Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Vital Viewing (Girl Next Door Edition)

Actress Ann Rutherford died Tuesday at 94. Never a major Hollywood star, most obituaries emphasized the small part she played in Gone with the Wind as Scarlett O'Hara's youngest sister Carreen. However, as popular as that movie was when it premiered in 1939, she probably was better known at the time for her thankless role in what was officially called the Judge Hardy's Family film series as teenage son Andy's on-again-off-again girlfriend Polly Benedict. Why thankless? Gamely played by Mickey Rooney, and by far the most popular character in the series, Andy Hardy was a typical all-American horny adolescent boy, within the bounds of late '30s-early '40s movie morality (such as, you couldn't use the word "horny".) Let's just say he fell in love a lot. Since it wouldn't make much dramatic or comedic sense to have him fall in love with the same girl in film after film, MGM assigned such up-and-coming contract starlets as Lana Turner, Kathryn Grayson, Donna Reed, and Esther Williams to play targets of Andy's lustful affections. A typical movie would begin with Andy breaking up with Polly in the first 15 minutes, then getting in some romantic misadventure, then getting lectured by his old fart of a father for said romantic misadventure, before finally hooking up again with Polly. Like I said, thankless. 

Those of you who know what Lana Turner, Kathryn Grayson, Donna Reed, and Esther Williams looked like in their primes may be saying to yourselves, "I don't blame Andy leavin' Polly for those babes! Why'd he always go back?" That's very unfair to Ann Rutherford, who was a very capable comic actress...OK, comic capability may not mean much when stacked (no pun intended) against Esther Williams in a bathing suit.   But Ann-as-Polly had some considerable charms of her own. If you don't believe me,  just watch this:

Wooo-wooo is right! The bigger question should be, why did Polly always take him back?


  1. When I saw she died, on the LA Times web page I had to go look her up as she looked familiar.
    Tell you the truth I don't remember her from GWTW but I am not a huge fan of the movie.
    I do remember her from the Andy Hardy Movies although I can say I didn't remember her name but I remember the face.
    I think she is very lovely.

    Was wondering if you would write a post on her.

    cheers, parsnip

  2. Wow, parsnip, fast comment. I posted it not that long ago.

    While I wouldn't qualify it with the word "huge", I am a fan of GWTW and have seen it several times. Yet, for the life of me, I can't remember what Rutherford did in that film. I had to look up her character's name.

    I do remember her from the Andy Hardy movies, which I watched for the first time only a couple of years ago (though I've been aware of them all my life). I was quite impressed with her in those films, and wished MGM had found more for her to do in them, rather than have her disappear for a long stretches in the middle. I've seen her in other things as well, including some movies she made with Red Skelton, where he played a detective called The Fox. Since I'm not as fond of Skelton as I am other movie comedians of that era, I think she, along with a forgotten character actor by the name of Rags Ragland, is the best thing in those movies. I also recall seeing her in, of all things, an Errol Flynn movie. He played Don Juan, and she was one of the girls he loved and then discarded. Maybe if she had kissed Flynn like she did Mickey Rooney in that clip, he wouldn't have. She was a fine comic actress. She should have been a bigger star than she was.