From Goodreads: “What was it like to grow up on TV?” Ron Howard has been asked this question throughout his adult life. In The Boys, he and his younger brother, Clint, examine their childhoods in detail for the first time. For Ron, playing Opie on The Andy Griffith Show and Richie Cunningham on Happy Days offered fame, joy, and opportunity—but also invited stress and bullying. For Clint, a fast start on such programs as Gentle Ben and Star Trek petered out in adolescence, with some tough consequences and lessons.
With the perspective of time and success—Ron as a filmmaker, producer, and Hollywood A-lister, Clint as a busy character actor—the Howard brothers delve deep into an upbringing that seemed normal to them yet was anything but. Their Midwestern parents, Rance and Jean, moved to California to pursue their own showbiz dreams. But it was their young sons who found steady employment as actors. Rance put aside his ego and ambition to become Ron and Clint’s teacher, sage, and moral compass. Jean became their loving protector—sometimes over-protector—from the snares and traps of Hollywood.”
The Boys: A Memoir of Hollywood and Family (Amazon) is a book that gives me all the feels. It transports me back to my childhood, when our family would huddle around the TV in the family room and watch Happy Days and Laverne and Shirley, both set in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, just 100 miles south of us. Of course, my dad explained to me, the shows were really filmed in Los Angeles, but I didn’t care, It was good wholesome TV.
And speaking of wholesome TV, I also grew up watching shows like Gentle Ben and The Andy Griffith Show in syndication. I adored Gentle Ben, I really did, the kid, Clint Howard, was so earnest, I actually believed it was possible for a kid to have a bear as a pet. Andy Griffith was a show that played repeatedly on cable, and when I watched it, I enjoyed it, but did not go out of my way to watch it.
These shows helped form memories of my childhood, and two people, Ron Howard and Clint Howard, were front and center for them all. By the time I was moving on from Happy Days, so was Ron Howard, and while I wished he were in front of the camera, I have been blown away by his directorial choices, and many of his films are in our family library. And just like a Hitchcock cameo, if there’s a Ron Howard film, you can be sure to see his brother Clint acting in it, whether the part is small or large.
I listened to The Boys audiobook, and it was so great to hear Ron and Clint Howard reminisce. I have seen enough interviews with them over the years to understand that even though they worked in Hollywood, their parents kept them grounded. I didn’t even realize it until they were talking about it, but their dad, Rance, even co-starred on Gentle Ben with Clint during it’s two-year run.
This book, while it may talk about Hollywood, isn’t really about Hollywood at all. It’s about family. It’s about lessons learned from parents. It’s about those parents, who made sacrifices for the boys in their own careers, but never pushed the boys to think that their working had to support the family. It’s about the undeniably close relationship these two men had as brothers, even though they are five years apart in age. It’s about being grounded and down-to-earth in an industry full of big-headed egomaniacs.
In short, this book has a lot of heart. Ron and Clint Howard are not perfect in any way, they reveal their bad sides, too, especially Clint’s spiral into drug abuse. But there’s redemption, too, and the thankfulness of having navigated rough waters and come out on the other side of the tunnel wiser and more humble.
Of all the non-fiction books I’ve read or listened to this year, The Boys is my favorite. This even tops the #NetGalley #ARCReview The Man I Knew: The Amazing Story of George H. W. Bush’s Post-Presidency by Jean Becker and that book blew me away, too. For any fan of TV of the 1960’s and 1970’s, or even those that enjoy stories about real-life families, this book or audio version would make a great Christmas gift. I can’t recommend it enough!
This is the 57th Audiobook I’ve listened to as part of my 2021 Audiobook Challenge.
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