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Film Review: Life Begins for Andy Hardy

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Life Begins for Andy Hardy

MGM, 1941 (BW, 100 minutes, Production No. 1193)

Big Apple, here he comes! Mickey Rooney returns as the All-American teen in this eleventh Andy Hardy film that surpassed each of the previous ten in popularity. Also back are Lewis Stone as Judge Hardy and Judy Garland in her third and final appearance as Andy's pal, Betsy Booth.

After graduating from high school, the irrepressible Andy heads for New York, giddy with visions of high finance, chic women and posh nightclubs. But the big city is tough on a small town boy. Jobs are hard to come by. Broadway babies aren't impressed by the boy's gosh-and-golly charms - especially when his savings dwindle to a lone quarter. Then, too, Judge Hardy isn't just a room away with his ever-present wisdom and moral support.

Life Begins for Andy Hardy shines with the wholesome humor, swift pacing and top production values that marked the entire series. And it adds an unexpected touch: a true, heart-tugging examination of the troubles that confront an innocent lad whose dreams outweigh reality.

[from MGM/UA Home Video videotape sleeve]

Crew

Produced by: Carey Wilson
Directed by: George B. Seitz
Screen Play by: Agnes Christine Johnson
Based Upon the Characters Created by Aurania Rouverol
Musical Direction: Georgie Stoll
Art Director: Cedric Gibbons
Associate: Harry McAfee
Set Decorations: Edwin B. Willis
Gowns by: Kalloch
Recording Director: Douglas Shearer
Director of Photography: Lester White
Film Editor: Elmo Veron

Filmed: April 1941 - May 1941 (Judy was 18 years old)
Released: August 1941

Cast

Lewis Stone ... Judge James K. Hardy
Mickey Rooney ... Andy Hardy
Judy Garland ... Betsy Booth
Fay Holden ... Mrs. Hardy
Ann Rutherford ... Polly Benedict
Sara Haden ... Aunt Milly
Patricia Dane ... Jennitt Hicks ("The Wolfess")
Ray McDonald ... Jimmy Frobisher
George Breakston ... Beezy
Pierre Watkin ... Dr. Waggoner
Frances Morris ... Operator
Tommy Kelly ... Chuck
Robert Winkler ... Private
William Forrest ... Commandant
Paul "Tiny" Newlan, Duke York ... Truckmen
Arthur Loft, James Flavin ... Policemen
Sidney Miller, Roger Daniel ... Boys
Byron Shores ... Jackson
Hollis Jewell ... Ted
Charlotte Wynters ... Elizabeth Norton
Bob Pittard ... Delivery Boy
Lester Matthews ... Mr. Maddox
Don Brodie ... Clerk
John Harmon ... Taxi Driver
Frank Ferguson ... Stationer
Leonard Sues ... Kelly
George Carleton ... Florist
George Ovey ... Janitor
Robert E. Homans ... Watchman
William J. Holmes ... Dr. Griffin
Manart Kippen ... Rabbi Strauss
Ralph Byrd ... Father Gallagher
Ann Morriss ... Miss Dean
Mira McKinney ... Miss Gomez
Nora Lane ... Miss Howard
John Eldredge ... Paul McWilliams
Joseph Crehan ... Peter Dugan
Mary Jo Ellis ... Drugstore Cashier
Yolande Mollot ... Drugstore Waitress
Estelle Etterre ... Secretary
Bess Flowers ... Secretary
Kent Rogers ... Tough Boy
Purnell Pratt ... Dr. Storfen

Musical Program

Judy recorded four songs for the film, none of which were used in the final print. The only remaining song is one verse of Happy Birthday to You, which Judy sings a cappella. The songs were apparently cut just prior to release, since some of the early ad copy still contains the line "Mickey woos! Judy sings!". The songs which were deleted are America (My Country 'Tis of Thee) (which was to open the movie), Easy to Love (sung to Andy to the accompaniment of his car radio as they approach New York), Abide with Me and The Rosary (during the funeral service for Jimmy Frobisher).

See soundtrack anthology CD review

Notes

This was the only episode of the Andy Hardy Series in which a guest star (Judy) was billed above some of the regular cast members.

There is a sharp contrast between the Betsy Booth of Life Begins and the Betsy Booth of the previous Andy Hardy installments. Judy had clearly outgrown the role, and Betsy (whether it was the director's intention or not) is considerably more sophisticated and worldly in this episode.

This was Judy's third and final appearance as Betsy Booth in the Andy Hardy series. She appeared previously in Love Finds Andy Hardy (1938) and Andy Hardy Meets Debutante (1940). Though MGM resisted Judy's growing up, she insisted on playing adult roles. She was concerned that continuing on with the role of Betsy would hold back her career. Her feelings in the matter were probably expressed in this poem she wrote:

I sing to Mr. Gable,
But he's never really there.
I'm longing to enchant him
with sophisticated flair.
But ev'ry time I turn around,
Andy Hardy's in my hair!

The film was rated "unobjectionable for adults" by the National Legion of Decency, implying that it was not suitable for children. The discussion Judge Hardy has with Andy concerning fidelity, and the interrupted "love" scene in Jennitt Hicks' apartment were probably the objectionable scenes.

The prerecordings of Judy's four songs which were cut from the film are included in the audio program on the laserdisk set: Judy Garland/The Golden Years at M-G-M (MGM/UA ML104869).

Quiz of the day: Why did MGM/UA use a picture from Babes in Arms on the videotape sleeve??

See Judy Garland Movies on Video for information about the latest releases of home video and sountrack.

Critical Response

"The boy grows older and a mite wiser in the ways of the world in Life Begins for Andy Hardy, though Mickey Rooney plays him with the same boyish gusto he has exhibited in the past ten episodes of this popular series. Andy feels that "today I am a man" and sets off for New York to make good on his own for a month before deciding between work and more school. Poor little Betsy Booth, still mooning over the cruelly unattentive Andy, accompanies him to the big city and watches over him with all the solicitude of a mother ... Judy Garland's talent is by no means taxed in the role of Betsy. Life Begins for Andy Hardy is a considerable improvement over some of the more recent ones, but it could have been improved ... But if you like the Hardys - and who doesn't - then this one is your dish."

- T.M.P., The New York Times

"...Ordinarily the legion doesn't explain the reasons behind its picture ratings. Evidently the strange case of the aging Andy Hardy was important enough to require amplification. The legion, specifically, objected to two scenes: In the one Lewis Stone, as the slightly worried judge, gives his dreamy-eyed son a nick-of-time lecture on the importance of fidelity to the girl - she may be in pigtails yet - he will one day marry; in the other the telephone operator, separated from her husband, invites Andy into her apartment for an evening of unspecified "fun". Needless to say, Carvel's leading citizen survives this trying experience none the worse for wearing his heart on his sleeve and perhaps a little more tolerant of the motherly attentions of his sincerest admirer, Judy Garland."

- Newsweek

Memorable Lines

Andy: "Goodbye, Polly, and may life quickly bring to you happiness, prosperity and a ripe old age."

Andy: "The next ten years are the best years of my life!"
Judge Hardy: "At any age the next ten years are the best years of a man's life!"

Betsy: (in response to Andy calling her a child) "Me, a child! Listen here, Andrew Hardy, my mother just bought me an evening dress that simply has no visible means of support!"

Andy: "I see things much clearer now, and I'm never going to make any more mistakes!"

Mrs. Hardy: (to Judge Hardy upon Andy's departure for New York) "I guess that's the hardest thing a mother has to do - wipe the tears from her eyes and the years from her heart and see her little boy's a man."

Andy: "That's the trouble with life, Betsy, it dimes you to death."

Andy: "Oh, I admit I was only practically a kid when I first came to New York, but now I see everything much clearer, and I'm never gonna make the same mistakes again."

Betsy: (bemoaning the fact that the fox fur is too mature for her) "Sometimes I wish a girl could have her face lifted upside-down."

Supplemental Material

Supplement 1: Newspaper review

Mick 'n' Joots Album

Andy Hardy Fan Site


Life Begins for Andy Hardy VHS
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Judy's cut songs on soundtrack anthology
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Life Begins for Andy Hardy Posters
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Window Card



Original MGM publicity photo



MGM publicity photo



MGM publicity photo



Judy checks out the fox's foxes: MGM movie still



Original MGM movie still



Original newspaper ad



Original MGM publicity still






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