Family Affair, A (1937) - full review!
Directed by George B. Seitz, this average comedy drama was the first in the Andy Hardy series, and the only one to feature Lionel Barrymore as Judge Hardy before Lewis Stone would take over the role for a dozen or more movies made in the late 1930's through the middle of the next decade. Director Seitz, and actors: Mickey Rooney as Andy, Cecilia Parker as Marion Hardy, Fay Holden (taking over for this film's Spring Byington) as Mrs. Hardy, Ann Rutherford (replacing Margaret Marquis) as Polly Benedict (Andy's girlfriend), and Sara Haden as Aunt Milly, continued the series which began with You're Only Young Once (1937). The characters come from Aurania Rouverol’s play Skidding. This film's focus is the judge, in lieu of Andy (whose name is usually in the title), who is struggling to be reelected against popular opinion because of his stance on a civic improvement issue. Julie Haydon plays Andy's older married (to Allen Vincent's character, Bill Martin) sister Joan, whose character doesn't continue in the series. Neither Bainter nor Haden is given much to do in this one.
The town of Carvel, population 25,000, is about to get a coup, an aqueduct that promises to bring jobs and money to their small community. City leader Frank Redmond (Charley Grapewin) and the project's executive Hoyt Wells (Selmer Jackson) are upset that Judge Hardy has filed a restraining order against its construction because of a complaint by the town's newspaper owner J. Carroll Nichols (Robert Emmett Keane, uncredited). The judge protests that he's only following the law, but his campaign manager Oscar Stubbins (Harlan Briggs) warns him that, with the upcoming election, now is not a good time to go against the will of the people.
But that's just the beginning of the judge's concerns: his eldest daughter Joan has separated from her husband and his other daughter Marion has returned home from college with a beau, Wayne Trent (Eric Linden), who's an engineer that's come to find work on the aqueduct project. Meanwhile, Andy is upset that his mother is "forcing" him to take a girl he hasn't seen from his childhood to a party, only to be pleasantly surprised that Polly has grown up quite nicely. Eventually, each of his daughters becomes part of the judge's conflict regarding the aqueduct project: Marion, who is angry with her father because Wayne can't get a job, and Joan, because Redmond and Wells threaten to expose an incident which, on the surface, looks like she had an affair, in order to besmirch his character before the vote. Andy tries to calm them by reading his sisters their father's oath of office.
*** SPOILERS ***
Through some sort of magic, a conversation we the audience aren't privy to, the judge gets Joan's husband Bill to stand up for her at the nominating convention, and then he reveals a secret clause in Wells's contract which would make Carvel beholden to other communities down river if the aqueduct project begins as planned. So, the judge saves the day and is unanimously reelected while all is well on the family front too.