It’s one of Hollywood’s grandest success stories: The boy who was Opie Taylor became a top director. He learned the lessons of Mayberry well.
So, the documentary "Ron Howard: 50 Years in Film” carries a nostalgic kick. Now 54, Howard looks back at his long, productive career in the 90-minute program, which debuts at 7 tonight on Turner Classic Movies. Filmmaker Richard Schickel’s setup can grow a bit tedious; Howard is the only speaker as clips play. The half-century dates to Ron’s film debut in "The Journey,” a 1959 drama with Deborah Kerr and Yul Brynner. Howard recalls the experience as "fantastic playtime.” Unfortunately, the documentary ignores Howard’s acting in "The Music Man,” "The Courtship of Eddie’s Father” and "American Graffiti.” And there’s no mention of Howard’s narration on "Arrested Development.” The section on "Cocoon” has been dropped because of licensing issues, and so we get no Don Ameche. Bummer. To its detriment, the documentary treats Howard’s directorial efforts equally. The Tom Cruise epic "Far and Away” (which Howard calls his most misunderstood film) gets as much attention as "Apollo 13” and "A Beautiful Mind,” which brought Howard an Oscar. But Howard certainly deserves the well-timed retrospective, because the new "Frost/Nixon” is one of his finest achievements. Howard says the director is "the keeper of the story.” His education began on "The Andy Griffith Show,” which ran from 1960-68 on CBS and continues to charm in rerun eternity.