Judge James K. Hardy, played by Lionel Barrymore in A Family Affair from 1937 and Lewis Stone in the other fourteen movies in the series, is the father in all but the last of the sixteen Andy Hardy movies; he is understood to have died between the fifteenth and the sixteenth film. Judge Hardy is a concerned, understanding, and considerate father; he is never too busy to hear his children’s problems. In almost every film in the series, Andy goes to his father for advice and, near the film’s end, a man to man talk; it is his strong relationship with his father that keeps Andy out of real trouble. Judge Hardy’s relationship with his wife, whom he affectionately calls Emmy, is a shining example of a mature, wholesome marriage in the 1930s; their honest, beautiful marriage is the strong rock upon which the whole Hardy family and series about it are built. Judge Hardy is an old-fashioned husband and father who is the strong head of the family; modern entertainment rarely contains such an intelligent man who is truly the head of his household. He governs his household just like he governs his courtroom, seriously, honestly, and fairly; he believes in equal rights for all citizens while recognizing the importance of respect and humility. It is more important to him that justice be served than that legal jargon be satisfied; he firmly believes in the nobility of the American judicial system, and he strives to impart its glory to his children, particularly Andy. Judge Hardy is a devoted American citizen and a wonderful example of simple patriotism to all of us. He doesn’t complain about the government; he praises the ideals with which it was begun when the Founding Fathers started it near the end of the eighteenth century. Judge Hardy is unselfish; he will go out of his way to help somebody who is in trouble, even when it is not his legal duty.
Throughout the long series, the actors had plenty of time to develop relationships which seem completely genuine. Whenever I see one of the characters in a different movie, I can’t help thinking of him as his character in the Hardy series. In our house, the name Andy Hardy is synonymous for Mickey Rooney. It is the same with Lewis Stone. Lionel Barrymore was excellent in the first film, but that one was separate from the other films, since it had a different cast aside from Andy and even an additional character, an older Hardy daughter who is married. To me, Judge Hardy will always be Lewis Stone, and Lewis Stone will always be Judge Hardy.
In the first film with the famous cast, You’re Only Young Once from 1937, the family goes to Catalina Island in California. While on the ferry boat, Judge Hardy and his wife agree that they are glad they were young in their time instead of the 1930s or any other time. Judge Hardy says, “I wouldn’t be twenty again for the world. I’d rather just be us.” Take a moment to think about the true meaning of that statement. Judge Hardy, a white-haired man who is at least fifty and experiencing the effects, problems, and pains of age, does not want to be young again. He enjoyed that season of his life, but now he is truly contented and joyful to have a blessed existence with his wife and children. He wouldn’t trade this contentment for smooth skin, thick, dark hair, a stronger body, and youthful vitality. He wouldn’t even choose youth again if he were offered it. He likes his life just as it is. We can all learn from this contentment.
This article is honoring a wonderful fictional father who represented all the simple, honest men who strive to be like this throughout the nation and the years. This Father’s Day, watch some of the marvelous Andy Hardy movies again and enjoy the simple truths and good, old-fashioned advice on life which Judge Hardy has to offer. He can be a father figure to anyone who didn’t have a strong father figure or whose father is no longer with him. I dedicate this article to my father, James Brannan, the president of PEPS, who has been a huge encouragement to me. He has supported and praised every goal and endeavor of mine and has taught me the importance of standing against what is wrong, just as my wonderful mother has. Let us all use this Father’s Day to acknowledge the men who have encouraged and supported us, whether or not they are our real fathers. As we do this, let us not forget the men who have been fathers to entire generations and even our whole country. I mean men like George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson, who started this country, men like Abraham Lincoln, who helped it during times of crisis, and men like Joseph I. Breen, Will Hays, Martin Quigley, and Father Daniel Lord, who tried to protect innocent children from the pollution of evil entertainment. Let us not forget these men, especially Mr. Breen, who gave a huge part of his life to being a good father to not only his own six children but all the children of America. Sign the petition to celebrate these men and bring back this type of entertainment!
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Cast for Andy Hardy series:
Judge James Hardy: Andy’s sage old father, an honest country judge; played by Lionel Barrymore in A Family Affair and Lewis Stone in the rest of the series.
Mrs. Hardy: Andy’s mother, the revered mother in this film; played by Fay Holden.
Andy Hardy: A fearless, fun-loving Midwestern boy; played by Mickey Rooney.
Marian Hardy: Andy’s older sister and biggest source of irritation; played by Cecilia Parker.
Aunt Millie Forrest: Andy’s maiden aunt, who lives with the Hardys and is a second mother to the children; played by Sara Haden.
Polly Benedict: Andy’s sweetheart, with whom he frequently quarrels and whom he frequently two-times; played by Ann Rutherford.
One thought on “Judge James K. Hardy: A Hollywood Father Who is a Mentor for All Ages”
I’ve always wondered what the K in ‘James K Hardy’ stood for.