Out West with the Hardy's Reviews
Sometimes, my search through film is kind of like a scavenger hunt. I only need to see one of a specific type of film, if it's iconic but bad. I've seen Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland Put On a Show in the Barn, and I don't need to see that a second time. If ever that's the plot to a movie I get, I know I'm done and don't need to watch it. Similarly, I knew I needed to watch at least one movie featuring the Hardy family. These films were part of what made Mickey Rooney the biggest box office draw of the time; even if each of these movies did so-so business, there were three of them in 1938 alone, and he was also in [i]Boys' Town[/i] the same year. He played the role nineteen times in twenty-one years. I mean, that's a lot of these movies, and you can't really study film without having seen at least one of them. However, all you have to see is one so far as I'm concerned.
The Hardy family is going along in what I assume to be their normal fashion. Judge Hardy (Lewis Stone) is presiding over court cases in a magisterial fashion. Mrs. Hardy (Fay Holden) is spring cleaning and is fairly upset that no one seems interested in helping her. Andy (Mickey Rooney) has just gotten a letter in basketball, and he's being fairly obnoxious about it, thinking it makes him a Big Man. (Despite only being 5'2"; in some ways, his basketball prowess is even more impressive!) Marian (Cecilia Parker) is slightly at odds with her perpetual boyfriend Dennis Hunt (Don Castle). Out of the blue, the judge gets a letter from an old flame, Dora Northcote (Nana Bryant). She's having trouble with water rights on her ranch, and she invites the Hardy clan out to join her in the apparent hopes that the judge can solve all her problems. Why she can't find a lawyer a little closer to him, I cannot say. Anyway, Andy tries to be tough and experienced, and Marian falls for ranch foreman Ray Holt (Gordon Jones), and so forth.
I see no good reason for Dora Northcote to be the judge's old flame. I suppose it was the best explanation they could come up with as to why the Hardy family goes out west to help her with her problems. However, I find it much more reasonable had the family just been taking an ordinary vacation or some such and gotten entangled with the situation because they're basically decent people who want to do what's right. The whole thing about the judge and Dora and the Indian blanket and so forth was, I think, intended to be charming and heartwarming, but to me, it was just tedious. Of course, I'm not of the same generation as "Jake" Holt (Virginia Weidler), even, much less the elder Hardys, but I'm reasonably sure that my grandmothers (closer in age to Mickey Rooney and the others) would have found the thing corny. Of course, all of my grandparents died before I ever got a chance to discuss Andy Hardy movies with them, and even if they hadn't, it isn't high on my list of priorities.
I will say that I found Andy's sudden (according to the other characters) egocentrism to be completely believable. Oh, in my high school, you didn't have to do anything special to get a letter in basketball. You just had to be on the team. So that's apparently different from how it works in Andy's school. Andy made some impressive move or another that won the game for the team, and he's justifiably proud of it. However, it doesn't take a teenaged boy long to go from "justifiably proud" to "insufferably conceited." (Or a teenaged girl, come to that.) The more people congratulate him on whatever-it-was, the more he thinks that it's the most important thing anyone has ever done. And before you know it, he's impossible to be around. I've seen it happen; I'm sure everyone has. Usually, something happens to bring the person back to Earth, but I've known people basically coasting on high school glory their whole lives, and Andy's lucky to be brought down to Earth by the end of the picture.
Oh, I'm sure something happened in 1939's [i]The Hardys Ride High[/i] to make Andy insufferable again. Doubtless there was also some quarrel between Marian and Dennis, which was also resolved by the end of the picture. This is why I don't feel much need to see any of the others. The reason these films were so popular was that they were comfortable and familiar. The series pretty much ended with the end of World War II, after the old, familiar things didn't feel the same anymore. There was, much later, a film wherein Andy went back home, and I'm guessing he found out that it was the same again after all those years. Whether Andy himself was is a bigger question, probably. I might seek out the movie just to see if I'm right about the mood of the whole thing. However, Mickey Rooney's career pretty much crashed in the same way as the series, because the world changed, and there's only so much Mickey Rooney and Andy Hardy could change with it, so far as the public was concerned.