Spanning over 10 years, the Andy Hardy series of films from MGM is said to be the most successful and most popular film series ever made in the US. There are a total of sixteen films in the series, beginning with A Family Affair in 1937, and ending with Andy Hardy Comes Home in 1958. Technically, these two films weren't really a part of the series. The series actually began with the installment You're Only Young Once (1938) and ended with Love Laughs at Andy Hardy (1946). The first film A Family Affair wasn't intended to be the beginning of a series, but it proved so popular that it, in fact, launched the series. The last film, Andy Hardy Comes Home was a sort of reunion, made a dozen years after the series final installment.
A Family Affair, released in 1937, was based on a play entitled "Skidding" by Aurania Rouverol. The main characters in the series are based on her play. In this first film, however, Lionel Barrymore played Judge Hardy, and Spring Byington played Mrs. Hardy. The film was a box-office success, so it was sequeled with You're Only Young Once, wherein Judge Hardy was played by Lewis Stone and Mrs. Hardy was played by Fay Holden. Only Mickey Rooney, Cecilia Parker and Sara Haden made it to the second episode. Ann Rutherford replaced Margaret Marquis as Polly Benedict (Andy's girlfriend) and Andy's second sister, Joan, was dropped from the family. The cast was gelled at this point with Lewis Stone, Fay Holden, Mickey Rooney, Cecilia Parker and Ann Rutherford. Sara Haden was replaced for two episodes by Betty Ross Clarke, but Miss Haden returned as a regular in the remainder of the series.
Early episodes did not focus on any one particular person; they were about the adventures of the family as a whole. But Mickey Rooney's exuberant portrayal of the All-American teenager delighted audiences and by the fourth episode, Andy became the central focus and most subsequent film titles included his name. Love Finds Andy Hardy was, in many ways, the true beginning of the series. The formula was established with this episode, and would remain virtually unchanged through 1946. This episode is often cited today as the best of the series. Judy Garland and Lana Turner were guests on this episode, adding another dimension to the film.
On August 15, 1941 a ceremony was held at Grauman's Chinese Theater in Hollywood, where the series and principal cast members were presented with a plaque reading, "I, Mayor Fletcher Bowron, on behalf of the citizens of this community, do hereby proclaim the family of Judge James K. Hardy, the first family of Hollywood." The plaque was affixed to a wall at the theater, but is no longer there. A special Academy Award was bestowed upon the series in 1943 "for it's achievement in representing the American way of life in the production of the 'Andy Hardy' series of films."
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