Actress Ann Rutherford died Tuesday at 94. Never a major Hollywood star, most obituaries emphasized her small role 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 the thankless part she played in what was officially called the Judge Hardy's Family film series as 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 teenage 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 considerable other charms as well. 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?