|Index||8 reviews in total|
It's not surprising to discover that one of the teen movie genre's
plot devices, the Ugly Pretty Girl, was around even during Hollywood's
Golden Age. The Ugly Pretty Girl usually involves taking some drop-dead
gorgeous starlet and putting her in glasses, frumpy clothes, and an
unbecoming hairstyle and then having all the other characters act like she
is physically repulsive. Of course, as the movie progresses, the glasses
come off and a new hairstyle and fashionable wardrobe allow everyone to
"discover" that she's really a knock-out! The absurdity of this plot
is that despite the glasses and frumpy clothes and hair- it's ALWAYS
that the girl is stunningly beautiful!
I used to think that Rachel Leigh Cook in "She's All That" made the most absurd Ugly Pretty Girl. However, that opinion changed upon seeing "The Courtship of Andy Hardy." This movie is another moralistic episode of the smalltown lives of Judge Hardy and his family. Here Judge Hardy's son, Andy (Mickey Rooney) finds himself in trouble with the law when he is accused of stealing a car. (Yes, Andy Hardy is threatened with being charged with grand theft auto in a sub-plot that must be seen to be believed.) Andy turns to his dad for help and Judge Hardy decides he will help Andy if Andy helps him.
Judge Hardy is overseeing a nasty custody/child support battle between a divorced couple who are using their only child, Melodie (Donna Reed), to attack one another. Judge Hardy sees that this is having a terrible effect on Melodie who has become a very withdrawn and bitter teen. The Judge knows that he can talk to the parents and get them to understand that their fighting is harming their daughter, but he wants Andy to show Melodie a goodtime in order to break through her loneliness and bitterness. It is here where the movie goes off the deep-end because Andy thinks Melodie is a "droop" and finds the idea of having to hang out with her to be a terrible burden.
The problem with that is that young Donna Reed (she can't be much older than 20 here) was a stunningly beautiful woman and this movie does virtually nothing to hide that fact except put her in a frumpy dress. (They don't even have her wearing glasses!) Yet we're supposed to believe that Andy and all his buddies find her unattractive. The scene were Andy is paying his friends to dance with her takes the Ugly Pretty Girl plot device into the realm of the surreal!
Overall, this an ok entry into the Andy Hardy series. However, it's notable only for its taking the Ugly Pretty Girl plot device to one of its more ludicrous pinnacles.
Many skeptics scoff at these types of movies, where America is great,
and pure, where problems have simply solutions. Simply, yes, we
things and movies like this remind us how fine life can
Andy Hardy movies are just this, fine and simple.
Another wonderful entry in the immensely enjoyable Andy Hardy series,
even if this one's plot strains credulity at times. Judge Hardy (Lewis
Stone) handles a case where divorced parents are so busy hating each
other they're turning their daughter Melodie (Donna Reed) into a bitter
and lonely young woman. So the Judge asks his son Andy (Mickey Rooney)
to date Melodie, whom Andy refers to as a droop and a sad apple. The
Judge hopes outgoing and fun Andy can bring some happiness to Melodie.
Meanwhile, daughter Marian (Cecilia Parker) has returned home from the
big city, seemingly more mature and sophisticated with some newfangled
ideas that don't sit well with her conservative parents.
The idea that high school boys wouldn't fall over themselves to date Donna Reed, one of the most beautiful women to ever grace the silver screen, is a bit of a joke but these types of plots were and still are common in Hollywood. Some of the ideals and morals in these Hardy films may be mocked by cynical modern viewers but there's something to be said for them, I think. They're good old-fashioned wholesome stories with a nice mix of drama and comedy. The cast of regulars is great. Frieda Inescort plays Reed's mother. In an amusing bit of trivia, Todd Karns plays a boy interested in Donna Reed's character. In Reed's most famous movie, It's a Wonderful Life, Karns played her brother-in-law Harry Bailey.
Courtship of Andy Hardy, The (1942)
*** (out of 4)
The twelfth entry in the series finds Andy Hardy (Mickey Rooney) in all sorts of trouble. For starters, he decides to open his own towing company but after a freak accident he's accused of stealing the man's car, which gets him a date in court. He's also got two or three different women he wants but Judge (Lewis Stone) asks him to take a less popular girl (Donna Reed) to a dance so that she can try and forget her parents rocky divorce. Also troubling the Hardy's the the sisters desire to wear more liberal clothing. I had heard mixed things about this entry but for the most part I found it to be entertaining even if it didn't have as many laughs as previous entries that I've seen. I think, for the most part, the film is a straight drama as there are some pretty dark elements scattered throughout. Not only to we have the ugly divorce harming a child but we even have a drunk scene where Judge gets to tell everything a moral story about it. The majority of the film is centered around the "ugly girl turned pretty" storyline, which doesn't really work here too well as Donna Reed looked good in both forms of her character. They really didn't try to ugly her up very much so it's hard to really understand why no one wanted her already. The performances are all what you'd expect with Rooney being as jumpy and lively as ever and Stone coming through with that stern but fair approach. Reed makes quite an impression in her early appearance.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
It is curious to me that this is the very first Andy Hardy movie I have
seen. It was on the TCM channel and I enjoy bot Mickey Rooney and Donna
Reed, so I watched it. Movies sure have changed in the past 60+ years.
The expressions they use, the family dynamics at the dinner table. It
was curious to see when mother/son, brother/sister greeted each other
they always kissed on the lips, cute but something I don't think you
see much anymore.
The other interesting, slightly surreal thing for me was seeing Donna Reed as a youngster. Even though she was in her early 20s here, she played a high school teenager. My memories of Donna Reed are as a mature adult from her TV series so this was quite different.
Donna Reed is Melodie, and as the movie opens we see her divorced mom and dad in court, in front of Andy's dad, the judge. Mom is complaining that dad won't give her the child support check, dad is complaining that mom won't let him see their daughter. Judge explains that Melodie doesn't belong to either one of them, and they must both cooperate.
But Melodie says she doesn't want to see her father, it turns out that mom has been demonizing him falsely. But judge asks his son, Andy, to take Melodie out on a date to help her break out of her doldrums.
Mickey Rooney is, of course, Andy Hardy, always with several things going on. In this movie he decides he will start the Andy Hardy towing business, with this jalopy he has cobbled together and the garage owner will pay him 10% for every car he brings in. This ends up getting Andy into a pickle, inadvertently.
It is just a cute, entertaining movie. It was fun seeing Andy and his dad have relationship talks, something you probably don't see much in modern times.
In The Courtship Of Andy Hardy, Lewis Stone gets Andy to actually help
him out with one of his troubling domestic cases. In small town Carvel
where everybody knows everybody and everybody's business, I guess this
extralegal activity is expected especially from one who takes his
obligations of office seriously as Judge Hardy did.
The ongoing battles between divorced parents Harvey Stephens and Frieda Inescourt are having deleterious effect on their daughter Donna Reed. Donna plays a plain Jane sort who doesn't socialize much. As Stone knows the parents he fixes Andy up with Reed. He can do so because Andy's steady girl Ann Rutherford is out of town. That's a running Hardy series gimmick, Polly Benedict goes out of town and Andy gets to play around.
Not all the family problems are with Andy in this film. Cecelia Parker as sister Marian has herself involved with William Lundigan, a decent enough fellow, but with a severe drinking problem. Again the personal and professional roles of Judge Hardy get kind of mixed in this situation as well.
The Courtship Of Andy Hardy is not a bad example of what this series was all about. But were families ever as wholesome as the Hardys?
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Before I review the movie proper, I have to make a few interesting
notes: As anyone who've read my reviews over the years probably knows,
my favorite movie is It's a Wonderful Life and it's always with that in
mind that I always cite when anyone from that movie is in something
else I review here. So it is that not only has Todd Karns returned as
Harry Land-which he previously played in Andy Hardy's Private Secretary
but Donna Reed also appears here as a girl named Melodie. Having seen
IAWL so many times, I've just realized that she and Todd had no scenes
in that movie together (Ms. Reed was usually in scenes either with
James Stewart or the offspring of their characters) so it's a wonderful
surprise that Todd has a crush on her here and that they dance
together! So far it's just three from IAWL-with Lionel Barrymore from A
Family Affair also to account for-also appearing in a Judge Hardy's
Family series entry. In a later entry called Andy Hardy's Blonde
Trouble, Frank Faylen also makes an appearance making it four. I also
read that Jimmy Hawkins-one of the Bailey offspring-played Andy Hardy
in an unaired TV pilot version making it five from that movie also
associated with this series. Anyway, Andy reluctantly dates the Reed
character-based on her shyness-because of his father's insistence since
he has to deal with her estranged parents' argumentative nature.
Despite what I just mentioned, there's still some fun to be had.
Perhaps my favorite scene involves Marian's latest date: He woos her by
using a speakerphone to communicate with her while driving to her
house! This marked Cecilia Parker's return to the series since missing
the last two entries. Also, I agree with many reviewers that Ms. Reed
was quite a looker so it's not believable that people aren't attracted
to her at first, even if she's initially in dowdy clothing. Oh, and
Andy's last line-"Women are habit forming"-probably also sums up the
real-life Rooney's take on them as well! So on that note, I highly
recommend The Courtship of Andy Hardy.
Addendum: While I had reviewed the next two Andy Hardy entries last February, I didn't make any notes about either being the last for a couple of long-time regular members since I didn't think I'd review the series as a whole at the time. Anyway, let me make those notes now.
With Andy Hardy's Double Life, Ann Rutherford played Polly Benedict for the last time. She had played that role since You're Only Young Once (Margaret Marquis previously played Polly in A Family Affair). She'd continue to appear in films and TV guest spots until 1976 when Won Ton Ton, the Dog Who Saved Hollywood became her last time in front of the cameras for a role. Since October 7, 1953, she was married to William Dozier-the future producer and announcer of the "Batman" TV show-and remained so until his death on April 23, 1991. Ms. Rutherford then died on June 11, 2012.
A couple of months after the release of Andy Hardy's Blonde Trouble, regular director George B. Seitz-who helmed all previous ones except for Andy Hardy Gets Spring Fever which was directed by W.S. Van Dyke II-died on July 8, 1944.
On March 4, 1943, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences gave M-G-M a special award "for its achievement in representing the American Way of Life in the production of the "Andy Hardy" series of films." Since the next entry after those two I just mentioned-Love Laughs at Andy Hardy-was released in 1946 and I'm not only reviewing this series but the Blondie and East Side Kids ones, not to mention selected Donald O'Connor and Betty Hutton ones, in chronological order, it will be a while before I get to that one. Hopefully, it won't be too long...
In the beautiful Midwestern town of Carvel, an occasional rough patch
surfaces. Presiding over a divorce trial, Judge Hardy (Lewis Stone) is
worried about plain teenager Donna Reed (as Melodie Nesbit). Feeling
the divorcing couple's daughter may become a delinquent, Judy Hardy
persuades son Andy (Mickey Rooney) to date the girl. No boys like the
Ms. Reed, so Judge Hardy must use a little wheeler-dealing to get his
son interested. Andy, who is working as an auto mechanic while awaiting
college, has been picked up for towing a stolen car. Judge Hardy will
fix the problem if Andy shows a romantic interest in the unattractive
Meanwhile, big sister Marian (Cecilia Parker) has returned home, from an extended vacation. She is dating handsome William Lundigan (as Jeff Willis), who folks consider a "wolf" (sexually interested)...
"The Courtship of Andy Hardy" is not an honest title, but there isn't a lot of trust in this story. You're probably wondering why Donna Reed appears as an unattractive teenager awaiting her first date. For a 1940s girl, she seems very attractive. After putting her hair up, she is noticed by Todd Karns (as Harry Land), who returns to Carvel for his second feature film appearance. In real life, Mickey Rooney had just married Ava Gardner, which couldn't have pleased MGM. However. Ms. Gardner fits his character's reputation. Andy attracted some beautiful women. With lines like, "Nature made women's brains lighter than men's," he's formidable.
**** The Courtship of Andy Hardy (3/3/42) George B. Seitz ~ Mickey Rooney, Lewis Stone, Donna Reed, Cecilia Parker
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