film

film features: andy hardy finds love and debutantes

Love Finds Andy Hardy, Andy Hardy Meets Debutante

Film Events at the Walter Reade Theatre
Judy Garland: All Singin’, All Dancin’, All Judy!
July 31 & August 2, 2011 [festival runs July 26-August 9, 2011]
165 West 65th Street
event web site:  http://tinyurl.com/3f4yz2q

The Andy Hardy movies are soft soap, soft sell, Middle America comfort food — stories about well-to-do small town folks with solid community values.  You do well by others, you make good on your commitments, you treat each other fairly, you love and honor your mother and father, you may fight with your sister but you love her all the same.  Over 16 films (we are reminded in John Fricke pre show comments) the Hardy family experiences small crises and life lessons.  Judge Hardy (Lewis Stone), Mother Hardy (Fay Holden) and her sister Milly (Sara Haden) all parent Hardy kids Marian (Cecilia Parker) and boy wonder Andy Hardy (Mickey Rooney).  Leave It To Beaver’s television small-scale crises of another generation.  And in the end Mother Hardy serves a solid meal and all is well with the world.  At some point in each of these movies the plot (patriotism or community values or honesty or fair play) will move me to tears.  And in the two particular movies on the agenda for today’s conversation, Judy Garland adds a delightful dimension that augments and threatens at times to overwhelm the whole delicate small town balance of the scheme.

Sunday July 31: Love Finds Andy Hardy (1938)

Betsy Booth. “In Between”. Oh my goodness.

In the fourth of the 16 movies in the Hardy family series of quiet sequential storytelling, a young visitor comes to the house next door to Judge Hardy and his family.  Betsy Booth (Judy Garland), the daughter of stage performer Martha Booth whose parents are the Hardy neighbors, has come for a visit over the Christmas holiday.  Betsy is a preteen and Andy is all of sixteen and balancing girls and high school adventures.  There’s a country club dance, questions of who will escort who where, and whether young Betsy will be invited to wear her first grown up evening gown.

In addition, Betsy (like Sairy Dodd in Pigskin Parade) tells people she can sing for a significant portion of the movie — uttering lines such as “I sing you know” and “I’d love to sing for you”.  We hear her sing alone to herself a sweetly heartbreaking hymn to adolescent yearning (“In Between”) early in the movie.  Andy is oblivious to her talents and is stunned when she is asked to perform at the dance (asking “Are you sure you’ve practiced enough?”) and knocks ’em dead with two tunes including “Meet the Beat of My Heart”.

Favorite dialogue lines:

  • “When you do something phony and it turns out good, it’s still all wrong”
  • “You got to be smart to get into as much trouble as Andy Hardy does.”

Tuesday August 2: Andy Hardy Meets Debutante (1940)

Betsy Booth and Andy Hardy pose pretty.  Garland has blossomed from sweet to stunning.

The two years that pass between Love Finds Andy Hardy and Andy Hardy Meets Debutante create a lovely woman out of a sweetly appealing girl for Betsy Booth the character and Judy Garland the actress.  In Andy Hardy Meets Debutante, Betsy Booth is now living with her mother Martha and Martha’s rich husband in Manhattan, and a court case involving Hardy family hometown business brings the whole gang to the big city.  Andy’s fascination with a well promoted society girl whose face is in all the papers and magazines back home drives him to try to meet her and, well, it’s all very small town yet riddled with opportunities for life lessons.  And with Judge Hardy, mother (and grandmother’s etiquette book), and dear old-fashioned Betsy Booth to catch Andy when he’s about to fall, all is well with the world.

Betsy no longer has to convince people that she can sing.  At her friend’s debutante ball she sings the stuffing out of “I’m Nobody’s Baby” as a cheery anthem rather than a sorrowful sob.  Singing and swinging, we now know that Betsy’s intuition and her brains will take her far.

Favorite dialogue lines:

  • “Sometimes a woman’s intuition is better than a man’s brains.”
  • “I don’t think of her as a real person any more.  She’s more like a goal.”
  • “Whenever i get disillusioned i always get a pain in my stomach.”

© Martha Wade Steketee (August 4, 2011)

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