Howard one of our underappreciated icons

With a firm grip on my bowl of ice cream, and my other hand deftly navigating my television with my trusted remote control, I found myself stopping my channel-surfing a few nights ago to catch a commercial for a new movie centered on race cars.

Now, I’m not going to pretend that I’m a big fan of auto racing on any level. Perhaps I miss the nuance, but I just can’t seem to keep myself in one position long enough to watch people drive around in circles all day at excessive speeds. Maybe it’s because I grew up near the Beltway and saw that on a regular basis, or maybe I just don’t have the attention span to commit to it or maybe it’s just so astonishingly boring to me that watching it for even four minutes makes me want to ...

But I digress.

My point was really about this movie, “Rush.”

At the end of this commercial, these words flashed up on the screen: “A Ron Howard film.” Again, my lack of any sort of sustained attention span got me thinking about Howard’s career, from that adorable kid on “The Andy Griffith Show” to the amiable Richie Cunningham on “Happy Days” to his remarkable career as a producer and director. Has anybody else had that kind of sustained excellence in show business, with such range?

This got me into the neverending world of IMDB. For those of you who have never visited this site, or used the app, it is a remarkable catalog of nearly every actor who has ever appeared in anything, and contains entire casts of almost every movie and television who ever produced. For those of you who use this on a regular basis, you already know the perils of visiting IMDB — it keeps you sucked in for far longer than you anticipated.

Regardless, I learned that Howard was born in Oklahoma in 1954. His first acting job, as listed on IMDB, was a small part in the 1956 film, “Frontier Woman.” He appeared in an episode of “The Twilight Zone” in 1959, which is pretty darn big-time, and then broke through in a major way as Opie in 1960.

So, if we count Opie as his first significant role, that is 53 years of being pertinent in Hollywood. Starting in 1974, he starred in “Happy Days” and played a very memorable role in “American Graffiti.” Even today, he is the narrator on one of my favorite television shows, “Arrested Development.”

So, yeah, one could say he has had a very significant career as an actor.

He began producing mostly television movies in 1980, and eventually produced “Sports Night” in 1998, another one of my favorites. He has also produced such films as “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” “The DaVinci Code,” and “Cowboys and Aliens,” a film that truly surprised me by how much I enjoyed it.

Want directing accolades, too?

How about “Splash”? Or, “Cocoon”? Or, “Apollo 13”? We could continue with “Cinderella Man,” “A Beautiful Mind” and “Backdraft.”

In short, the guy has had an amazing career, and has managed to remain important and fresh in the world of entertainment. Yes, others have had astonishingly long careers, as well, but haven’t many of them just continued to perform as near-caricatures of themselves as the years rolled by, offering us glimpses of a glorious past?

Howard remains cool. He remains fresh. When he makes a movie, people pay attention. When he acted (as himself, for the record) in Arrested Development this past season, he was still tremendous, and stole scenes with charisma and skill.

We have seen numerous child actors come and go over the years, with many of them crashing and burning spectacularly, often in a hailstorm of drugs or alcohol, yet Howard just continued to grow in his craft and branched out in new directions. He’s someone these child actors should look to now if they have a keen eye on the future, and if not them, then their parents should be taking note.

Put all those Opie jokes behind you, just as Howard obviously has with his second career. He has gone from child star to adult superstar. The man is an icon.