ANDY HARDY'S DOUBLE LIFE (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1942), directed by George B. Seitz, marks the 13th chapter to the popular "Judge Hardy's Family" series that originated with A FAMILY AFFAIR (1937). Recurring series regulars resume their notable roles, including Lewis Stone (Judge James K. Hardy), Mickey Rooney (Andy Hardy),. Cecilia Parker (Marian Hardy), Fay Holden (Emily Hardy), Sara Haden (Aunt Milly Forrest), Ann Rutherford (Polly Benedict), Addison Richards (George Benedict). This entry is notable more for its introduction of Esther Williams, who would soon win fame in swimming musicals starting with BATHING BEAUTY (1944).
The story begins one week before Andy Hardy (Mickey Rooney) is to leave his hometown of Carvel for Wainwright College. Andy has sold his broken-down jalopy to Botsy (Robert Pittard) and his pals at a $20 cost, the money Andy needs to get his car driven from New York so he could use it for college. While Andy doesn't get the money needed after sending over a check, and with only $18 in his banking account, his father, Judge Hardy (Lewis Stone) has problems of his own, trying a case outside his jurisdiction involving a widowed mother, Mrs. Stedman (Mary Currier) and her little boy, "Tooky" (Bobby Blake), with arm in a cast, involving an accident against a trucker working for the Lincoln Lumber Company. With high hospital expenses, if Mrs. Stedman doesn't win her case, she may lose custody of her home, making it more difficult for the judge to settle this case fairly . The judge also must settle a reckless driving charge against Jeff Willis (William Lundigan), in spite that his daughter, Marian (Cecilia Parker) very much in love with him. As for Andy Hardy's double life, to teach him a lesson following an argument, his girlfriend, Polly Benedict (Ann Rutherford) has her visiting friend, Sheila Brooks (Esther Williams), a champion swimmer and college girl studying psychology, to win his affections and get him into trouble. More trouble arises with Andy Hardy trying to come up with an excuse to not have his father accompany him to his former college of Wainwright without hurting his feelings. Others in the cast include: Mantan Moreland (Prentiss, the Butler); Charles Peck (Jack); Arthur Space (The Attorney); Edward Gargan (The Policeman), and Susan Peters (Sue, the girl on the train).
With Judge Hardy and son taking up much of the proceedings, Marian has her limitations but it's both Mrs. Hardy and Aunt Milly having less to do this time around. Parker's Marian does help out Andy by giving him some sisterly advice on what he could and and do to a girl without being taken too seriously involving marriage. Esther Williams makes an impressive movie debut 20 minutes into the story with her shadowy image on the wall conversing with Polly Benedict, but comes in full view a little later, especially with her lengthy and scoreless underwater swimming pool and bubbly kissing with Andy Hardy. Though her scenes involved were somewhat limited for her screen introduction, even with limited acting ability, she was attractive enough to arouse attention for movie audiences. Other lengthy scenes include Andy teaching his father modern slang language teenagers use, the early morning doorbell and telephone ringing involving Andy and his newly awakened father, a serious man-to-man talk involving how Andy truly feels about having his father tag along with him to Wainwright College without hurting his feelings, as well as the judge amusingly having car trouble while trying to make it on time to the train station. Both Rooney (age 22) and Parker (age 37) have matured physically by this time, and manage to get buy playing characters much younger than themselves, especially Andy at age 18.
Standard 92 minute family comedy-drama that marked Rooney's only movie opposite Williams, the final appearance of Ann Rutherford in the series, and Cecilia Parker's last as well before returning for the reunion series finale, ANDY HARDY COMES HOME (1958). Formerly available on video cassette in the 1990s, ANDY HARDY'S DOUBLE LIFE, also on DVD, often turns up on cable television's Turner Classic Movies. Next in the series, ANDY HARDY'S BLONDE TROUBLE (1944), which continues where ANDY HARDY'S DOUBLE LIFE left off (nearly two years later). (**1/2)
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