Cast & Crew
George B. Seitz
Judge James K. Hardy of Carvel is one of the most respected men in town, but when he issues a temporary restraining order against the construction of a controversial $30,000,000 acqueduct, contractor Hoyt Wells threatens to oust him at the next election, and he is supported by Frank Redmond, publisher of the town's newspaper, The Star . That same evening, Marion Hardy, Judge and Mrs. Emily Hardy's daughter, returns to town from college, while their other daughter, Joan Hardy Martin, comes home following a secret separation from her husband Bill. After a routine telephone inquiry about the dinner party that the Hardys are giving for Marion, The Star gossip columnist learns from her editor that only "bad" items are to be printed in the paper about the family, so she writes that Joan and her husband Bill are about "to put boxing gloves on." That night, teenaged Andy Hardy reluctantly leaves his house to take Polly Benedict, his childhood sweetheart who has recently returned to town, to a party. Andy thinks that he is too mature to continue seeing Polly, but is pleasantly surprised when he discovers that she also has grown up during their separation. Marion's new boyfriend, Wayne Trent, whom she met on the train home, is an engineer who has come to town to work on the new acqueduct, and her father's position on the matter worries her. That evening, Joan confesses to her father that she has separated from Bill and is very unhappy. After telling him that she and Bill have been friendly with a "fast crowd," she reveals that she went to a roadhouse with another man and was seen by Bill. Even though her evening was innocent, Bill became furious and he will not listen to her side of the story. The next day, the headline of the Carvel Star reads, "Citizen's Committee Moves to Impeach Judge Hardy," and the paper is posted on public bulletin boards. Angry, Judge Hardy wants to bring contempt of court proceedings against the Star and Redmond. J. Carroll Nichols, the man who asked for the restraining order in the first place, wants to drop the suit to project the judge, but Judge Hardy refuses to give up. Soon the entire town is against the judge because they are afraid that the extra jobs and money promised by Wells will be lost. Polly refuses to speak to Andy because her father opposes the judge, and even Marion and Wayne argue because they cannot marry if Wayne doesn't get the acqueduct job. At a political convention called to determine the judge's fate, Bill shows up and says that the item in the newspaper was untrue and if the paper prints the false story that he and Joan are going to be divorced, he will sue The Star for libel. As people begin to suspect Redmond's motives, Judge Hardy reads "the fine print" on the acqueduct's diverting of the river waters and reveals that Wells had planned to impound the land adjacent to the Carvel River, thus ruining many of the townspeople. Realizing that the judge has saved the town, the crowd cheers him as he permanently rules against the acqueduct. Judge and Mrs. Hardy and their two daughters are now happy, and so is Andy when Polly apologizes to him and gives him a kiss.
George B. Seitz
Robert Emmett Keane
O. G. "dutch" Hendrian
Kay Van Riper
Edwin B. Willis
A Family Affair
A Family Affair began when Sam Marx, a story editor at MGM, convinced the studio to purchase the rights to a play called Skidding by Aurania Rouverol that he had seen years before in New York. Marx wanted it for MGM's B-unit, which made features that were typically the second film on a double bill. They were cheap to make and gave up-and-coming filmmakers a chance to show what they could do on a limited budget. The B-unit was under the supervision of producer Lucien Hubbard, and it wasn't easy for Marx to convince him to buy Skidding. "I practically had to get him down on the floor with my knees in his neck to make him buy the play," recalled Marx in a 1986 interview. "Hubbard had so little confidence in the project that he wound up letting me produce it for him under his supervision."
Director George B. Seitz, who would go on to direct 14 of the 16 Hardy films, was tapped to direct after deals fell through with two other directors, Richard Thorpe and Edwin L. Marin. For the cast of Judge Hardy and his family, MGM lifted most of the actors from one of its earlier films Ah, Wilderness! (1935) including Lionel Barrymore, Spring Byington, Cecilia Parker and Mickey Rooney. Ah, Wilderness!, the only comedy ever written by Eugene O'Neill, was a coming-of-age tale set in small-town America. It was similar enough in tone to A Family Affair that MGM hoped to duplicate its success.
The distinguished Lionel Barrymore wasn't particularly keen on acting in a B-picture, but he was under contract and made the best of the situation. Sixteen-year-old Mickey Rooney understood that the small part of Andy Hardy was an opportunity. "I knew A Family Affair was a B-picture," says Rooney in his autobiography Life is Too Short, "but that didn't stop me from putting my all into it." Rooney almost missed out on being a part of the Hardy family, however. Another juvenile actor named Frankie Thomas was set to play Andy, but by the time shooting was to begin in the fall of 1936, he had grown too tall and was replaced by the more diminutive Rooney.
To everyone's surprise, this small B-picture that was shot in only 15 days on a shoestring budget was a smash. The Variety review called A Family Affair "wholesome entertainment, well done by a capable cast and superbly directed." Frank Nugent's New York Times review said, "Mr. Barrymore knows how to handle these things, and so do the other members of the cast...we rather enjoyed our eavesdropping at Judge Hardy's home." Exhibitors, pleased with the film's business, sent telegrams to MGM calling for another Hardy film. One exhibitor from Rochester, New York wired MGM, "For God's sake let's have more of that Rooney kid. He really wowed them...The kid's a gold mine...Please make another Hardy picture right away."
It was unusual for studios to make sequels in 1937, especially a sequel to a B movie. However, MGM head Louis B. Mayer recognized potential when he saw it and soon ordered a second Hardy film called You're Only Young Once (1937). This time out, only Mickey Rooney, Cecilia Parker (Marion Hardy) and Sara Haden (Aunt Milly Forrest) reprised their original roles. Lionel Barrymore and Spring Byington in the roles of Judge and Mrs. Hardy were replaced by Lewis Stone and Fay Holden. Ann Rutherford also replaced Margaret Marquis as Andy's love interest, Polly Benedict. Andy's second sister, Joan Hardy, was dropped entirely from the series. Though the character of Andy Hardy is secondary in A Family Affair, he soon became the focus of the Hardy series. As Mickey Rooney's stardom skyrocketed, the film titles started featuring Andy Hardy's name beginning with Love Finds Andy Hardy in 1938.
Over the next few years MGM cranked out Hardy pictures as quickly as audiences could gobble them up. From 1937 to 1939, MGM was averaging one Hardy picture every three months. In 1942 the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences awarded the series a special Academy Award "for its achievement in representing the American way of life." The Hardy series lasted until its last film in 1958 called Andy Hardy Comes Home.
Producer: Lucien Hubbard, Samuel Marx
Director: George B. Seitz
Screenplay: Hugo Butler, Aurania Rouverol, Kay Van Riper
Cinematography: Lester White
Film Editing: George Boemler
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons
Music: David Snell
Cast: Lionel Barrymore (Judge James K. Hardy), Cecilia Parker (Marion Hardy), Eric Linden (Wayne Trent), Mickey Rooney (Andy Hardy), Charley Grapewin (Frank Redmond), Spring Byington (Mrs. Emily Hardy).
BW-69m. Closed captioning. Descriptive Video.
by Andrea Passafiume
A Family Affair
Aurania Rouverol's play, "Skidding," opened in New York on 21 May 1928.
The film's working titles were Skidding and Stand Accused. According to news items, Richard Thorpe was originally scheduled to direct the picture, then Edwin L. Marin was set to direct, but he was re-assigned at the last moment to Married Before Breakfast (see below) and replaced by George B. Seitz. A Hollywood Reporter news item notes that Spring Byington replaced Janet Beecher in the role of "Emily Hardy" when filming began. A Hollywood Reporter production chart lists Hugo Butler as co-scenarist with Kay Van Riper, however, all other sources only list Van Riper. A news item in Hollywood Reporter on February 8, 1937 noted that Lucien Hubbard was going to get producer credit and would supervise the editing of this film even though he had just moved to a new position at Paramount. According to another Hollywood Reporter news item, Mary McDonald was the teacher on the set for Mickey Rooney and other youths in the cast.
This was the first film based on Aurania Rouverol's characters and, although it received only average reviews and attained only moderate financial success according to news items, it led to a new series of films made by M-G-M, beginning in late 1937 with You're Only Young Once and ending in 1947 with Love Laughs at Andy Hardy. Although it was not part of the series, the 1958 M-G-M film Andy Hardy Comes Home, directed by Howard W. Koch, also featured Rooney, as well as two other cast members, Cecilia Parker and Sara Haden, who reprised their earlier roles. Contemporary sources in the 1930s called the films "The Hardy Family" series, but most later sources refer to it as the "Andy Hardy" series, due to the increasing emphasis on "Andy" and the popularity of Mickey Rooney, who was the number one box office star from 1938 through 1941, and remained in the "top ten" in 1942 and 1943.
Beginning with You're Only Young Once, Lewis Stone replaced Lionel Barrymore as "Judge James K. Hardy," Fay Holden replaced Spring Byington as "Emily Hardy" and Ann Rutherford replaced Margaret Marquis as "Andy's" girl friend, "Polly Benedict." Betty Ross Clarke replaced Sara Haden as "Aunt Milly" in two of the 1938 films in the series, Judge Hardy's Children and Love Finds Andy Hardy. The characters "Joan Hardy Martin" and "Bill Martin" were not in any of the Hardy Family films after A Family Affair; however, a number of recurring characters were featured in subsequent films, many of which were written by Van Riper and directed by Seitz. Several "friends," "neighbors" other residents of the fictitious town of "Carvel" were portrayed by the same actors in most of the pictures in the series.
The principal sets and streets of the town were used in all the films, which usually combined comedy with light drama, and as the series progressed musical numbers were occasionally featured. Topical social issues were combined with domestic situations, and solutions to various problems were usually found by the firm, but kind "Judge Hardy," whose relationship with his adolescent son "Andy" was the cornerstone of the series.
Judy Garland first joined the series as "Betsy Booth" in the fourth film, Love Finds Andy Hardy. "Betsy" was the granddaughter of the Hardys' next-door-neighbors, and had a "crush" on "Andy" which was usually returned with brotherly affection. The popularity of Garland and Rooney led to their appearance in several M-G-M musicals of the late 1930s and early 1940s. The popularity of the Hardy Family series led to a radio program in 1949 that starred Stone, Rooney, Holden and Garland from the films, along with Richard Crenna, who took over the role of "Andy's" pal "Beezy," that was played by actor George Breakston in several of the pictures. M-G-M was awarded a special Academy Award on March 4, 1943, "for it's achievement in representing the American Way of Life in the production of the 'Andy Hardy' series of films." According to many modern sources, the series was the most popular of its era. For additional information on the series, consult the Series Index.