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Roy Del Ruth
With his high school graduation behind him, Andy Hardy decides that as an adult, it's time to start living his life. Judge Hardy had hoped that his son would go to college and study law, but Andy isn't sure that's what he wants to do so he heads off to New York City to find a job. Too proud to accept any help from Betsy Booth, Andy finds that living on his own isn't so easy. With perseverance he eventually finds a job and even gets to date the pretty receptionist in his office. He also has to face several of life's lessons leading him to conclude that he may still have a bit of growing up to do. Written by
Following his graduation from high school, a small-town teenager decides to try his luck learning about life and making it on his own in New York City. Where he encounters the death of a disillusioned, penniless young friend and the seductive wiles of a glamorous "older woman" he encounters at his office job. Not to mention the wrath of the censors (who forced the studio the change the cause of death from a suicide to a heart attack) as well as the Catholic church (whose Legion of Decency damned the film with an "objectionable for children" rating). Hard to believe that an episode in the ebullient Andy Hardy series caused such controversy, but it is this film's commendable attempt to portray the dilemmas of youth with honesty and candor (incredible for 1941) that make it the most durable and disarming entry of the entire series. As contemporary today as it was 60 years ago, "Life Begins for Andy Hardy" is blessed with, besides a refreshingly adult screenplay that evokes emotions unchanged by the passage of time, astoundingly "mature" performances by Mickey Rooney (for once underplaying) and Judy Garland (displaying a sincerity and warmth without ever singing a note).
Rooney's portrayal of a good-hearted teenager who decent instincts hardly prepare him for the brutal reality of survival in the "Big City" will strike resonant chords with anyone in a similar situation 60 years later. And, in addition to Rooney and Ms. Garland, sterling performances are contributed by the Hardy regulars (Lewis Stone, never more sage or heartrending as Andy's concerned father); the lovely Patricia Dane, as Andy's office co-worker and would-be seducer; and Ray McDonald, heartbreaking as a penniless aspiring actor reduced to living (and starving) in Central Park. A tacked-on happy ending and jarring lapses in continuity (indicating heavy studio re-cutting and re-shooting) fail to undermine the sweet sadness of this most unusual MGM drama--flirting with themes that would be dealt with far more candidly and cruelly some 20 years later in such innocents-lost-in-the-city classics as "The Rat Race" and "Breakfast at Tiffanys," of which "Life Begins for Andy Hardy" is a most poignant pre-cursor.
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