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In the tenth of the 16-film Andy Hardy series, Andy Hardy's Private Secretary (1941), Andy (Mickey Rooney) is so consumed with organizing his school's commencement exercises that he hires a personal secretary (Kathryn Grayson) to help with all the details. Unfortunately, this results in Andy not properly studying for an all-important English exam. He fails the test and is now faced with the prospect of not graduating himself.
Variety called this "a topnotch entry in the series... [It] follows the formula closely." And indeed there was a formula to these pictures, with Andy and his father (Lewis Stone) usually each facing some kind of problem which they ultimately resolve via insight into the other character's problem. Producer Carey Wilson, in a 1941 article for The New York Times, wrote that one of the "underlying cardinal principles" in devising the Andy Hardy stories was: "Don't include anything you do not know has actually happened to a family under circumstances entitling you to believe it happens or threatens almost every family of like domain."
The Andy Hardy unit at MGM was by now operating like a well-oiled machine, with the same crew and core cast churning out these pictures about once every three months. The pace slowed a bit after 1941, and the once-profitable series petered out in 1946 -- with one final reunion movie, Andy Hardy Comes Home, produced in 1958.
The innocent, wholesome charm of the series is emblematic of an American family life that now seems dated at best and alien at worst, and the films serve as true time capsules in this regard. Underscoring this point is the fact that a year after the release of Andy Hardy's Private Secretary, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences bestowed a special Oscar® to MGM "for its achievement in representing the American Way of Life in the production of the 'Andy Hardy' series of films."
At the time of this production, Mickey Rooney was essentially alternating between Andy Hardy pictures and other roles, back and forth one at a time. Just before Andy Hardy's Private Secretary, he starred in the hit film Strike Up the Band (1940), one of many pairings with Judy Garland, who was also an occasional "Andy Hardy" co-star.
Indeed, the Andy Hardy series often served as a way for MGM to introduce new starlets to movie audiences, and this entry was no exception: it marked the film debut of Kathryn Grayson (real name: Zelma Hedrick), who was all of eighteen. Hollywood took notice of the young beauty. Variety declared in its review: "Miss Grayson, scouted by Metro some time back and put under intensive dramatic and vocal coaching in the interim, ...displays a youthful and trained voice in her song numbers, but, more important, carries her acting assignment with assurance and ability. Looks like Metro has a name nugget in Miss Grayson." Within a year or so, producer Joseph Pasternak would take Grayson under his wing and mold her stardom in a succession of MGM musicals, much as he had already done for Deanna Durbin at Universal.
Also of interest in the cast are Todd Karns and Gene Reynolds. Karns, son of ever-present character actor Roscoe Karns, was making his film debut here. He would later appear in It's a Wonderful Life (1946) as George Bailey's younger brother Harry. Gene Reynolds, who plays the role of Jimmy MacMahon -- as he previously did in Love Finds Andy Hardy (1938) -- later quit acting to become an extremely successful television producer and director. He was a key talent behind the long-running series M*A*S*H, producing, writing and directing many episodes and serving as creative consultant through the run of the show. Reynolds won numerous Emmy and Directors Guild awards and served as president of the Directors Guild of America in the 1990s.
Kathryn Grayson died in February 2010 at the age of 88, but three other cast members are, as of mid-2010, still very much around. Gene Reynolds is 87, while Ann Rutherford (Andy Hardy's longtime girlfriend Polly) and Mickey Rooney himself are both approaching 90. Rooney has never stopped working.
Director: George B. Seitz
Screenplay: Jane Murfin, Harry Ruskin; Aurania Rouverol (characters); Katharine Brush (story)
Cinematography: Lester White
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons
Film Editing: Elmo Veron
Cast: Lewis Stone (Judge James K. Hardy), Mickey Rooney (Andrew 'Andy' Hardy), Fay Holden (Mrs. Emily Hardy), Ann Rutherford (Polly Benedict), Sara Haden (Aunt Milly Forrest), Ian Hunter (Steven V. Land), Kathryn Grayson (Kathryn Land), Gene Reynolds (Jimmy McMahon), George Breakston (Beezy), Todd Karns (Harry Land), Addison Richards (George Benedict), Margaret Early (Clarabelle Lee), Bertha Priestley (Susan Wiley), Joseph Crehan (Peter Dugan), Lee Phelps (Barnes), John Dilson (Mr. Davis, high school principal).
BW-102m. Closed Captioning.
by Jeremy Arnold