28 January 2004 | twhiteson
The Ugly Pretty Girl Plot Device
It's not surprising to discover that one of the teen movie genre's silliest 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 device is that despite the glasses, frumpy clothes and hair- it's ALWAYS obvious that the girl is 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 small town 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 Judge Hardy sees that this is having a terrible effect on Melodie who has become a very withdrawn and bitter teen.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 good time 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.