|Herbert Marshall and Mickey Rooney|
TROUBLE (1944). Director: George B. Seitz.
"We always think the lady smiles at us. It's only our masculine conceit that makes us think so. I'm afraid this time you were not irresistible." -- the dean to Andy.
At the end of Andy Hardy's Double Life our Andy (Mickey Rooney) is traveling by train to Wainwright College when he encounters a pretty gal who tells him that the school is now co-ed -- oh boy! At the opening of Blonde Trouble this gal, originally played by Susan Peters, has been replaced by Bonita Granville and her name has switched from Sue to Kay -- ah, the magic of movies in the days before DVDs. [I could also swear that Andy handed the conductor his ticket at the end of Double Life but it turns out Dad forgot to give it to him in the sequel.] That really isn't a problem, however, although this movie has plenty of others. Andy finds himself a rival for Kay, who digs older men, and in a highly contrived bit of business one of those older men turns out to be the dean (Herbert Marshall)! Because of this, Andy, for a well-raised young man, more than once speaks way too bluntly and rudely to the man who runs the college. Worse, there's a ridiculous sub-plot involving two twins (Lee and Lyn Wilde) who can't stand the notion of being separated and pretend to be one person, giving Andy conniption fits. There are admittedly some amusing sequences and Rooney, always outstanding, seems to be getting even better as he gets older, but, especially compared to Double Life, this picture comes dangerously close to being poorly-scripted schlock. This is a shame because there is some good dialogue, as well as some dramatic potential, but it's dissipated by a surplus of silliness. Bonita Granville [Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase] is lovely and gives a very good performance, but looks too old and sophisticated for the role even though she was a year younger than Rooney. Lewis Stone and the others -- only Marian is missing -- are excellent, and Herbert Marshall [The Letter] excels, as usual, in his oddly-written role. His scenes with Granville have such a certain sensuality to them (the dean admits to Judge Hardy that there is a definite, two-sided attraction) that you're presented with a middle-aged college dean basically making time with a freshman co-ed; she even kisses him. Keye Luke as the new Carvel doctor, and Connie Gilchrist [Two on a Guillotine] as a house mother are both notable. It's interesting that Andy reads a magazine called Horror on the train, and even more interesting is a rare editing gaffe in a major movie: in a scene with the twins one of them is reaching towards her sister when there is an abrupt and awkward cut. and in the next shot she is repeating the motion. Rooney appears more youthful in this than he did in the previous picture.
Verdict: Not one of Andy's best, but Rooney is magnificent! **.