Thursday, December 16, 2010

'Andy Hardy' perfect fodder for foggy night


Nursing a migraine tonight with medicine and MGM's finest.

Yes, I decided last night to set the DVR to record Turner Classic Movies' 24-hour "Andy Hardy" marathon. It's part of TCM's month-long tribute to the great Mickey Rooney, who is 90 years young and still workin'.

It's fluff but perfect fodder for a foggy (in more ways than one) night.

The Hardy pictures were basically a sitcom in the days before television. It was gentle, predictable comedy about a "typical American family" that evolved into a star vehicle for Rooney as his character became more popular. Typical installments portray his misadventures in love. Usually at some point in the picture, Andy finds himself in a jam. A "man to man talk" with his father Judge Hardy (Lewis Stone) helps put Andy on the right path.

The series was so popular that it was awarded a special Academy Award in 1943 for representing "the American way of life." Sixteen films were produced from 1937 to 1958, although the first one, "A Family Affair," was merely a one picture deal. But it proved so popular that the Hardy clan returned for a "sequel" -- albeit with an almost completely different cast. Lionel Barrymore played Andy's father the Judge in the first one.

The regular cast also featured Fay Holden, Cecilia Parker and Ann Rutherford. MGM also used the series to promote some of its up and coming actresses, including Judy Garland, Donna Reed, Esther Williams, Lana Turner and Kathryn Grayson.

Production ceased after the 1946 entry, "Love Laughs at Andy Hardy." But some of the cast returned for something of a reunion in 1958's "Andy Hardy Comes Home." It was intended to relaunch the series, but proved to be the final "Andy Hardy" film.

My only complaint -- although that's not the right word -- is that TCM for some reason is showing the films in reverse order. So we get to watch Mickey/Andy grow younger!

I have long admired Rooney, who may be one of the most under appreciated actors in Hollywood history. While watching TCM, I surfed over to the Knox County Public Library's website and placed a hold on Rooney's autobiography, the aptly-titled "Life is too Short."

They don't make 'em like this anymore.

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