I just assumed everyone knew who Andy Hardy was and loved his movies, but it seems not everyone does, and introductions are in order. Andy Hardy was the fictional subject of a series of movies made between 1937 and 1946, plus one extra film in 1958. Andy was played by Mickey Rooney as a trouble-finding teenage boy who first looks to his surroundings for answers and then finally checks in with his father, the always wise and kind-hearted Judge Hardy.
Andy's mother is sometimes clueless and sometimes insightful, and his older sister is just sort of present in the films. The main relationship is between Andy and his father, and together they work through the struggles of life—figuring out girls, the importance of personal integrity, growing up, leaving for college, becoming a man.
Here is a trailer from one of the films that covers the summer between high school and college:
Judy Garland played Patsy, the adorable neighbor girl who was a little younger than Andy but who loved him with all her heart. He saw her as a pesky child and reserved his affections for Polly Benedict. There was always some other girl who was either new to town or more sophisticated than Polly to attract his attention. Or sometimes Polly was distracted by a new boy or a visiting soldier in uniform, but in the end, all was well.
When Andy left for college, his troubles still seemed to revolve around girls, but he learned to deal with them without the instant help of the judge. In this scene, Andy has ended up at a college dance with a girl no one else would invite because she was too tall. Andy's first choice was called home unexpectedly, and Andy takes the high road so he and the tall girl could both be included in what was evidently an extremely important social event. His parents watch on from the side.
Why do I like these films so much, I ask myself? I first discovered them when I was a kid and watched old movies like it was my job. WGN in Chicago played them nearly as much as Turner Classic Movies, when they weren't airing Cubs games, and I was hooked. Andy was one of the first characters that drew me in, and his wise and loving father was like no one I had ever met before. Maybe I was a little jealous of Andy—I didn't know anyone like Judge Hardy, and I could only imagine being the recipient of such wisdom and unconditional love. As a little kid, I wanted to live in Carvel with the Hardy family and grow up saying things like "Hey, let's scram," or "Gee, that's swell."
No matter how many scrapes Andy found himself in, and no matter how melodramatic he was about something like the upholstery of his car, he always had a loving and accepting safety net at home that allowed him to sort things out without fatal results.