24 February 2019 | lugonian
The Hardy Family Homecoming
LOVE LAUGHS AT ANDY HARDY (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1946), "the special Academy Award series," directed by Willis Goldbeck, returns Mickey Rooney to his title role after a two year absence. After serving in the Army during World War II, Rooney returned to Hollywood, to his home studio of MGM, and to the "Judge Hardy's Family/Andy Hardy" series. There have been some changes since its last episode, ANDY HARDY'S DOUBLE TROUBLE (1944). This was the first in the series where Mickey Rooney's name heads the cast, as opposed to Lewis Stone's name coming first over Rooney's during the past thirteen episodes. This was the only film in the series to mention anything regarding current events of World War II, since Andy Hardy, like Mickey Rooney, has also served in the armed forces. Cecilia Parker as Andy's older sister, Marion, and Ann Rutherford as Andy's girlfriend, Polly Benedict, are not present. Marion is mentioned through both telegram and conversation, while Polly's name comes up from her on-screen father, George Benedict (Addison Richards). Oddly enough, Sara Haden as Andy's Aunt Milly, is billed third in the credits rather than Fay Holden, as the mother, whose name is usually listed higher rather than sixth billed. Bonita Granville, who appeared in the last (and longest) segment of the series, returns as Kay Wilson. Not to be confused with its similar-sounding title to LOVE FINDS ANDY HARDY (1938) that featured Judy Garland, LOVE LAUGHS AT ANDY HARDY gets one last look at Judge Hardy's family and what they've been doing since they were last seen in movie theaters in 1944.
World War II is over. It's New Years Day, January 1, and the Hardy family, including Judge James K. Hardy (Lewis Stone), wife Emily (Fay Holden) and Aunt Milly Forrest (Sara Haden) celebrate welcoming their son, Andy (Mickey Rooney) home to Carvel after two years in the Armed forces. Now a ex-soldier and a mature young man, Andy plans resuming his studies at Wainwright College to become a lawyer. The Hardy's soon discover Andy's sole interest happens to be on Kay Wilson (Bonita Granville), the girl he earlier met at Wainwright and intends to marry. Before he can pop the question to Kay, Andy is first introduced to Spanish singer, Isobel Gonzalez (Lina Romay), a visiting friend of Polly Benedict, and later escorts a very tall six-foot model, Coffy Smith (Dorothy Ford) to a Frosh dance, much to his embarrassment since his parents happen to be there during their Alumni Homecoming Week. As Andy finally gets together with Kay, he learns she also has some news for him as well. Will it be up to Judge Hardy or Andy to decide what to do from there?
In the supporting cast are Dick Simmons (Dane Kitteridge, Kay's 35 year-old guardian); Clinton Sundberg (The Haberdashery Proprietor); Geraldine Wall (Miss Geeves); Charles Peck (Tommy Gilchrist); Hal Hackett (Duke Johnson); and Lucien Littlefield (The Telegraph Clerk). Other than Addison Richards' last appearance in the series, it also became Lewis Stone's 13th and final role as Judge Hardy and his "man-to-man" talks with his son. Songs included are: "Beneath the Border" (sung by Lina Romay in Spanish and English during the Carvel Country Club dance); "Hail to Wainwright" by Earl Brent and David Snell; and "I Like You Very Much" (sung by Lina Romay).
With changing tastes of movie entertainment during the post World War II era, this new edition to the "Andy Hardy" series, with some updated themes, seemed outdated and no longer popular for audience tastes. By 1947, MGM ended its franchise with lesser editions to its once popular "Maisie," "Thin Man" and "Doctor Kildare/Gillespie" series. While this could have been the very last movie audiences would get to see the Hardy family, there was a reunion edition produced a decade later titled ANDY HARDY COMES HOME (MGM, 1958), returning series regulars as Fay Holden, Cecilia Parker and Sara Haden (Lewis Stone has since died in 1953 and not recast). While this seemed like a good idea, the 16th installment became the least known and successful of them all. It really wasn't that bad, but production looked more like an extended television episode than a motion picture. Flashback sequences from previous installments were the film's few highlights. The Hardy off-springs weren't likable, but most of all, without Lewis Stone, the magic was completely gone. At least LOVE LAUGHS AT ANDY HARDY still offered amusing moments during its 94 minutes, including Andy getting locked out of the house while trying to take a bath; Andy's jitterbug dance with the giant girl, Coffy; etc., otherwise, the series magic was slowly fading. It was natural that Mickey Rooney was ready to move on to stronger and better parts. At least his boxing film, KILLER McCOY (1947) was a step in the right direction, but not enough to elevate his star status to what it once was a few short years ago.
Of all the "Andy Hardy" entries, LOVE LAUGHS AT ANDY HARDY was the only one in the franchise to fall into public domain. It's availability on both video cassette and DVD are usually presented in second generation copies. The best and complete prints to this edition are found on cable television's Turner Classic Movies. (**1/2)