With his high school graduation behind him, Andy Hardy decides that as an adult, it's time to start living his life. Judge Hardy had hoped that his son would go to college and study law, but Andy isn't sure that's what he wants to do so he heads off to New York City to find a job. Too proud to accept any help from Betsy Booth, Andy finds that living on his own isn't so easy. With perseverance he eventually finds a job and even gets to date the pretty receptionist in his office. He also has to face several of life's lessons leading him to conclude that he may still have a bit of growing up to do.
Lewis Stone ... Judge James K. 'Jim' Hardy
Mickey Rooney ... Andrew 'Andy' Hardy
Fay Holden ... Mrs, Emily Hardy
Ann Rutherford ... Polly Benedict
Sara Haden ... Aunt Milly Forrest
Patricia Dane ... Jennitt Hicks
Ray McDonald ... Jimmy Frobisher
Judy Garland ... Miss Betsy Booth
Following his graduation from high school, a small-town teenager decides to try his luck learning about life and making it on his own in New York City. Where he encounters the death of a disillusioned, penniless young friend and the seductive wiles of a glamorous "older woman" he encounters at his office job. Not to mention the wrath of the censors (who forced the studio the change the cause of death from a suicide to a heart attack) as well as the Catholic church (whose Legion of Decency damned the film with an "objectionable for children" rating). Hard to believe that an episode in the ebullient Andy Hardy series caused such controversy, but it is this film's commendable attempt to portray the dilemmas of youth with honesty and candor (incredible for 1941) that make it the most durable and disarming entry of the entire series. As contemporary today as it was 60 years ago, "Life Begins for Andy Hardy" is blessed with, besides a refreshingly adult screenplay that evokes emotions unchanged by the passage of time, astoundingly "mature" performances by Mickey Rooney (for once underplaying) and Judy Garland (displaying a sincerity and warmth without ever singing a note).
Rooney's portrayal of a good-hearted teenager who decent instincts hardly prepare him for the brutal reality of survival in the "Big City" will strike resonant chords with anyone in a similar situation 60 years later. And, in addition to Rooney and Ms. Garland, sterling performances are contributed by the Hardy regulars (Lewis Stone, never more sage or heartrending as Andy's concerned father); the lovely Patricia Dane, as Andy's office co-worker and would-be seducer; and Ray McDonald, heartbreaking as a penniless aspiring actor reduced to living (and starving) in Central Park. A tacked-on happy ending and jarring lapses in continuity (indicating heavy studio re-cutting and re-shooting) fail to undermine the sweet sadness of this most unusual MGM drama--flirting with themes that would be dealt with far more candidly and cruelly some 20 years later in such innocents-lost-in-the-city classics as "The Rat Race" and "Breakfast at Tiffanys," of which "Life Begins for Andy Hardy" is a most poignant pre-cursor.
Although I have enjoyed every Andy Hardy movie that I have seen, this is probably my favorite entry in the series. It is admittedly a departure from the usual light-hearted comedy of the Hardy movies, but in this case, it works.
In the film, Andy leaves his sheltered small-town life for the city of New York in order to decide whether he wants to go to college or directly join the professional ranks. Andy's dilemma hit home with me when I first saw this film a few years ago since it was a decision that I was facing myself. Many younger viewers will probably be able to relate to the issues and problems that Andy must deal with as he attempts to make the transition from carefree adolescence to adulthood.
Mickey Rooney gives a good performance as Andy Hardy, as does Judy Garland in the role of Betsey Booth. This picture is not as cheerful as most entries in the series, but the most melancholy aspect of this film is the fact that it is Garland's last appearance as Betsey. Betsey is one of the most entertaining characters in the series of movies, and it's unfortunate that she only appears in three of the films.
Overall, this is a very good, although different, entry into the Andy Hardy series of movies.
This movie is worth seeing just for the advice Judge Hardy gives Andy. He explains beautifully why every unmarried person should be faithful to his or her future spouse, even before they ever meet each other.
It is interesting that the Legion of Decency objected to this speech. In 1941 such parental advice was so well known that it was not helpful to hear it in a movie, and it was dangerous to display sexual advice in the public setting of a movie. Keep in mind that the speech is so tasteful that we would not even call it sexual at all. Yet to them it was good, sound advice but far too personal to publicize.
In our time we have fallen so far from those wholesome principles that it would be very helpful to publicize them broadly. I am seeking a copy of this movie to show to my children and friends.
* Four songs prerecorded by 'Judy Garland (I)' were not used in the film: Cole Porter's "Easy to Love" (available on the Rhino CD, "Judy Garland: Collectors' Gems from the M-G-M Films"); the patriotic "America (My Country Tis of Thee)" (written by Henry Carey and Samuel Francis Smith); plus two religious songs: "Abide with Me" and "The Rosary." Miss Garland's one musical moment in the release print was her unaccompanied rendition of "Happy Birthday to You" (music and lyrics by Mildred J. Hill and Patty S. Hill). The movie's original poster raves, "Mickey woos! Judy sings! Best Hardy yet!"