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A Father’s Advice on Fidelity

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When was the last time a movie inspired you with a good moral message? If you primarily watch movies released in the last few decades, it has probably been many years. However, if you watch classic films, you know that they are a delightful source of uplifting entertainment with inspiring principles.

Today’s moment of movie wisdom comes from “Life Begins for Andy Hardy” from 1941. The Andy Hardy film series included 16 different feature films made by MGM, 13 of which were released between 1937 and 1942. All these movies starred Mickey Rooney as the title character and focused on his adventures with his friends and family. Each film is full of inspiring messages and wise advice from Andy’s sage father, Judge James K. Hardy (Lewis Stone). However, the 11th film in the series includes some of the most memorable life lessons for Andy, including one poignant scene in a drug store when his father advises him about fidelity to his future wife.

This movie takes place after Andy has just graduated from high school. His father wants him to go to college in the fall, but he wants to see if he can’t make good on his own first. He hops in his new car and heads to New York City to look for a job. He gets a room at a boarding house for young men and sets out in search of employment. His only friend in the big city is Betsy Booth (Judy Garland), a young woman he knows from her visits to his hometown, but he refuses to accept any help from her.

Soon after arriving in New York, Andy meets a sophisticated young woman, Jennitt Hicks (Patricia Dane), who works as a stock exchange firm’s receptionist. He doesn’t get the job of office boy with the company, but he is entranced by the glamour girl, who gets him to buy a bottle of perfume for her. Weeks pass, and Andy can’t find a job. He scrimps to continue paying his rent until he finally gets a job with the firm where Jennitt works. As his luck improves, he starts dating Jennitt.

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A lobby card for “Life Begins for Andy Hardy” from 1941. (MovieStillsDB)

The Scene

This scene takes place 81 minutes into the 101-minute film. Having heard from Betsy that Andy seems to be heading down the wrong path with his growing interest in Jennitt, Judge Hardy heads to New York to pay his son a visit. He arrives at the office shortly before lunch time, and the two gentlemen go to a diner together during Andy’s break. Andy is too proud to confide all his problems to his father, so the wise judge can only offer him some advice and let him draw his own conclusions.

Judge Hardy tells Andy that he wants to talk to him about his future, not in business but in marriage. Andy wants to laugh off the topic as premature, but his father insists. He cautions him against developing bad romantic habits before marriage, but he isn’t particularly warning about morality, as Andy guesses. He is talking about fidelity to his future wife. Judge Hardy ends his talk by acknowledging that Andy must be thinking the same things that he thought after receiving the same advice from his father, and their conversation returns to daily business.

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Andy Hardy (Mickey Rooney, L) and his father Judge Hardy (Lewis Stone), circa 1940, in “Andy Hardy Meets a Debutante.” (Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Its Significance

This scene includes advice which every young boy and man needs to hear from a father figure. It’s wise and powerful because Judge Hardy isn’t preaching, and he doesn’t adopt a “holier than thou” attitude. Andy expects a moral lecture as the conversation begins, but his father instead offers practical advice for how to prepare yourself for success in marriage, saying, “When entering into an illicit romance, you’re just inviting yourself to the habit of unfaithfulness. Infidelity is a habit, all too easy to acquire if it begins before marriage. The habit of transferring one’s affections from one girl to another is very apt to destroy the ability to bestow those same affections permanently on your wife.”

Throughout the Hardy series, Judge Hardy and Andy have many “man-to-man talks,” at least one per film. Since Andy is a very popular young fellow, his troubles often involve girls, and his father gives him sound romantic as well as financial and ethical advice. This is the first and, really, only film in which Judge Hardy warns his girl-crazy son about the potential dangers of flitting from one female to the next. It was one thing when it was just “huggin’ and kissin’ and good clean fun” with the girls back in Carvel while he was in high school. Now that he’s out on his own, however, surrounded by temptations and strangers at every turn, Judge Hardy is afraid that he could let his natural fickleness drive him to serious promiscuity in the real world. Unfortunately, this strong message was lost on the actor Mickey Rooney, who went on to have eight wives!

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Andy Hardy (Mickey Rooney, C) hugging his parents Judge Hardy (Lewis Stone) and mother Emily Hardy (Fay Holden). (Public Domain)

A Moral Compass

In this scene, Andy patiently listens to his father’s advice, seeming rather unaffected. However, the words of wisdom remain in his mind and guide him later in the film, when he has to decide what is the proper behavior. Because he is a wholesome young man from a small town, he doesn’t realize that Jennitt is a designing woman when he meets her. Judge Hardy knows that warning him about her will only make him stubborn, so he instead offers him a moral compass.

Andy Hardy already has the strong background of a decent upbringing, but the added words of wisdom are an important, practical reminder for the young man as he embarks on adulthood in New York City. So many young people today haven’t been given a decent upbringing or a moral compass by their own parents, sadly. Nevertheless, beautiful film moments like this have the power to transform lives with their traditional guidance although they were made over eighty years ago.

Judge Hardy reminds us that, by keeping yourself pure and faithful, you are honoring your future spouse as well as your own dignity.



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