Cast & Crew
George B. Seitz
When Carvel Judge James K. Hardy receives an urgent note from his old friend and childhood sweetheart Dora Northcote, he decides to take the Hardy family West to the ranch which Dora and her husband Bill own near Medville, Arizona. It seems that Dora and Bill are in danger of losing their ranch because H. R. Bruxton, who holds the water rights to their property, is threatening to cut off their water. The judge's son Andy is ready to be an old-fashioned cowboy, even though the ranch is very modern, and dresses up in chaps and a ten-gallon hat. Because he has had a silly quarrel with his girl friend, Polly Benedict, Andy is hoping for new female companionship, but finds only "Jake," the little daughter of ranch foreman Ray Holt. Jake and Andy become friends while his sister Marian, who has had a fight with her boyfriend, Dennis Hunt, back home, becomes infatuated with Ray, who is a widower. While the judge and his wife Emily try to help the Northcotes, Andy tries to prove himself as a cowboy. At the same time, Marian and Ray decide that they want to marry. Realizing that Marian is not ready to care for a daughter as well as a husband, Judge Hardy suggests that she care for Jake for a while. Jake's dirty tricks and Marian's failure to take care of a household even for a few hours convinces her that she cannot marry Jay Andy, however, is still trying to show off and while riding Jake's horse, he entangles it in a lariat, and the horse breaks his leg. Jake's grief makes Andy realize his stupidity, and he borrows money from his father, using his beloved car as collateral, to pay for a veterinarian who can save the horse. Feeling that he has found a way to help the Northcotes, the judge invests his own money in a real estate scheme, but it backfires and the Hardys also face losing everything. Back in Carvel, the judge's despondency is cured when Emily shows him a map pattern on an old Indian blanket which the Northcotes gave to the family as a parting gift. The map shows conclusively that the Northcotes can divert the water back to their own property, thus saving everyone from financial ruin. The Hardy children's love lives are also saved from ruin when Marian makes up with Dennis and Andy is warmly greeted by Polly at a party at her house.
George B. Seitz
Agnes Christine Johnston
Kay Van Riper
Edwin B. Willis
Out West With the Hardys
The quickly shot series had only started a year earlier, but at MGM even low-budget films like this one got all of the care Hollywood's house of glamour could spare. As with all the films in the series, it featured a top-notch supporting cast, including Ralph Morgan and Nana Bryant as the troubled ranchers, Thurston Hall as the developer out to steal their water and, best of all, Virginia Weidler as a junior-league cowgirl. The series usually served as a proving ground for MGM's rising actresses. Judy Garland, Lana Turner, Donna Reed and Kathryn Grayson were among the screen newcomers who learned their craft coming between Andy and perennial girlfriend Polly Benedict (Ann Rutherford). But this time out, even though Andy and Polly quarrel just before the family's trip, priming Andy to look for love under the Western moon, his 11-year-old co-star functioned more as sidekick than romantic interest. That allowed Weidler to do something none of Rooney's other co-stars, even the prodigiously talented Garland, had been able to do. She stole every scene the two of them shared.
Of course, Rooney had other things on his mind while making Out West with the Hardys. Two days into shooting, he turned 18, which meant he no longer had to attend school on the MGM lot and could work full days on the set. One sign of his new maturity was his enrollment at the University of Southern California in the pre-med program. That didn't last long. When studio head Louis B. Mayer rewarded his consistent box office performance with a $15,000 bonus he dropped out of school and never looked back.
Ultimately, Weidler would do the same with Hollywood. She almost made her screen debut at the age of three in Warner Bros.' adaptation of Moby Dick (1930), starring John Barrymore. We'll never know if she could have stolen scenes from The Great Profile, as her refusal to take off her dress on camera led to her being fired, but as her career continued, she proved herself capable of upstaging everyone from Norma Shearer and Joan Crawford in The Women (1939) to Katharine Hepburn, James Stewart and Cary Grant in The Philadelphia Story (1940). Unlike Rooney, Weidler had trouble maintaining a career during the awkward years of early adolescence. Nor did it help that MGM signed Shirley Temple in the early '40s, giving her roles planned for Weidler and relegating Temple's rival to lesser films. She left the studio in 1943, eventually leaving show business altogether to marry and raise a family. In later years, she refused to discuss her career and never watched her old movies on television. When she died of a heart attack in 1968 at the age of 41 (she had suffered from heart trouble her entire life), it barely made a blip in industry news.
Out West with the Hardys marked the screen debut of another hard-luck Hollywood character, Tom Neal, in a small role. Born to a prosperous Illinois family, Neal got a law degree before chucking it all for acting. His Hollywood career was marked with typecasting as toughs on the wrong side of the law, particularly in his most famous film, the classic low-budget noir Detour (1945). He lived up to the role off-screen as well. Experience as a boxer and a hair-trigger temper got him into trouble, usually over women. In 1951, a fight with Franchot Tone over the affections of actress Barbara Payton led to assault charges and his being blackballed in the industry. He turned to landscaping, but returned to the headlines in 1965 when he shot his third wife, leading to a prison sentence for involuntary manslaughter. Shortly after his 1971 release, he died of a heart attack.
Despite the heartache ahead for some of its cast, Out West with the Hardys was a box-office winner, like most of the films in the Hardy series. Made for approximately $310,000, it grossed seven times that amount. With the ongoing success of the series and his other films, Rooney was named the number four box-office star of 1938 and would rise to number one in 1939, a position he would hold for three years. His popularity also earned him a plum role on MGM's upcoming schedule, the title character in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1939).
Producer: Lou Ostrow
Director: George B. Seitz
Screenplay: Kay Van Riper, Agnes Christine Johnston, William Ludwig
Based on characters created by Aurania Rouverol
Cinematography: Lester White
Art Director: Cedric Gibbons, Randall Duell
Score: David Snell
Cast: Lewis Stone (Judge Hardy), Mickey Rooney (Andy Hardy), Fay Holden (Mrs. Hardy), Cecilia Parker (Marian Hardy), Ann Rutherford (Polly Benedict), Sara Haden (Aunt Milly), Don Castle (Dennis Hunt), Virginia Weidler ("Jake" Holt), Gordon Jones (Ray Holt), Ralph Morgan (Bill Northcote), Nana Bryant (Dora Northcote), Tom Neal (Aldrich Brown), Thurston Hall (H.R. Bruxton).
BW-85m. Closed Captioning.
by Frank Miller
Out West With the Hardys
This was the fifth in the M-G-M Hardy Family series. For additional information on the series, see the entry above for A Family Affair and consult the Series Index.