Today is the tenth day in #CleanMovieMonth. I hope that all my readers have been enjoying my daily reviews of Code films from the Breen era. Through this discussion of so many Code movies, I hope that we all will gain a deeper appreciation for the Golden Era of the Production Code Administration.
Today I am going to review a movie from one of the most popular film series of the Breen era. I am referring to the Hardy series, which starred Mickey Rooney, Lewis Stone, Fay Holden, and Cecilia Parker. My selection for today is the seventh film in this series, Andy Hardy Gets Spring Fever from 1939, which featured a guest appearance by Helen Gilbert and direction by W. S. Van Dyke II.
Andy Hardy is a high school student enjoying spring in his small hometown, Carvel. Life is rosy for the enthusiastic young man until his sweetheart, Polly Benedict, introduces him to a handsome young officer. The lieutenant is staying with the Benedicts while he and an admiral work on a road for military transportation. Because of the officer’s company, Polly is acting very superior to Andy. The poor young man is crestfallen. However, he quickly forgets about his fickle girlfriend when he sees the substitute drama teacher. She is a beautiful young woman named Miss Rose Meredith. Andy, along with most of the other boys in the class, is smitten with the charming new teacher. For the spring production, Miss Meredith encourages the students to write their own plays. She and the other faculty members will choose the best play, and the students will perform it. Andy tells his new teacher that he wants to write a play, and she encourages him to take inspiration from the classics. Since she mentioned Romeo and Juliet, he decides to write an exotic variation of the classic tale of star-crossed lovers. He dedicates himself to writing his masterpiece, Adrift in Tahiti, seeing himself as the leading man, the American admiral, and Polly as the native girl, Tahula. His hard work pays off, since his drama is chosen as the school play. He is happy and grateful to Miss Meredith, who greatly compliments his writing. Her influence inspires him to refine himself. He wears a suit to dinner and rehearsals. He carefully combs his hair. He even begins using a comical voice which he thinks lends dignity to his personality. One evening, he seriously confides to his father that he has been wasting his life until now; until he met Miss Meredith, he thought that kissing Polly Benedict was more important than Shakespeare! His father hides his amusement and takes his revelations very seriously. Meanwhile, Judge Hardy has some schemes of his own. One day, two scientists come into his office. They have tested the soil of a vacant lot he owns, finding that it contains 8% aluminum bauxite. They tell him that aluminum is a huge product in the modern world. Being a prudent man, he sends the dirt sample to another scientist for further testing. When the results agree, he thinks about the money which could result from selling this substance. The scientists tell him that they want to start a factory there, so Judge Hardy and several of his friends invest their money in the venture. Meanwhile, as the school play rehearses its production, Andy’s feelings for his beautiful teacher are getting stronger. Will Andy’s affection for the older woman grow too strong? Can Miss Meredith dissuade Andy without breaking his heart? Can the scientists dealing with Judge Hardy be trusted? Watch the movie to find out!
Andy Hardy is played by Mickey Rooney. Judge Hardy is played by Lewis Stone. Rose Meredith is played by Helen Gilbert. Polly Benedict is played by Ann Rutherford. Mrs. Hardy is played by Fay Holden. Andy’s Aunt Milly is played by Sara Haden. Andy’s sister, Marian, is played by Cecilia Parker.
The Andy Hardy films were MGM’s most popular series; people loved these movies, which documented the lives and adventures of the fictional family of Judge James K. Hardy of Carvel. The series began with the 1937 film A Family Affair starring Lionel Barrymore as Judge Hardy, Spring Byington as Mrs. Hardy, Julie Haydon as another sister, Joan, and Mickey Rooney as Andy. Later that year, another movie was made about the Hardy family, You’re Only Young Once. This film featured the cast that would be used in all future films. The only remaining actors from the first film were Mickey Rooney, Cecilia Parker, and Sara Haden. The story remained consistent, except for the fact that the oldest daughter was eliminated, leaving only the two children.
With the new cast, the series became extremely popular. Between 1937 and 1946, fifteen feature-length films were made about the Hardy family. After the first few films, the stories concentrated on Andy and his adventures. They followed his high school years, his graduation, his college experience, his return from the war, and his graduation from college. In 1958, twenty-one years after the first Hardy film, a movie about Andy’s family was made. In this film, Andy was a mature man with a wife, children, and his own law practice. Fay Holden, Sara Haden, and Cecilia Parker reprise their roles, but Judge Hardy is supposed to have died. There were hopes that this film would begin a new Hardy series, but that film was the last Hardy movie. This is a really wonderful family series which explores family relations and the importance of honesty, honor, ethics, and generosity. It is a mirror of life in America in a small town during the 1930s and 40s.
Every aspect of this film, like all the Hardy films, is according to the Code. It is a beautiful example of American life during the Code era. It shows the wholesome, decent, but not unbelievably good life in our country. It shows the problems of that particular time and the problems that are in every time. There are the struggles of the children to do the right thing and the struggles of the parents to guide them. Sometimes the Hardys encounter deceptive, dishonest, unscrupulous, and selfish people. However, their strong principles guide them through all their trials.
In this particular film, Andy thinks he is in love with an older woman. His father is always very respectful of his feelings. However, he frequently has “man to man” talks with his son. He gives excellent advice which could aid any son. One thing I love about this series is the way the family is depicted. Every member of the family is depicted respectfully. Judge Hardy is a strong but sympathetic father who guides his household with love and wisdom. Mrs. Hardy is a sensitive, affectionate mother who gives her husband the respect and authority he deserves, being all the while a wonderful helpmate to him. The young people are shown experiencing realistic problems of youth. However, they are never mocked or made to look ridiculous. They are seen as intelligent, good young people who usually try to do the right thing. Sometimes Marion or Andy get into trouble, but their parents always help them to see the error of their ways. Valuable life lessons can be learned from every Hardy film.
This is the sort of family portrait that the Breen era encouraged. A stable, decent family with a strong father is the sort of role model which America needs to see. In modern culture, the family is a weak, flimsy thing which is often held to ridicule in entertainment. Fathers look like fools. Mothers are selfish women who are too busy working to care for their families. Young people look like idiots, and adolescents are the worst of all. They are made to look like rebellious lunatics who have no intelligence or fiber. Hollywood has made these stereotypes horribly true in our culture. The Code encouraged people to be like the Hardy family. With such a wonderful model, how could people not want to aspire to decency and high ideals?
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