DATELINE: Disney Fails Second Time Around
Tim Considine & Tommy Kirk epitomize sibling rivalry.
In 1957 Disney decided to do a second series of Hardy Boys episodes. With two extremely popular young stars lighting up the big screen (Tommy Kirk and Tim Considine would be in the Absent-Minded Professor, The Shaggy Dog, Old Yeller, Swiss Family Robinson, etc.), the two young stars signed on for another mystery.
They were growing more adolescent (and admitted it in a prologue that was a long preview of the upcoming shows), but that only made them more appealing to young fans. The second series would be called The Mystery of Ghost Farm. Don’t look for it among the 60 or so stories of the canon of Hardy Boys books because it isn’t there.
Disney was growing as much as its stars—and now they found their own formula for stories was better controlled by something original. As a consequence, the second series borders on the overly cute use of standard Disney tricks (like irksome farm animals) and a completely non-scary ghost.
The boys were catnip to young girls—and Considine was allowed to be the Romeo (even accused of being as much by Kirk as his younger, jealous brother). They even wrestle on the ground after Frank calls Joe “stupid,” once too often.
Disney also brought back a couple of actors from the first year. Florenz Ames, aka crazy old Applegate, returned for a small part as an advisor to the young detectives. They also brought in Andy Clyde as another crazy old man. Sarah Shelby as Auntie Gertrude had a larger role this time around, as did Carol Ann Campbell as Iola, Joe Hardy’s female nemesis (never girlfriend), much to Joe Hardy’s dismay. Russ Conway as the boys’ father found his role much diminished.
The second show had to be the last because the stars were moving on to the bigger careers. Tommy Kirk was especially going big, whereas Considine was settling into a steady hit TV show (My Three Sons and later wound up being slapped silly by George C. Scott in Patton).
The series also went short and cheap on episodes, down to 13, as if the boys had only limited time to film the new season with so many projects beckoning them elsewhere. The writing is slipshod and the mystery is moribund, as if this production couldn’t be done fast enough.
Yet, we are lucky to have them again as perfectly matched brothers, no matter that the story and mystery are less compelling the second time around.