Watching 1939: Judge Hardy and Son (1939)

In 2011, I announced I was trying to see every film released in 1939. This new series chronicles films released in 1939 as I watch them. As we start out this blog feature, this section may become more concrete as I search for a common thread that runs throughout each film of the year. Right now, that’s difficult.

1939 film: Judge Hardy and Son (1939)

Release date: Dec. 22, 1939

Cast: Mickey Rooney, Lewis Stone, Fay Holden, Cecilia Parker, Ann Rutherford, Sara Haden, June Preisser, Maria Ouspenskaya, Henry Hull, Martha O’Driscoll, Leona Maricle, Margaret Early, George P. Breakston, Egon Brecher

Studio: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director: George B. Seitz

Plot: An older couple (Ouspenskaya, Brecher) come to Judge Hardy (Stone) for help when they are about to be evicted from their home. Judge Hardy enlists the help of his son, Andy (Rooney), to find the couple’s daughter. The Hardys also encounter other troubles: Mrs. Hardy falls ill, Andy is in hock up to his ears and tries to con his way into making money.

1939 Notes:
• Eighth out of 15 Andy Hardy film. Three Andy Hardy films were released in 1939: The Hardys Ride High, Judge Hardy and Son, and Andy Hardy Gets Spring Fever. One Hardy family Christmas short was also released in 1939.
• Mickey Rooney was in six films released in 1939, three of which were Andy Hardy films.
• June Preisser had her feature-film debut in 1939 when she was in three films: Babes in Arms (1939), Dancing Co-Eds (1939) and Judge Hardy and Son (1939).
• Ann Rutherford was in seven films released in 1939.
• Lewis Stone was in five films released in 1939.

Mickey Rooney and Ann Rutherford in “Judge Hardy and Son” (1939)

Other trivia:
• Mickey Rooney’s father, Joe Yule, appears in the film.

My review: Searching for the “1939 feature”:
Since today is Thanksgiving, I couldn’t think of a 1939 film featuring the holiday (let me know if you know one). So instead, I thought a family-focused Andy Hardy film would be perfect.

Each Andy Hardy film is fairly similar but has its own storyline. The Hardy family (or just Andy) have a crisis to solve, and there is someone in the community they are trying to help.

In “Judge Hardy and Family,” Judge Hardy is trying to help an elderly couple find their daughter who can help them from being evicted. Andy Hardy searches all over town looking for a daughter, and running into various young women, like June Preisser, Martha O’Driscoll and Margaret Early. He also tries to get one of the girls to write an essay and split the prize money with him, when he discovers only girls can win the contest. Of course, some of these girls try to steal his attention away from his steady girlfriend, Polly Benedict (Ann Rutherford), who is out of town.

Mickey Rooney as Andy Hardy and Lewis Stone as Judge Hardy in Judge Hardy and Son.

No Andy Hardy film is complete until Andy Hardy has a “man to man” talk with his dad. This one is rather amusing as he tells his laundry list of troubles to his dad, who tries to keep it all straight.

The Andy Hardy series was a low-budget film series at MGM that made a great deal of money for the studio and that L.B. Mayer oversaw personally, as he liked the homespun messages and the family values.

“Judge Hardy and Son” (1939) was one of three Andy Hard films released in 1939. This was also the eighth of film of the series that began in 1937.

I enjoy this series because they are as comforting as eating your favorite meal prepared by mom. I’m not even the biggest Mickey Rooney fan, but I like these films.

I also like the focus on youth. It can be harder to find 1930s films with a teen focus, so I like this. All of the kids look so youthful and fresh. While they try to sometimes act mature, they still are young and fouling up situations that their parents have to help them out of. In addition to Andy Hardy, the cast is usually led by teenagers like Ann Rutherford, Margaret Early or George P. Breakston. In some of the films, it was where young starlets that became big stars appeared, like Esther Williams, Judy Garland, Lana Turner, Kathryn Grayson or Donna Reed (but none of those girls are in this film).

I love Ann Rutherford in this, though she has a very small role. She looks so fresh and lovely. It may be surprising for some to see Rutherford in a film like “Judge Hardy and Son” (1939) the same year she was making “Gone with the Wind.” But that was the studio system.

I was even more surprised to see Maria Ouspenskaya in this film, and she was only in one scene!

Sure, some aspects of the Andy Hardy films may be marked as “cheesy” today, but I still enjoy them. They never fail to comfort me as you slip into the familiar setting of the town of Carvel and the Hardy home.

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