Saturday, July 26, 2014

ron & jason

Some trivia...

Both Jason Robards and Ron Howard made their film debuts in the 1959 Anatole Litvak drama, "The Journey," about a group of travelers from the West stranded at a Budapest airport, detained by an intimidating Major Surov (Yul Brynner, of course) and his seriously armed men.

Robards, then billed as Jason Robards, Jr., played the love interest of the film's female lead, Deborah Kerr, and Howard, age five and then billed as Ronny Howard, was one of the sons of Anne Jackson and E.G. Marshall.

Some 20 years later, after spending those years acting on television and in movies, Howard would become a filmmaker - and he would ultimately direct his former co-star Robards in not one, but two films, "Parenthood" (1989) and "The Paper" (1994). Robards would be the only actor from Howard's past who would appear in any Ron Howard movie.

Andy Griffin?  No, he was never directed by Howard, despite their long-standing professional relationship.  Robert Preston and Shirley Jones, who appeared with Howard in Morton DaCosta's "The Music Man" in 1962?  Nope.  (It's something that Jones complains about - jokingly - in her cabaret act.)  Henry Fonda, the star of "The Smith Family," a short-lived TV series that he did with Howard in the 1970s?  Absolutely not. No, only Jason Robards.

The connection has never been acknowledged or addressed by the media, arousing my curiosity.  What was it like for Robards to be directed by someone he first met when that person was a just five-year-old?  I had a chance to broach the subject with Robards shortly after "The Paper" was made.  He answered with only one word: "Surreal."

I never had a chance to interview Howard during my career but I've often wondered why Robards was the only person from his professional past who he'd direct.  Was there a special connection?  Was it the experience of making "The Journey" so many decades before? I'd really like to know.

"The Journey" airs on Turner Classic Movies at 10 a.m. on Sunday (July 27).


Alex said...

Curious, indeed. Howard and Robards certainly make an odd couple. I've a hunch: Given that Howard is something of a student of film and filmmaking, perhaps he closely observed the careers of people with whom he worked and was most impressed with what Robards accomplished. Just a hunch.

joe baltake said...

Sounds logical, Alex, but I guess we'll never really know - until Howard writes his autobiography.