Love Finds Andy Hardy [50 Films Older Than Me #2]

Just lately, it was my birthday! And to add to all the real life goals and challenges that that brings, I’ve created at least one as it relates to movies and this blog–watch a film I’ve never seen before which came out in each year of the fifty years before I was born, and then write a bit about it.  This is Post #2. 

Spoilers ahead.  

Love Finds Andy Hardy

Directed by William Ludwig

Release Year:  1938 (32 years before I was born)

What it is about:  Andy Hardy is the young teen-aged son of the local judge whose life is full of complications in the weeks leading up to Christmas: an unwell grandmother, an absent girlfriend, and not having the cash to finish paying for a car that he’s put a deposit on. Things get even more difficult when he agrees to keep his friend’s glamorous but obnoxious girlfriend, Cynthia, busy in his absence. In the midst of all this he is supported by a new young neighbor Betsy, who is enamored with Andy (feelings which are not reciprocated).

Betsy helps him to deal with things when Polly suddenly comes back Andy finds he has two dates to the dance, and Polly becomes offended at Andy’s “relationship” with Cynthia. In the end, Andy patches things up with Polly and his grandmother recovers.

Starring Mickey Rooney as Andy, Lewis Stone as his father Judge Hardy, Fay Holden as Andy’s mother Emily, Cecelia Parker as Andy’s older sister Marian. Ann Rutherford appears as Polly, Lana Turner is Cynthia, and Judy Garland plays Betsy.

My impressions of this movie before I watched it:  I’ve heard of Andy Hardy through my wife (who watched many in her youth), so I knew it was a series of a rapidly produced light family comedies that were along the lines of the sorts of things that inspired Archie Comics. I knew that they starred Mickey Rooney, but I didn’t know anything about the stories in particular, or about this specific film.

Reality: Love Finds Andy Hardy is the fourth of ultimately sixteen Andy Hardy projects, all but one of which were released from 1937-1946. What appears to be an ambitious release schedule today was probably more common with “smaller-scale” film productions back in the days before TV, where the movies are basically providing the cinema equivalent of a sit-com, but with extended length episodes. The films seems to focus on the misadventures of cheeky but sweet-spirited Andy, in particular in relation with his stern but fair father Judge Stone. And in this one, Andy is beset by loads of girl-trouble: the girl he likes is away; he is oblivious to the girl who likes him (who is too young for him); and the girl he is actually dating (for money, actually) doesn’t want to do anything with him but kiss.

It’s all desperately old-fashioned and out of date. Judge Stone–who could easily pass for Andy grandfather, he’s so elderly-looking–chides Andy for saying “bucks” rather than dollars. When Mrs. Hardy must leave town for several weeks, it falls to older sister Marian to start cooking and cleaning for everyone. And Andy lets out an enthusiastic “Whoo-hoo!!” whenever he gets to kiss a girl. The whole thing is relentlessly hokey, but still sweet and charming.

The central relationship here is obviously Andy with his father, and both Mickey Rooney and Lewis Stone are fully committed to their roles. Rooney is a complete and utter ham for much of the story, but is also able to pull it together for the movie’s more dramatic moments (mostly surrounding his potentially dying grandmother and how that is affecting his family). The ending where his mother surprises everyone by returning home for Christmas is very nice and strikes just right amount of sentiment.

The story is also propped up by its two main “guest” characters–Cynthia and Betsy. An early Lana Turner is fine as the beautiful but vapid Cynthia. She gives Andy his funniest moment when he gleefully accepts her tongue-lashing of a break-up with him (“lf you don’t stop hollering, you’re liable to get big muscles all over your face!”).

And Judy Garland’s super-star qualities are easy to see in her role as Betsy. She’s looks as cute as a button but sounds incredibly mature in her three separate musical performances. Her presence decidedly elevates the material around her–it’s not too much I think to call her the best part of the film.

So…when you get down to it, what did I think? Love Finds Andy Hardy didn’t turn me into a big Andy Hardy fan, but I enjoyed watching the movie nonetheless. If nothing else, Judy Garland is worth having a look at it for, and the rest of the movie has enough charm and laughs to keep one entertained.

See here for the Master List.

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