Should Andy Hardy Have Come Home?
|From MGM's Sales Manual for 1964 TV Release|
Twelve years had passed since a last Andy Hardy, though change-wise, that may as well have been a last century. Teens would not remember him from theatres (none reissued), though plenty by summer '58 knew the character from TV run-off of MGM Pre-48 Greats, a package going on its second syndicated year when this reprise came out. What gave birth to Andy Hardy Comes Home was curiosity borne of home viewing the oldies, and off-chance that Metro could pull out of tar pit that was (lack of) 50's biz and make the Hardys viable again. To that came willingness of Mickey Rooney and "personal manager" Red Doff to do this one cheap ($307K negative cost) and surely realize profit for so little spent. Mick's payday? $35,000, according to biographer Arthur Marx, this a bargain for Metro, as Rooney contributed gags and bits as had been prerogative in 30/40's glory days of the series.
MGM had negotiated with Rooney and Doff the previous year for a possible vid series, or for Rooney to direct features, a deal stalled until the Hardy idea juiced interest. Major help was Mick lately scoring in a Playhouse 90, where he earned critic claps as a hateful TV comic. The Hardy deal was inked in January 1958, Rooney to star, Doff to produce. It was hoped that cast regulars, minus deceased Lewis Stone, would come aboard, as well as walk-ons by Hardy g.f.'s gone since to picture fame: Judy Garland, Lana Turner, Esther Williams. Exploitation grass looked green for this reunion, but came dawn of wish list femmes unwilling to cameo, and even Mother Hardy (Fay Holden) wanting high tariff to come out of semi-retirement. Early scripting (as Andy Hardy Grows Up) contemplated Polly Benedict as wife to Andy, but even here was stoppage, as Ann Rutherford was $ecure married (to producer William Dozier) and in no particular need for cash. Could Andy survive a pinch-hit wife and mother? Metro proceeded on basis he could, feelers put out to Spring Byington in case Holden stayed intractable (part of the deal: Rooney guesting on Byington's series December Bride), and Patricia Breslin subbing for Rutherford, Breslin a Metro exec girlfriend who couldn't act, said director Howard Koch, him expected by brass to smooth her out.
Mickey meantime talked ex-spouse Martha Vickers into letting their son Teddy play Andy Jr. for the pic, this to be major slant of publicity. There were also Vegas dates Mick would fill at the Riviera Hotel, these to buttress quick shoot (12 days) of Andy Hardy Comes Home. By May and production, there was meeting of minds w/ Fay Holden, plus series regulars Cecilia Parker and Sara Haden, but whose idea was it to put Jerry Colonna behind Carvel's soda fountain, as if he'd been there all along? And Andy's best pal "Beezy" was now real-life Rooney chum Joey Forman rather than George P. Breakston, latter having switched to directing since 40's essays of the character. A hung portrait of Judge Hardy would stand in for absent Lewis Stone and serve as guiding spirit to Andy (and backdrop for his "man-to-man" talk with offspring Teddy). Need for speed was increased when an "exhibitor's poll" resulted in opener dates moved up to mid-summer, Andy Hardy Comes Home figured to plug holes in Leo's hot weather lineup.
Rooney teamed with songwriter-since-the-30's Harold Spina for three numbers to be heard in Andy Hardy Comes Home, each keyed to teen listeners, one tune, Lazy Summer Nights, pushed toward Hit Parade placement via 45 RPM by the Four Preps. Kids beyond Mickey's own were cast to widen youth appeal, mile-tall Johnny Weissmuller Jr. as an AH nephew and locus for contrast gags between himself and diminutive Mick. Teddy Rooney took a bow on Ed Sullivan's 7/27/58 broadcast, this a cinch to heighten awareness, along with 10,000 "giant" and full-color postcards Metro mailed in advance of July playoff. Trade ads (Dig That Goldmine!) touted tens of millions that previous Hardys had earned, with assurance that Comes Home would be as boffo.
|L.A. First-Run Saturation|