Rance Howard, father of Ron and Clint Howard and a prolific actor in his own right, has died at age 89. Ron Howard broke the sad news to fans on Twitter, crediting his father for changing the family history with his passion for acting.
“Clint & I have been blessed to be Rance Howard’s sons,” Ron wrote.
“Today he passed at 89. He stood especially tall [for] his ability to balance ambition [with] great personal integrity. A Depression-era farm boy, his passion for acting changed the course of our family history. We love & miss U Dad.”
While he was the patriarch of the Howard talent dynasty, which includes Ron, Clint, and granddaughter Bryce Dallas Howard, Rance Howard had more than 270 acting credits of his own dating back to the 1950s. Not only did Rance appear in some of his son Ron’s biggest films, including Apollo 13 and A Beautiful Mind, but he logged a long list of TV credits on shows like The Waltons, Grey’s Anatomy, Babylon 5, and Ron’s early TV shows The Andy Griffith Show and Happy Days.
Rance Howard’s acting career spanned six decades. His first significant feature film role, in 1956’s Frontier Woman, was also the first role for his son Ron, who was a baby at the time.
“It was called Frontier Woman in 1956, filmed in Mississippi, and about Daniel Boone’s daughter, Polly,” Rance Howard told the Oklahoman. “[My wife] Jean also had a part, and we wanted to somehow get Ron into the picture, too. He was only 18-months-old, but we thought it would be wonderful for our parents to see their grandson in a movie with us.”
Rance would go on to work with his sons many times over the years in movies like Grand Theft Auto, Gung Ho, and Apollo 13, where he played a minister. Ron Howard also cast his father as a cardinal in Angels and Demons (2009).
“I’ve played doctors, judges, sheriffs — as a character actor, I’ve run the gamut,” Rance Howard told the Oklahoman. “But someone checked and told me I’ve played more men of the cloth than any other actor.”
Earlier this month, Ron Howard praised his father’s recent role in the movie Broken Memories, which he described as Rance’s “role of his career to date.”
“He has an undying love of the process, which has made him appreciate every day on a film or television set,” Ron told the Hollywood Reporter.
“And he’s never lost the youthful excitement for being a part of a process that tells a story that reaches audiences in different ways and reflects the work of a team of collaborators that shares that excitement and that always rubbed off on me, that joy of being lucky enough to be among the storytellers.”
After his death was announced, many Hollywood stars and directors took to social media to pay tribute to Rance Howard, including Russell Crowe, Leonard Maltin and Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski, who described Rance as “charming, professional, funny, smart.”
“If we could’ve adopted him, we would’ve,” Straczynski wrote. “His loss diminishes us.”
Famed film director Joe Dante wrote, “I first met Rance while editing Grand Theft Auto (he co-wrote with Ron) and he eventually became one of my favorite go-to actors on numerous projects. A stand-up guy who worked ’til the end.”
You can see celebrity reaction to the death of Rance Howard below.
Clint & I have been blessed to be Rance Howard’s sons. Today he passed at 89. He stood especially tall 4 his ability to balance ambition w/great personal integrity. A depression-era farm boy, his passion for acting changed the course of our family history. We love & miss U Dad.— Ron Howard (@RealRonHoward) November 25, 2017
On every TV show there's always someone, guest or recurring cast, who the rest don't like. But everyone on #babylon5 loved #rancehoward. He was charming, professional, funny, smart...if we could've adopted him, we would've. His loss diminishes us. @RealRonHoward— J. Michael Straczynski (@straczynski) November 26, 2017
RIP RANCE HOWARD! A LEGENDARY ACTOR & A KIND GOOD HEARTED MAN WHOM I HAD THE PLEASURE OF DIRECTING ONCE! HE WAS AMAZINGLY PROFESSIONAL AFTER 50 ODD YRS N THE BIZ! HE GAVE ME A GR8 COMPLIMENT WHEN HE TOLD ME MY DIRECTING STYLE WAS MUCH LIKE THAT OF HIS SON RON HOWARD! MY HEART &— Corey Feldman (@Corey_Feldman) November 26, 2017
2 mos ago I was leaning across the counter in an Arizona diner, flirting with #RanceHoward in a scene from @appleseedmovie - the 2nd film we've done together. He was so sweet, so charming, so vibrant, and so talented. And now he's no longer with us and it's hard to believe.— Adrienne Barbeau (@abarbeau) November 26, 2017
Today we lost one of the greats: #RanceHoward, who I was proud to call a personal friend. When I first arrived in LA , he opened his home to me & made me feel like family. He was a legend, both as a person & performer. @BryceDHoward & @RealRonHoward sending lots of love.— Josh Gad (@joshgad) November 26, 2017
Take a look at Rance Howard in a scene from The Andy Griffith Show below.
[Featured Image by Kevin Winter/Getty Images]