Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, January 29, 2015


Lionel Barrymore, Spring Byington and Sara Haden
A FAMILY AFFAIR (1937). Director: George B. Seitz.

"Holy Jumpin' Jerusalem! A party with girls!" -- Andy Hardy

When 20th Century Fox adapted a play and came out with Every Saturday Night  -- which led into the long-running Jones Family series -- MGM also adapted a play the following year and came out with this picture, which also became a long-running series. Spring Byington played the small-town mother, as she did in Every Saturday Night and in all of the other Jones' films, but she was replaced by Fay Holden for subsequent Hardy entries. Lionel Barrymore was the first Judge Hardy but his replacement in all the other films in the series, Lewis Stone, is understandably more associated with the role. Both Byington and Barrymore are very good, although one could argue that the latter seems a bit pooped, weird, and possibly inebriated, but that was often the actor's style. The plot has to do with Judge Hardy putting a temporary restraining order on an aqueduct that might mean great prosperity for Carvel, and earning the enmity of the ingrate townspeople. Daughter Marion (Cecelia Parker) has fallen for a man, Wayne (Eric Linden of No Other Woman), who may lose his job because of the Judge's actions, while her sister Joan (Julie Haydon), who was never seen or mentioned again, is having serious marital problems. Son Andy (Mickey Rooney), who is horrified at the prospect of taking a girl to a party, changes his mind when he gets a load of old playmate Polly Benedict (Margaret Marquis of Escort Girl). Aunt Milly (Sara Haden, who played the role in most but not every Hardy picture) remarks that Joan "feels things too intensely," while the Judge observes that in his day young people were awkward about talking about "the facts of life" -- which elicits a gasp from Mrs. Hardy -- but now it's religion that has them squirming. There's an exciting scene when Marion and Wayne nearly have a disaster when two drunks tow their car to a gas station -- or at least try to -- and they come afoul of a truck whose brakes have failed. The entire cast is wonderful, with especially nice work from Eric Linden, Julie Haydon, and the remarkable Mickey Rooney, who pretty much makes it clear even in this first outing why the series increasingly focused on young Andy. Eric Linden's character of Wayne, who gets engaged to Marion, was never seen again. Marquis is good as Polly if not quite as distinctive as Ann Rutherford, who took over the role.

Verdict: Fun old movie with that irrepressible Mickey. ***.


angelman66 said...

Have not seen this one in years - I totally forgot that Spring Byington played the mom, and that a different actress played Polly (I loved Ann Rutherford in the role). I need to see it again, especially to check out Mr. Barrymore as Judge Hardy.

William said...

I forgot about Byington as well. I assume she was tied to a 20th century Fox contract for the Jones films and couldn't do any more of MGM's Hardy movies. Barrymore is interesting but Lewis Stone is the ultimate Judge Hardy. Funny that sister Joan is never seen again!