and refused to change the show’s name to Fonzie when the network suggested it might bring in more fans.
Even without Richie, the show would go on as Happy Days.