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The 12th entry in the long-running "Andy Hardy" series (with four more to come), The Courtship of Andy Hardy (1942) was rooted as always in middle-class family values, with wise patriarch Judge Hardy (Lewis Stone) leading impetuous Andy (Mickey Rooney) through lessons in life. In this installment, the judge is dealing with a difficult divorce case that has the couple's shy young daughter adrift and friendless. At his father's suggestion, Andy instructs the girl in the social graces at Carvel High School and soon finds himself involved in a budding romance.
The Hardy series was often used by MGM as a training ground for its young starlets; Judy Garland, Lana Turner, Esther Williams and Kathryn Grayson all stepped in as diversions from Andy's regular girlfriend in the series, Ann Rutherford. It was Donna Reed's turn in The Courtship of Andy Hardy, where her role as the shy student was her fifth after being signed to an MGM contract in 1941. Reed would stay with the studio for 10 years, routinely cast as the wholesome love interest, before moving on to Columbia where she would win an Oscar as Best Supporting Actress for playing against type as a prostitute in From Here to Eternity (1953).
If Rooney had had his way, another young MGM contract player -- his new wife Ava Gardner -- would have had Reed's role in The Courtship of Andy Hardy. Studio executives, however, decided that Gardner wasn't ready for the assignment. Then 19 and newly arrived from North Carolina, she had just played her first speaking part as a waitress in Kid Glove Killer (1942) and was still a few years away from becoming one of the studio's most valued leading ladies. Rooney recalled in his autobiography, Life Is Too Short, that Gardner liked to remind him of how ineffective he had been in getting her career rolling, saying, "A big help you were getting me the part in your last Andy Hardy! Zero help." Within a few months of the film's release, she had filed for divorce.
Producer: Carey Wilson
Director: George B. Seitz
Screenplay: Agnes Christine Johnston, Aurania Rouverol
Cinematography: Lester White
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons
Original Music: David Snell
Editing: Elmo Veron
Principal Cast: Lewis Stone (Judge James K. Hardy), Mickey Rooney (Andrew "Andy" Hardy), Cecilia Parker (Marian Hardy), Fay Holden (Mrs. Emily Hardy), Ann Rutherford (Polly Benedict), Sara Haden (Aunt Milly Forrest), Donna Reed (Melodie Eunice Nesbit), William Lundigan (Jefferson "Jeff" Willis).
BW-96m. Closed captioning.
by Roger Fristoe