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After a twelve year absence from MGM's popular Hardy family series that helped make him a household name, Mickey Rooney reprised his role as the eternally boyish and lovable Andy Hardy for the 16th and final time in Andy Hardy Comes Home (1958). In this installment, Andy is now a grown man working as a lawyer at an aviation firm on the west coast where he lives with his wife Jane (Patricia Breslin) and children. When he returns to his old hometown stomping grounds of Carvel to look into a business opportunity, he soon finds himself in conflict with greedy landowner Thomas Chandler (Vaughn Taylor) who tries to turn the small town citizens against him.
Andy Hardy Comes Home came at a time when the boyish vigor of Mickey Rooney, by then in his late 30s, was giving way to the inevitable onset of middle age. After several years of being one of the top box office draws in Hollywood, Rooney was dismayed to find during the decade since he had made his last Andy Hardy film (Love Laughs at Andy Hardy ) that he was no longer in great demand. It was not an easy pill for the aging actor to swallow. "I wanted to keep going on," said Rooney in his 1991 autobiography Life Is Too Short. "I needed an audience. I needed acclaim...I could have retired...But I didn't want to retire. I still wanted to be the toast of the world. And I wasn't. How, I asked myself, could I be Andy Hardy again?"
On the strength of his critically acclaimed Emmy-nominated performance in television's Playhouse 90 production of The Comedian, Rooney approached MGM in early 1958 with the idea to revive the Andy Hardy character with a new film. It wasn't difficult to convince the studio with the proven track record of the hugely successful Hardy series, and Rooney's enthusiasm was infectious.
The original story plan was to have Andy Hardy be a judge, just like his father in the older films played by Lewis Stone, and married to longtime childhood sweetheart Polly Benedict (played in the series by Ann Rutherford). Rooney and MGM were able to round up some of the old regular cast members for the new film including Fay Holden and Cecilia Parker as Andy's mother and sister as well as Sara Haden as Aunt Milly. However, Andy's father, Judge Hardy, would be conspicuously absent in the new film since actor Lewis Stone had passed away in 1953.
Despite a personal plea from Mickey Rooney, no amount of convincing could make Ann Rutherford agree to reprise her role as Polly Benedict. Rutherford, who had married a studio executive and retired from acting, turned him down flat. "I said, 'Mickey, in the first place very few people grow up to marry their childhood sweethearts,'" explained Rutherford in the 1986 Arthur Marx book The Nine Lives of Mickey Rooney. "'So that gets rid of me right away. And in the second place, you should not come back as Judge Hardy. You should come back as Andy Hardy; Andy Hardy would not grow up to be a judge. Andy Hardy would grow up to be Bob Hope or Red Skelton or a great radio performer.'" With a few story changes, Andy was eventually turned into a lawyer who married a girl named Jane that he had met at work.
To play his young son Andy Hardy, Jr., Mickey Rooney called on his real-life lookalike son Teddy from third wife Martha Vickers. At eight years old, Teddy Rooney had begun to follow in his father's footsteps, having already amassed some television and film credits, including the Doris Day feature It Happened to Jane (1959).
For fans of the Hardy series, Andy Hardy Comes Home was a nostalgic trip down memory lane complete with clips from some of the earlier films as Andy reminisced at the old homestead. Mickey Rooney and MGM had hoped that the film would rekindle public interest in seeing Andy Hardy regularly up on the big screen again and were optimistic enough to end the film with the words "to be continued". However, it appeared that audiences had outgrown Andy Hardy and no more films were ever made in the series, much to Mickey Rooney's disappointment. "So I came back to Carvel in Andy Hardy Comes Home," said Rooney in his autobiography, "but the trouble was, nobody noticed. The public simply didn't care what had happened to Andy Hardy."
Regardless of its disappointing performance at the box office, Andy Hardy Comes Home serves as an affectionate tribute to the series that celebrated the warmth of family and small town life.
Producer: Red Doff
Director: Howard W. Koch
Screenplay: Edward Everett Hutshing, Robert Morris Donley; Aurania Rouverol (characters)
Cinematography: William W. Spencer, Harold E. Wellman
Art Direction: William A. Horning, Urie McCleary
Music: Van Alexander
Film Editing: John B. Rogers
Cast: Mickey Rooney (Andrew 'Andy' Hardy), Patricia Breslin (Jane Hardy), Fay Holden (Mrs. Emily Hardy), Cecilia Parker (Marian Hardy), Sara Haden (Aunt Milly Forrest),Joey Forman (Beezy 'Beez' Anderson), Jerry Colonna (Doc), Vaughn Taylor (Thomas Chandler), Frank Ferguson (Mayor Benson), William Leslie (Jack Bailey), Tom Duggan (Councilman Warren), Jeanne Baird (Sally Anderson), Gina Gillespie (Cricket Hardy), Jimmy Bates (Chuck), Teddy Rooney (Andrew 'Andy' Hardy Jr.)
BW-81m. Closed Captioning.
by Andrea Passafiume