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Love Finds Andy Hardy

The amount of grace one is able to extend to Love Finds Andy Hardy (1938) and the 14 other films in the series is directly related to personal tolerance for Mickey Rooney. Obviously, some segment of the population loves the man or he wouldn't be a Hollywood legend. The rest can't figure out how he ever got into movies in the first place, let alone the first tier of movie stardom. Didn't folks get enough of ADD-afflicted, attention-starved brats at home, back in the day? Rooney even manages to spoil otherwise decent ensemble pieces with his scene-chewing and stealing antics — although it must be admitted that most of these intrusions are not jaw-droppingly racist like his wretched turn in Breakfast at Tiffany's. Further damning with faint praise, this title is reckoned to be the very best of the Andy Hardy movies, so if you like Mickey, you're in for a treat. The most interesting aspect of the films is their direct inspiration of the much longer-lived "Archie" comics, and if you've read a few, you already know the plot of this (and every other) entry. Andy's got financial problems, Andy's got jalopy problems, Andy's got girl problems. Not real girl problems, mind you — Andy's got two or three delicious dishes on a string, and somehow each has gotten the impression their manic dreamboat will sport them to the big dance. The movie is saved by the casting of the Betty and Veronica of this live-action comic book: the young and very lovely Judy Garland and Lana Turner, respectively. Judy's brunette and wealthy, Lana's blonde and middle class like Andy, but beyond superficial details, Lana's the Bad Tease and Judy's the Big-Hearted Nice Girl to Andy's Archie. (Another girl figures in here, someplace, but she barely registers; odd, since this is Andy's steady gal through most of these films, played by Ann Rutherford.) Hilarious hijinks ensue from this broad comedy of manners, naturally, and Andy takes pratfalls, pulls his hat down in frustration and mugs a lot. Characters throw up their hands as if to say "What is to be done with the boy?" Everyone knows the drill, even if we've only seen clips in old movie retrospectives. Garland shines as she always did in these dewy pre-addiction and serial marriage days — she belts out three numbers, and some respite can be had in that. Turner's in her least-interesting period, having just arrived in Hollywood as the "Sweater Girl" the previous year and not yet the noir temptress she would become when she hit her stride. But she is lovely and charming, and she does model a few sweaters. Warner's DVD release of Love Finds Andy Hardy offers a good transfer in the original full-frame ratio (1:37:1). Audio options include English and French soundtracks. Extras include an intro by Garland biographer John Fricke and Rutherford, a radio promo, and selection of Andy Hardy trailers. Snap-case.
—Robert N. Lee

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