Watching 1939: Andy Hardy Gets Spring Fever (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: Andy Hardy Gets Spring Fever (1939)

Release date:  July 18, 1939

Cast:
Lewis Stone, Mickey Rooney, Cecilia Parker, Fay Holden, Ann Rutherford, Helen Gilbert, Terry Kilburn, John T. Murray, Sidney Miller, Addison Richards, Charles Peck, Robert Kent, George P. Breakston, Sidney Miller, Ivan Miller (uncredited)

Studio:  Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:  W.S. Van Dyke

Plot:
Judge Hardy (Stone) owns some land that he can’t sell until he learns it contains aluminum bauxite. Meanwhile, while the Judge is elated, Andy Hardy (Rooney) is heartsick. His girl Polly Benedict (Rutherford) is being courted by a Naval officer (Kent) who is staying with her family. However, his heart is quickly mended when he falls in love with his theater substitute teacher (Gilbert). The Judge’s excitement also is turned upside down when it turns out the business deal he made may not be what it seems.

1939 Notes:
• One of three Andy Hardy films released in 1939. The others were “The Hardys Ride High” and “Judge Hardy and Son.” There were a total of 15 Andy Hardy films.
• Mickey Rooney was in six films released in 1939, three of which were Andy Hardy films. Mickey Rooney was the most popular star in Hollywood in 1939.
• First film of Helen Gilbert, who originally started in the MGM Orchestra
• Ann Rutherford was in seven films released in 1939.
• Lewis Stone was in five films released in 1939.

Other trivia: 
• The first and only Andy Hardy film directed by W. S. Van Dyke
• 1939 Hollywood Reporter articles said 40 local high school students played students in the film and went to school on the MGM lot while filming.
• Father and son actors Ivan Miller and Sidney Miller appeared in this movie as father and son.
• The seventh Andy Hardy film in the series.

Mickey Rooney and Helen Gilbert in “Andy Hardy Gets Spring Fever”

My review: Searching for the “1939 feature”:
In 1939, Mickey Rooney was the most popular star in Hollywood. Acting in six films that year, three of those films were the family focused “Andy Hardy” series films. Taking place in the fictional small town of Carvel, life was supposed to represent the everyman family in America.

Judge Hardy worked hard and lived modestly and has a wife and two children. Their family isn’t perfect by any means. Andy Hardy is always getting into some misunderstanding or scrap and his sister Marian has her share of troubles as well. Even wise Judge Hardy gets duped from time to time.

In this seventh installment of the film series, “Andy Hardy Gets Spring Fever” (1939), Judge Hardy, played by Lewis Stone, has one of these rare moments of being tricked. He’s made to believe that land he owns contains a large amount of aluminum bauxite and that he needs to invest in the project. It turns out this isn’t so, but he only learns after members of the town have bought into the project as shareholders, investing $17,000.

Mickey Rooney’s character of Andy Hardy has a little less serious problems. His girlfriend Polly Benedict, played by Ann Rutherford, turns her attention from Andy to a handsome Navel officer who is staying with her family (the Naval officer has an extremely small role and is only in one scene). But the pretty substitute theater teacher, played by Helen Gilbert, gets his mind off of this and he writers a play for his class to perform, all the while falling in love with his teacher.

This was the first film for Helen Gilbert, who was discovered while playing the cello for the MGM studio orchestra. Gilbert had a modest career with 18 film and TV projects and was also married to gangster Johnny Stompanato for less than a year – Feb. 1949 to July 1949.

Child actor Terry Kilburn, known for his debut role as Tiny Tim in “A Christmas Carol” in 1938, also has a small role in this film. Another fun casting note is that Sidney Miller, who usually played a rough kid on the Warner Bros. lot, co-stars with his real-life father Ivan Miller. The two are father and son in the film, though they don’t share the screen together.

“Andy Hardy Gets Spring Fever” is similar to the rest of the series, but just as fun and lighthearted. I love the teen focus and youth represented in these films. They all feel homespun and give you a warm feeling.

Since spring is blooming in Carvel in this film, it only felt appropriate to review this film. Just like the oncoming warm weather, this film will brighten your spirits.

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