11 user

Forty Little Mothers (1940)

Approved | | Drama | 26 April 1940 (USA)
An out-of-work professor gets a break from an old college buddy to teach at an exclusive girl's school. But events conspire against him: he finds an abandoned child which he takes under his... See full summary »


Busby Berkeley


Dorothy Yost (screen play), Ernest Pagano (screen play) | 1 more credit »


Learn more

More Like This 

Adventure | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  

In the depths of the Depression, two teenage boys strike out on their own in order to help their struggling parents and find life on the road tougher than expected.

Director: William A. Wellman
Stars: Frankie Darro, Rochelle Hudson, Edwin Phillips
Certificate: Passed Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  

Dr. Michael Corday, a recent graduate of the Harvard Medical School, is the son of Dr. John Corday, an eminent New York City surgeon who has a tendency to continue to direct the lives of ... See full summary »

Director: Curtis Bernhardt
Stars: Glenn Ford, Charles Coburn, Gloria DeHaven
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.5/10 X  

Sam Preston is a small-town newspaper publisher who suffers from wanderlust. Leaving his family (wife Ellen, two daughters and a son,) he thinks well-provided for, he packs a suitcase and ... See full summary »

Director: William Keighley
Stars: Aline MacMahon, Guy Kibbee, Tom Brown
Certificate: Passed Crime | Drama | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  

A gangster is jailed for ten years after his wife becomes pregnant. He becomes bitter when she divorces him and remarries.

Director: Edward Ludwig
Stars: Edward G. Robinson, James Stewart, Rose Stradner
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6/10 X  

Two newspaper reporters, Thomas "Breezy" Elliott and Jane Morgan, inadvertently send a boy named Mickey Fallon to reform school after they write an expose of the illegal slot-machine racket... See full summary »

Director: James Flood
Stars: Pat O'Brien, Joan Blondell, Bobby Jordan
Honolulu (1939)
Certificate: Passed Comedy | Musical | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.6/10 X  

Wanting a break from his overzealous fans, a famous movie star hires a Hawaiian plantation owner to switch places with him for a few weeks.

Director: Edward Buzzell
Stars: Eleanor Powell, Robert Young, George Burns
Central Park (1932)
Certificate: Passed Crime | Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.2/10 X  

Gangsters posing as police officers offer a woman a chance to make money if she helps them out.

Director: John G. Adolfi
Stars: Joan Blondell, Wallace Ford, Guy Kibbee
Tell No Tales (1939)
Certificate: Passed Crime | Mystery | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.6/10 X  

Michael Cassidy is the editor of a failing newspaper. A scoop would be welcome to boost the sales and to avoid closure. To this end, he decides to personally track down a gang of kidnappers.

Director: Leslie Fenton
Stars: Melvyn Douglas, Louise Platt, Gene Lockhart
Animation | Comedy | Music
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.6/10 X  

An agent must search for a new personality to replace a popular singer who refuses to renew his radio contract. He finds one in the form of a single mother, but complications soon occur.

Director: Michael Curtiz
Stars: Jack Carson, Doris Day, Lee Bowman
Animation | Comedy | Musical
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.1/10 X  

The U.S. Ambassador's (Walter Pidgeon) daughter falls for a Mexican pianist (Jose Iturbi) old enough to be her grandfather.

Director: George Sidney
Stars: Walter Pidgeon, Ilona Massey, José Iturbi
Boys' Ranch (1946)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.2/10 X  

Baseball player Dan Walker being benched doesn't bother him as it allows him to make the easy decision to be a full time Texas rancher - his goal to own his own ranch - and be at home with ... See full summary »

Director: Roy Rowland
Stars: Jackie 'Butch' Jenkins, James Craig, Skip Homeier
Lord Jeff (1938)
Crime | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.6/10 X  

Spoilt child Geoffrey Bramer teams up with a pair of small time crooks to pose as an aristocrat and steal jewelry from exclusive shops. During a a caper, Geoffrey is caught and is sentenced... See full summary »

Director: Sam Wood
Stars: Freddie Bartholomew, Mickey Rooney, Charles Coburn


Complete credited cast:
Eddie Cantor ... Gilbert Jordan Thompson
Judith Anderson ... Madame Madeleine Granville
Ralph Morgan ... Judge Joseph M. Williams
Rita Johnson ... Marian Edwards
Bonita Granville ... Doris
Diana Lewis ... Marcia
Nydia Westman ... Madamoiselle Cynthia Cliche
Margaret Early ... Eleanor
Martha O'Driscoll ... Janette
Charlotte Munier Charlotte Munier ... Lois
Louise Seidel Louise Seidel ... Betty
Baby Quintanilla Baby Quintanilla ... 'Chum'


An out-of-work professor gets a break from an old college buddy to teach at an exclusive girl's school. But events conspire against him: he finds an abandoned child which he takes under his wing, despite the school's rules against teachers having a family; and the girls in the school resent his replacing a handsome and popular teacher, and do everything in their power to get him fired. Written by Gary Dickerson <slug@mail.utexas.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Hear Eddie sing "Little Curly Hair in a High Chair." See more »




Approved | See all certifications »






Release Date:

26 April 1940 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Cuarenta madrecitas See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Watch out for an uncredited eighteen year-old Veronica Lake as one of the Granville students. See more »


Gilbert Jordan Thompson: Now wait a minute girls, you know motherhood is not a government project - at least not in this country.
[a thinly-veiled reference to Nazi Germany in this 1940 film]
See more »


Version of Forty Little Mothers (1936) See more »


Good Morning to You
Sung to the tune of "Happy Birthday to You" (1893)
Written by Mildred J. Hill and Patty S. Hill
Sung by schoolgirls
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.

User Reviews

"My Baby and Me"
26 March 2016 | by lugonianSee all my reviews

FORTY LITTLE MOTHERS (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1940), directed by Busby Berkeley, stars comedian Eddie Cantor in a delightful change of pace from anything he's ever done before. Known virtually for his excitable and nervous "Eddie" character with those "Banjo Eyes" who bursts into song, sometimes in black-face, a trademark best known during his peak years for Samuel Goldwyn (1930-1936), for his sole venture at MGM, Cantor not only abandons much of these traits, but gives a serious, well-intentioned performance on his part. FORTY LITTLE MOTHERS also reunites Cantor with choreographer, Busby Berkeley, from his Goldwyn days, with Berkeley now taking control from the director's chair. Unlike those early Cantor musicals, there's no promise of any lavish-scale musical numbers, yet it does provide some Berkeley trademarks in the narrative quite recognizable for anyone familiar with his creative visual style.

The story opens at a college reunion where the class of 1916 from Canford University, headed by Joseph M. Williams (Ralph Morgan), are gathered together at a reception rally. Everyone but Gilbert J. Thompson, a graduate with the highest academic honors whom Williams remembers as being the most likely to succeed. Williams wonders whatever became of him? Next scene reveals Gilbert J. Thompson (Eddie Cantor), a former college professor down on his luck, awaiting for a job opening as a deck hand during the late night hours. He soon loses his job opportunity when saving the life of a troubled girl named Marian Edwards (Rita Johnson) from jumping off a pier. He changes her luck by finding her a job as a waitress after buying her a cup of coffee. What Gilbert doesn't know is that Marian had earlier abandoned her eight-month old baby in the waiting room of a nearby depot. Gilbert soon finds the infant (Baby Quintanilla) in a basket with a note attachment reading "Please give my baby boy a good home." Flat broke and about to be evicted from his boardinghouse apartment, Gilbert takes in the baby, naming him "Chum." Finding Chum to be hungry, Gilbert leaves the infant in the care of his landlady, Mrs. Mason (Esther Dale), to get some food. Gilbert is arrested and taken to district police court on charges for stealing a bottle of milk. As luck would have it, the judge in this case turns out to be his former college classmate, Joseph Williams. Seeing his old friend down on his luck, the judge arranges Gilbert a position of college professor in an exclusive Madame Granville School for Girls. Due to Madeleine Granville's (Judith Anderson) strict rule for not having babies, especially males, allowed on campus, Gilbert arranges for Mama Lampini (Eve Puig), an Italian mother with children of her own, to look after Chum for the time being. All goes well until one of Mrs. Lampini's children comes down with the mumps, thus, forcing Gilbert to take in Chum and keeping him secretly in his room. Because the forty students, especially Doris (Bonita Granville), refuse to accept Gilbert as their new professor, they do whatever possible to get him to leave, but once Chum is discovered, Gilbert gains the girls' respect and confidence from, hence the title, his "forty little mothers." While trying to keep Madame Granville and her assistant, Cynthia Cliché (Nydia Westman) from learning the truth about Gilbert, the baby's mother resumes her frantic search for her baby with the help from detectives working for the bureau of missing persons.

New tunes by Harry Tobias and Nat Simon include: "The Canford School Song," "Old Acquaintance" (by Robert Burns); "Little Curly Hair in a High Chair," "Little Curly Hair in a High Chair" (reprise/both sung by Eddie Cantor); "You Were Meant For Me" (by Nacio Herb Brown and Alfred Freed, sung by co-eds); and "Little Curly Hair in a High Chair" (reprise).

Although "Little Curly Hair in a High Chair" did not do for Eddie Cantor as "Sonny Boy" did for Al Jolson, it's a cute song that goes underscored through much of its sentimental moments. Others in the supporting cast include Diana Lewis (Marcia); Margaret Early (Eleanor); Martha O'Driscoll (Janette); and Louise Seidel (Betty). Judith Anderson is ideally cast as the serious-minded faculty head while Rita Johnson as the mother is believable in her small but key role. Film buffs will try to spot future film star, Veronica Lake, as one of the unbilled extra students.

While a welcome change of pace for Eddie Cantor, the subject matter of a single man suddenly becoming an adoptive father is far from original. Perfect examples of this include Charlie Chaplin with Jackie Coogan in the great silent comedy-drama, THE KID (First National, 1921), and A BEDTIME STORY (Paramount, 1933) casting French entertainer Maurice Chevalier with "M'sieur Baby" LeRoy. Yet, FORTY LITTLE MOTHERS, like A BEDTIME STORY, is a forgotten gem of bachelor and baby story, never distributed to home video or DVD thus far.

Quite underrated, it's quite an enjoyable 90 minute item. Through all of Baby Quintanilla's scene stealing cuteness, Eddie Cantor still gathers enough attention from viewers while Berkeley behind the camera keeps his lens on those youthful and pretty "forty little mothers." Can't blame him for that. Watch for it the next time it's scheduled again on Turner Classic Movies cable channel. (**1/2)

4 of 4 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you? | Report this
Review this title | See all 11 user reviews »

Contribute to This Page

Free Movies and TV Shows You Can Watch Now

On IMDb TV, you can catch Hollywood hits and popular TV series at no cost. Select any poster below to play the movie, totally free!

Browse free movies and TV series

Stream Trending Movies With Prime Video

Enjoy a night in with these popular movies available to stream now with Prime Video.

Start your free trial

Recently Viewed