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Babes in Arms (1939)

Unrated | | Comedy, Musical | 13 October 1939 (USA)
A group of vaudevillians struggling to compete with talkies hits the road hoping for a comeback. Frustrated to be left behind, all of their kids put on a show themselves to raise money for the families and to prove they've got talent, too.

Director:

Busby Berkeley

Writers:

Jack McGowan (screen play), Kay Van Riper (screen play) | 2 more credits »
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Popularity
3,500 ( 5,780)

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Nominated for 2 Oscars. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Mickey Rooney ... Mickey Moran
Judy Garland ... Patsy Barton
Charles Winninger ... Joe Moran
Guy Kibbee ... Judge Black
June Preisser ... Rosalie Essex
Grace Hayes ... Florrie Moran
Betty Jaynes ... Molly Moran
Douglas McPhail Douglas McPhail ... Don Brice
Rand Brooks ... Jeff Steele
Leni Lynn ... Dody Martini
Johnny Sheffield ... Bobs (as John Sheffield)
Henry Hull ... Madox
Barnett Parker ... William
Ann Shoemaker ... Mrs. Barton
Margaret Hamilton ... Martha Steele
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Storyline

Mickey Moran, a talented singer and musician, is son of a veteran from show business. Mickey has a partner, Patsy Barton, a pretty girl and also a very talented singer. One day, a big opportunity arrives for Mickey, a big contract to set up his own show. However, things don't go well, and in order to avoid being sent to a work farm, he'll improvise a show in the country, despite the awful weather conditions. Patsy's in love with Mickey, he loves her, too, but for him the show must go on, and his big dream maybe will come true: to formally stage his play in a big scenario, with a huge production. Written by Alejandro Frias

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

The big musical fun show!

Genres:

Comedy | Musical

Certificate:

Unrated | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

13 October 1939 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Los hijos de la farándula See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$748,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The Mickey Rooney-Judy Garland-Busby Berkeley full-throttle production number, "God's Country" (music by Harold Arlen, lyrics by E.Y. Harburg), had been introduced on Broadway by Jack Whiting and The Five Reillys in the 1937 musical, "Hooray for What!" MGM bought the screen rights to the show, which never was filmed. See more »

Goofs

(around 52 mins 43 seconds) When Mickey is telling Pat about becoming an understudy he places his hand on her left shoulder pulling back her sweater to reveal a bow that's pinned on her dress. The bow stays visible even after he pulls back his hand however on the very next edit when they walk away; the bow is no longer visible. See more »

Quotes

Mickey Moran: No, no, no, judge! You don't understand; she don't understand, either. Oh, she don't mean no harm to us, but... we're not her kind of people - or yours, either. We belong in show business. We gotta start young so we can get some steel in our backbone. Well, gee, we're developing it. You couldn't teach us a trade, we've got one. And you couldn't do without it. Oh, we're only kids now, but someday we're gonna be the guys that make you laugh and cry and think that there's a little stardust left on...
See more »

Alternate Versions

Also available in a computer-colorized version. See more »

Connections

Features Broadway to Hollywood (1933) See more »

Soundtracks

Auld Lang Syne
(1788) (uncredited)
Traditional Scottish ballad
Played on Christmas Eve
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
An Essential For Garland-Rooney Fans
31 March 2005 | by gftbiloxiSee all my reviews

In the 1939 Mickey Rooney was among the top box office draws in the world. Judy Garland had appeared as a supporting player in several Rooney films, and the two had significant chemistry--more over, Garland had just completed photography for THE WIZARD OF OZ--a film that MGM rightly expected would launch her to international stardom. The time was right to costar the two, and MGM did it with BABES IN ARMS. The film was an immediate hit, one of the most admired musicals of the year. But time has a way of changing our perspective. Seen today, BABES IN ARMS feels a little strange, a little strained, and at times just downright, well, ODD.

BABES IN ARMS was originally a Rogers and Hart show that proved a smash on the New York stage--a slightly satirical script with one of the most powerful scores of the 1930s. MGM specifically purchased the property for Rooney and Garland and then promptly threw out the script, most of the score, and transformed the thing into the tale of young teenagers who decide to put on a show in a barn.

Although well performed, the songs that replaced the original score simply do not measure up to the play's original score, and viewers are likely to be startled by a minstrel show number that finds Mickey and Judy romping in blackface. In justice to the film, it should be remembered that while minstrel shows remained popular well into the 1950s, and such great stars as Al Jolson and Eddie Cantor performed in full blackface well into the 1930s. While the number is stereotypical, it is not meanspirited, and if nothing else it offers a glimpse into a now dead theatrical tradition.

But weirdest of all is the grand finale "In God's Country," a strange mixture of Hollywood ballyhoo, patriotism, and fear of the European war that would soon engulf the world. In its original form, the number also included Rooney and Garland doing a take off of FDR and Eleanor; although cleverly performed and quite mild in content, this was later cut in re-release, for MGM worried it might be construed as disrespectful during wartime.

The film has a number of distinct flaws. Director Busby Berkley was most at home with big-budget musicals that had scope for the elaborate dance numbers he favored--he's something of a fish out of water with this more intimate material, and his approach feels heavy handed. Although much admired at the time (he actually received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor for this film), Mickey Rooney's performance is absurdly manic by modern standards, and Garland's more natural performance is too often overshadowed by his excesses. The script is as weak as the score, few of the supporting performers are memorable (Margaret Hamilton is an exception), and the whole thing has a awkward quality to it.

Even so, it's still possible to see what all the fuss was about. The film does capture an inkling of the famous Rooney-Garland chemistry--a chemistry that would fuel three more "let's put on a show!" musicals, each one more more effective than the last. It is there in every musical number the two perform, in every line, in every scene, a very real and very powerful thing. While casual viewers would do better to select either BABES ON Broadway or GIRL CRAZY, in spite of all its flaws, Rooney-Garland fans will likely find BABES IN ARMS an essential.

Gary F. Taylor, aka GFT, Amazon Reviewer


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