‘Love Finds Andy Hardy’ aka the one where Judy Garland can do BETTER!

Okay, guys. In this post, we’re gonna be tackling significantly lighter fare. This one was wasn’t on my list for the TCM Film Festival. But, my dad was insistent – especially for 9am, this was the movie to see! And, I have to say, I’m glad I went. But, I have a lot of thoughts and I’ll obviously be using this post to release them all.

If you’ve never heard any reference to Andy Hardy, the 16 films made in the series follow Andy Hardy (Mickey Rooney), a typical teenager in 1930s America.😏 His big problem in this film: which girl will he take to the Christmas country club dance? And his options are:

Lana Turner

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Ann Rutherford 

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and…Judy Garland

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In other words, Andy Hardy’s got real problems. 😒 

Here are just a few reasons you should look past the corniness and watch Love Finds Andy Hardy!

Mickey Rooney

Okay, so if you’re a millennial like me, you probably know Mickey Rooney from the Disney Channel Original movie…and CLASSIC, The Phantom of the Megaplex. If you need a reminder, here’s his signature monologue.

I always thought of him as a kindly and very weird old man. This is the…I was about to say it’s the opposite of the Mickey in Love Finds Andy Hardy. But that’s not true. Mickey Rooney was weird then, at sixteen, just as he was weird at seventy. He’s just a weird guy. But, you can’t say he didn’t have charisma. Low-key, I think he might be on speed in Love Finds Andy Hardy though…

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HE’S TOO MUCH

The Sweetness

Yeah, it’s corny but also, there’s a sweetness in this film that is so refreshing. Obviously, just like the Rogers/Astaire films, these movies were made for an audience that wanted an escape out of their lives. They didn’t want to see the struggle they were going through; they wanted to see something inspirational or aspirational I should say – the “perfect” family.

What pleasantly surprised me the most were the scenes between Judge Hardy (Lewis Stone) and Andy. His advice was so honest and heartwarming, without being sentimental gush. Also, interesting to see how much Andy thinks his dad is out-of-touch with the current world. Whether it’s 1938 or 2018, we all think our parents don’t know what we’re going through.

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LOL

Judy Garland, Judy Garland, Did I mention JUDY GARLAND??!

This was Judy before The Wizard of Oz, 16 year-old Judy in all of her amazing talent. I’ve talked a bit about her in my post on Deanna Durbin who was, at the beginning of her career, her greatest rival.

MGM wasn’t paying a whole lot of attention to Garland until she sang at the birthday party of one Clark Gable and made a big impression…

Her role as Betsy Booth is at times, frustrating. She’s after Rooney’s Andy Hardy and he treats her like sh–I mean, garbage. He uses her and it’s so relatable you want to scream at the movie screen.

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YES JUDY YOU ARE! DUMP HIMMMMMM!

She literally helps him in every way she can. She tries to buy his love through money and favors. It’s revolting how relatable it is. I came out of this movie and was like, JUDY CAN DO BETTER!! lol

The 1930s Version of “I’m Not A Girl, Not Yet a Woman”

Okay, I was a 90s baby so yes, I was a Britney Spears fan. Hey! I can be into old movies and bubblegum pop. (DON’T JUDGE ME!) When Britney sang about not being a girl, but not quite a woman, I felt it! In case you need a reminder:

I’d venture to say the songwriters of Britney’s tween classic may have seen a recording of Judy singing In Between, a literal 1930s version. I mean, okay, not really – like, they’re very different styles. But, in essence, SAME MEANING, SAME SONG!

It’s a fun, campy, cute film about the ideal American family

Here’s the deal: don’t take this film too seriously and you’ll have a great time watching it. It’s basically a sitcom before there were sitcoms. And Judy’s great. And Mickey’s insane. And it’s just a load of fun. Happy watching!

P.S. – Fun Fact – Rooney’s first wife, the lovely Ava Gardner called Rooney “Andy Hard-On.”😉

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THIS IS NOT ATTRACTIVE IMHO

Vintage trailer below:

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An Introduction to Deanna Durbin AKA Judy Garland’s preteen singing nemesis

Maybe about a year ago, I was introduced to Deanna Durbin. If the name doesn’t ring a bell, that’s understandable. She’s pretty well forgotten. However, in her day, she was one of the highest paid actresses and her popularity actually saved Universal from bankruptcy.

When she was discovered at thirteen, her name was Edna and she was in competition with a young Judy Garland at MGM. They were both great singers and were thought to be answers to the Shirley Temple problem. They made a short subject film together called Every Sunday where they were put side by side and tested. I think they’re both great, but that’s just me!

According to legend, MGM Studio head Louis B. Mayer watched the film and nixed “the fat one.” He apparently meant Garland, but Durbin was the one who lost her contract. Shortly after, she was picked up by Universal and made a string of light musical comedies. The major difference between Durbin and Garland’s career was that Garland was allowed to transition to adult roles while Durbin was kept in juvenile territory.

Still, I was amazed by Durbin’s quiet beauty, her comedic chops and her astoundingly beautiful operatic voice. Though she retired from film at the age of 27, she left a mark on moviegoers and deserves to be remembered.

With that in mind, here are her best performances and films IMHO:

Three Smart Girls (1936)

This film was Durbin’s feature film debut. She was just 15 years old. Directed by Henry Koster and written by Adele Comandini, the film follows three sisters, one of which is played by Durbin who scheme to reunite their divorced parents so their father won’t marry a gold-digger. Sound familiar? Three Smart Girls was remade in the 60’s…a little film called The Parent Trap.

With co-stars Ray Milland, Charles Winniger, and Barbara Read, Three Smart Girls is a fun lighthearted musical and it gave Durbin her first chance to shine.

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Girls will be girls…haha

First Love (1939)

Any Cinderella fans out there will get a kick out of First Love. In this modern re-telling, Durbin plays Constance Harding, an orphan who finishes up school and goes to live with her wealthy uncle (Eugene Pallette) and his family. She even has an evil step-sister to boot, played by Helen Parrish.

The film is often noted for having Deanna’s first on-screen kiss, her beau being played by a twenty year old Robert Stack. Though certainly flawed, this film is one of her best. It’s fun and sweet and has some wonderful songs!

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What a FIRST KISS! #HerDressThough

It’s A Date (1940)

In this one, made just after First Love, Durbin plays Pamela Drake, a young, aspiring actress with a famous actress mother, played by Kay Francis. She gets offered the lead role in a new play only to realize that her mother is competing for the same role. On a boat, she meets John Arlen (Walter Pidgeon), a much older man who she believes is vying for her affection. Pamela soon realizes she may be competing with her mother romantically as well as professionally.

Story-wise, parts of this just don’t work for me, but despite its flaws, it has some wonderful scenes of screwball comedy antics and a great finish where Durbin sings Ave Maria.

It Started With Eve (1941)

This film has a great premise. It follows Anne Terry (Durbin), a hat check girl who is asked to pose as a man’s (Robert Cumming) fiancee because his father (Charles Laughton) is dying. Only problem is after Durbin meets Cumming’s father. He doesn’t die. No great moment to tell your loved one, “Uh, sorry. Just kidding, not my real fiancee. Just thought you were dying, so, uh…” There’s no way for that not to be awkward.

This was the first of Durbin’s films that I saw and it is thought by many to be her best. It is my personal favorite. I feel like it accomplishes telling a coherent story while including the screwball comedy antics and Durbin’s lovely voice! Her chemistry with Robert Cummings doesn’t hurt either!

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I kinda wish hats were still a thing. Just me?

Christmas Holiday (1944)

It’s hard to encapsulate this one. It’s unlike any of her other films. Though her co-star is the lovely musical Gene Kelly and the title sounds like a Hallmark/Lifetime Christmas special, Christmas Holiday is a fairly bleak film noir. Durbin was 23 when she made this film and finally gained script approval, a right she used to graduate to more adult roles.

Christmas Holiday follows Jackie Lamont (Durbin), a singing prostitute (they never say it outright, but that’s what she is) who meets a young lieutenant (Dean Harens). They find solace in one another, telling their tales of how they got to be where they are. Jackie recounts finding out her husband, Robert Manette (Gene Kelly) murdered a girl and explains that even so, she still loves him. It is truly Gene Kelly as you’ve never seen him before. He’s a far cry from Don Lockwood in Singin’ in the Rain.

Though it’s a truly strange film, Durbin proves that she has more than just an amazing voice. And the cinematography is on point!

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The black and white is GORGEOUS!

She was gorgeous, a singing prodigy, and a fantastic actress!

It’s so easy to play the “if/then” game, but I truly believe if Durbin’s talents had really been recognized and utilized, she could’ve become a star on the same level as Judy Garland. But she was different than Garland in many ways – she seemed to have a good head on her shoulders and chose a happy, quiet life over the chaos and absurdity that is Hollywood.

The magic of movies is that we can still appreciate her despite the fact that she stopped acting at 27 and passed away in 2013. I discovered her only recently and for those who, like me, enjoy films of the musical and screwball comedy persuasion, get ready for your new obsession!

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A New Year Ensemble to be proud of. Anyone know where I can get those hair star pins? P&T!

Happy watching!

Gifs and photos property of Universal Pictures.

The Whimsical Magic of “The Purple Rose of Cairo”

So, this one may be a stretch in regards to my Halloween theme, but it is fantastical so I’m gonna go ahead and say it works. I first saw this movie back in my early teen years and initially, I wasn’t a big fan of it. I had already been introduced to Woody Allen by this point, but most of the films I had seen were his “early, funny ones.”

The Purple Rose of Cairo is something entirely different. Don’t get me wrong – it’s still very much a comedy, but it’s rooted in a real, emotional story. As I’ve gotten older, the film has grown on me more and more and I now consider it one of my favorite Woody Allen films.

If you’re unfamiliar, The Purple Rose of Cairo, made in 1985, follows Cecilia (Mia Farrow), a poor young woman in the depression. Her husband, Monk (Danny Aiello) is out of work. He has very little interest in finding any work or treating Cecilia with any sort of basic level of respect. The only joy in Cecilia’s life comes from her consistent trips to the movies. She has more interest in those fictional worlds than she does in her real one. One day, in the midst of watching a film she’s already watched multiple times, one of the characters notices and walks out of the screen. Thus, drama ensues!

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If only fictional characters could talk to us. Le sigh.

Here are just a few reasons you should add The Purple Rose of Cairo to your queue:

The Cast

Even though, of course, there’s been drama between the film’s leading lady and Woody Allen, I’d say this film is probably Mia Farrow’s best performance, certainly of the films she made with Allen. You automatically relate to Cecilia’s situation and understand why she loses herself in the movies. That’s partly due to great writing, but the credit should also be given to Farrow’s performance which is shiningly sincere and sweet.

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Kinda gives you Waitress/Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore Vibes, right?

The dual role of Gil Sheperd and Tom Baxter was a bit more difficult. Allen had originally cast Michael Keaton in the role. Keaton took a major pay cut to be in the film, but ten days into shooting, Keaton and Allen both agreed that something wasn’t working. Apparently, though Allen though Keaton was giving a strong performance, he felt that Keaton was just too modern for the audience suspend its disbelief.

The part was recast – Jeff Daniels took over. When I think of Daniels, my mind can’t NOT go to Aaron Sorkin’s brilliant HBO show The Newsroom. He will always be Will McAvoy to me. But, of course, at the time, Daniels had only two film credits to his name, Ragtime and a little film called Terms of Endearment. Watching the film, it’s difficult to imagine someone else in the role, especially Keaton. There’s a naivete that Daniels had that made Tom Baxter (the character in the movie she loves) completely lovable. He’s almost like a puppy, excited by everything and idealistic enough to think that if you love someone, every other problem can be fixed. Conversely, Daniels brought a completely different sensibility to Gil Sheperd (the actor who plays Tom Baxter). He’s pompous, confident, and he has a tough exterior. He looks out for himself over everyone else.

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It’d be really nice if Tom Baxter was real…

Danny Aiello is also notable as Cecilia’s awful husband. Now, it’s true, he’s a bit of a stereotype. However, he’s more there for comedic effect and as a contrast for the loveliness that is Tom Baxter. A brilliant character actor, Aiello is best known for his roles in The Godfather: Part II, Do the Right Thing, and Once Upon a Time in America. Even though he’s despicable, Aiello makes it so you can’t completely hate him.

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That look THOUGH…

Also, special mention: Gilmore Girls fans may not know much of Edward Herrmann’s roles outside of patriarch Richard Gilmore. He actually had an extensive film career and by the time this film was made, he had already had roles in The Great Gatsby, The Paper Chase and Reds. Of the film, Herrmann said, “…it was a great cast, all these very clever people, and we were having a hell of a good time acting ’30s (Herrmann, The AV Club Article).”

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I spy Richard Gilmore!

John Wood, the man next to Edward Herrmann above, is also very good. Recognize the name? He was also in WarGames, which I discussed a few weeks back.

Dianne Wiest is also hilarious. So many great character actors in this one!

The Script/Direction

Much can be said about Woody Allen as a person. There are people who I’m sure are probably annoyed that I would even discuss one of his films. But, I’m a firm believer in separating the artist from the person. And, as a writer, Woody Allen is one of the best!

This film is said to be one of his favorites of his own work. The fantastical nature never bothered me because I felt like the film was grounded in real emotions. And, as all of you know from reading my posts, I love the 1930’s. So, for me, it seems like a no brainer that I’d fall in love with it. After rewatching it this last time, I couldn’t help but see the similarities between this film and a film much later in Allen’s oeuvre, Midnight in Paris.

Both films are really about the difference between reality and fiction, between our idealistic notions and the hard cold facts. Whereas Midnight in Paris  was about how we idealize a time period, The Purple Rose of Cairo ponders the way we idealize the characters we see in movies. Every fangirl (and guy) out there understands this true dilemma. The characters we see in movie are just too amazing. How can real people live up to that?

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Literally my favorite line ever. Or at least…it’s pretty close!

Also, interesting to note that Allen had to fight to keep the film’s melancholy ending. “Orion executives asked Allen to change the painful conclusion, which punctured the escapist fantasy of the rest of the film, but Allen refused (Feaster, TCM Article).” I can’t imagine the film ending any other way.

The Cinematography

You may not know Gordon Willis by name, but you’ve certainly seen his work. In addition to the Godfather trilogy, he also shot All the President’s Men, Annie Hall, and The Paper Chase. In other words, he served as DP on more than a few classics. Oh, and did I mention he was nominated for some Oscars?

I love the color in this film, the dreariness makes you believe in the time period completely. Also, when Tom Baxter walks out of the screen…EPIC.

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AMAZINNNNG, amiright?

The Music

As with all Woody Allen movies, the music is incredible. The first scene of the film is Cecilia watching Astaire and Rogers. Literally warms your heart. No, really, it does!

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When we’re dancing cheek to cheek…

It’s fanciful, intriguing and makes you feel ALL THE FEELS…

To me, The Purple Rose of Cairo has a little bit of something for everyone. If you can suspend your disbelief, you’ll be taken on a magical adventure and find yourself both laughing AND crying along the way.

Woody Allen doesn’t attend any award ceremonies with the exception of the 2002 Oscars (he talked about NYC after 9/11). He’s written and directed almost fifty feature films. Some are fantastic and some are…not so fantastic. But, he keeps plugging away. Some hit the mark exactly and this film is certainly one of them.

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Anyone else wish movie theaters still looked like this?

Vintage trailer below:

Images and Gifs property of Orion Pictures