You recognize them, of course. They are MGM’s Hardy Family. The Andy Hardy Series of the 1930s and 40s was the most successful and famous (along with The Road Pictures) of the era.
Fact: No one was a bigger star as a teenager in Hollywood than Mickey Rooney.
Say what you will about Rooney’s life and career, the pint sized dynamo (he was all of 5 feet 2 inches) was a trooper. Because his parents were vaudevillians, Rooney made his stage debut at 15 months as part of the family act. (He was born in 1920.)
He is best remembered for the 16 Andy Hardy movies that extolled the virtues of middle class American life and which made him an international star from 1937 to 1946. He was just 17 years old when the hugely popular MGM series — mostly costarring Lewis Stone as Judge Hardy and Fay Holden as Mrs. Hardy (as shown at the top) — began.
Although Rooney preceded Shirley Temple in films, he didn’t become a star until after she had. But he became an even bigger star, and made an easy transition from child roles to teenage roles to adult roles. Below is a shot from the fourth in the series, which pitted Rooney alongside another Hollywood teenage sensation, Judy Garland.
However much Mickey made the part of Andy Hardy in his own, there was a huge gap between reel life and reality. Esther Williams recalls the Mickey Rooney she encountered when cutting her teeth as an MGM starlet in 1942’s Andy Hardy’s Double Life.
Wrote Esther, Now in his early twenties…he was still a self absorbed kid. I didn’t find him very likable…Mickey took advantage of his stardom. Everyone in the studio gave him free rein. He had a bookie waiting for his calls every day, always playing the horses. We all knew that ‘Mickey’s on the phone’ meant that filming could not resume until he’d concluded his ‘business’.”
We wonder if Andy Hardy ever imagined playing the horses, although, as British-born author-critic David Thomson observed, Andy became Rooney: cheeky, naughty, improvisational, immensely talented as a mime, dancer, comic, singer and ham. (Rooney died in 2014, his financial affairs a train wreck. He was 93.)
Ok, let’s get to our Andy Hardy Quiz. As usual, answers tomorrow.
- Question: Which of the following actors (in addition to Lewis Stone) played Judge James Hardy, the fictional father of Mickey Rooney’s Andy Hardy? a) Lionel Barrymore; b) Raymond Massey; c) Carleton Macy; or Basil Rathbone.
2. Question: How many Andy Hardy films in all were produced? a) 22 b) 10; c) 16; or d) 8.
3. Question: Mickey Rooney and MGM boss Louis B. Mayer locked horns heatedly during production of the Andy Hardy series. Why? a) Mayer disliked Rooney personally; b) The fight was over bigtime salary issues; c) Rooney was threatening the wholesome Andy Hardy public image by acting like a horny teenager off camera; or d) None of the above.
4. Question: How many Andy Hardy movies did Judy Garland, playing a character by the name of Betsy Booth, make with Rooney? a) Three; b) Five; c) Two; or d) Four.
5. Question: Where was the Hardy family’s fictional home located? a) in Idaho; b) somewhere in the Midwest; c) in Southern California; or d) in the Bronx.