Movie Review

A Family Affair

A Family Affair Movie Poster

US Release Date: 03-12-1937

Directed by: George B. Seitz


  • Lionel Barrymore
  • Judge James K. Hardy
  • Cecilia Parker
  • Marion Hardy
  • Eric Linden
  • Wayne Trent III
  • Mickey Rooney
  • Andy Hardy
  • Charley Grapewin
  • Frank Redmond
  • Spring Byington
  • Mrs. Emily Hardy
  • Julie Haydon
  • Joan Hardy Martin
  • Sara Haden
  • Aunt Milly Forrest
  • Allen Vincent
  • William Booth 'Bill' Martin
  • Margaret Marquis
  • Polly Benedict
  • Selmer Jackson
  • Hoyt Wells
  • Harlan Briggs
  • Oscar Stubbins
  • Arthur Housman
  • Drunk Driver
Reviewed on: April 16th, 2014
Mickey Rooney, Lionel Barrymore, and Cecilia Parker in A Family Affair.

Mickey Rooney, Lionel Barrymore, and Cecilia Parker in A Family Affair.

A Family Affair wasn't intended to be the first of a series of films but it turned out to be the signature role of Mickey Rooney's long and distinguished career. It was based on the 1928 stage play Skidding by Aurania Rouverol and served as a reunion of sorts for several actors in MGM's popular screen adaptation of Eugene O'Neill's Ah, Wilderness from the previous year. It was directed by George B. Seitz who would go on to direct 13 of the eventual 16 Andy Hardy movies.

A Family Affair is notable for the fact that it is the only movie in the series in which Lewis Stone doesn't portray Judge James K. Hardy. Lionel Barrymore does the honors here and he is fine in the part, even if he lacks the father/son chemistry that worked so well between Stone and Rooney. This is also the only Hardy film in which someone other than Fay Holden played Mrs. Emily Hardy. Spring Byington does a fine job in the rather small part.

Another thing that sets this first installment apart from the rest of the series is the inclusion of a third child. Older, married sister Joan (Julie Haydon) has a marital squabble that threatens to disrupt the entire Hardy household, and possibly the Judge's elected position. The character of Joan was left out of all the subsequent sequels. The movie opens with a shot of the sign welcoming people to Carvel, population 25,000. The story begins with Judge Hardy issuing a restraining order on construction of a new aqueduct, which angers many of Carvel's leading citizens.

Meanwhile middle child Marion (Cecilia Parker who, along with Rooney, and Sara Haden as Aunt Milly, would continue in these roles throughout the series) is engaged to a young man she met on a train coming home from college, and youngest child Andy (a 16 year old Mickey Rooney playing a 16 year old Andy Hardy) reluctantly goes on his first date with Polly Benedict (played here by Margaret Marquis before Ann Rutherford took over the part) whom he hasn't seen since kindergarten. The movie ends with Andy's first kiss.

The gentle homespun humor is what made this series so popular. Its idealized version of small town America struck a chord with audiences. As in most of the Hardy films the generation gap of the day was poked fun at. In one scene the Judge comments on how young people have no problem discussing the Birds and the Bees, unlike in his day, but if the subject of religion or God comes up they squirm around in discomfort. On a trivia note check out the scene with the drunk driver. Attitudes sure have changed since the 1930s.

Unlike the later entries where Andy monopolized the story lines, the first few movies were more evenly divided among the family members. The older sisters, and of course Judge Hardy, all have more screentime than Andy does in this initial installment. Although this low key family comedy seems rather unassuming it launched one of the most lucrative and long running movie series in Hollywood history.

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