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Film Review: Babes in Arms

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Babes in Arms

MGM, 1939 (BW, 91 minutes, Production No. 1088)

Trying desperately to revive vaudeville after it has succumbed to motion pictures, some two-a-day performers band together and tour with their old-time acts. However, it is their talented children, who, putting together a fine musical show of their own, catch the eye of the public and some big time producers.

[MGM Press Sheet]


Babes in Arms was the first of four Mickey / Judy "backyard musicals" directed by the legendary Busby Berkeley. June Preisser made her MGM debut in this film as Baby Rosalie - a bit of a spoof of Shirley Temple. She refers to two of her films, "The Baby General" (Shirley's The Little Colonel) and "The Queen's Little Daughter" (Shirley's The Little Princess). Mickey has dinner with Baby Rosalie to discuss the production with hilarious results - probably the best scene in the movie. Judy sings "I Cried for You" with a tongue-in-cheek monologue written by Roger Edens. Judy also sings "Figaro" and "Good Morning" (with Mickey Rooney) - a song that would turn up again in the 1952 production, Singin' in the Rain. The film was on the exhibitor's top ten list for 1939, and Mickey Rooney was nominated for a Best Actor Academy Award. The film was based on the Rodgers and Hart stage play of the same name, but bore little resemblance to the play.

Crew

Produced by: Arthur Freed
Directed by: Busby Berkeley
Screen Play by: Jack McGowan and Kay Van Riper
Based on the Play by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart
Musical Program: "Babes in Arms," "Where or When," (by) Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart; "Good Morning" (by) Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed; "God's Country" (by) Harold Arlen and E. Y. Harburg
Musical Adaptation: Roger Edens
Musical Director: George Stoll
Orchestral Arrangements: Leo Arnaud and George Bassman
Art Director: Cedric Gibbons
Associate: Merrill Pye
Set Decorations: Edwin B. Willis
Wardrobe by: Dolly Tree
Recording Director: Douglas Shearer
Director of Photography: Ray June
Film Editor: Frank Sullivan

Cost: $748,000
Grossed: $3,335,000
Filmed: April 1939 - July 1939 (Judy turned 17 during filming)
Released: September 1939

Cast

Mickey Rooney ... Mickey Moran
Judy Garland ... Patsy Barton
Charles Winninger ... Joe Moran
Guy Kibbee ... Judge Black
June Preisser ... Rosalie Essex (Baby Rosalie)
Grace Hayes ... Florrie Moran
Betty Jaynes ... Molly Moran
Douglas McPhail ... Don Brice
Rand Brooks ... Jeff Steele
Leni Lynn ... Dody Martini
John Sheffield ... Bobs
Henry Hull ... Mr. Maddox
Barnett Parker ... William
Ann Shoemaker ... Mrs. Barton
Margaret Hamilton ... Martha Steele
Joseph Crehan ... Mr. Essex
George McKay ... Brice
Henry Roquemore ... Shaw
Lelah Tyler ... Mrs. Brice
Lon McCallister ... Boy
Sidney Miller ... Boy
Charles Smith ... Boy
Crinoline Choir [vocals]

Musical Program

[0:00] Overture (played by Orchestra behind titles)
[0:01] Ja Da (performed by Charles Winninger)
[0:07] Good Morning (sung by Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney)
[0:15] Opera vs. Jazz, Part 1 (sung by Judy Garland and Betty Jaynes)
[0:17] Opera vs. Jazz, Part 2: You Are My Lucky Star (sung by Betty Jaynes)
[0:18] Opera vs. Jazz, Part 3: Figaro (sung by Judy Garland)
[0:20] Opera vs. Jazz, Part 4: Broadway Rhythm (sung by Judy Garland and Betty Jaynes)
[0:23] Babes in Arms (sung and marched by Judy Garland, Mickey Rooney, Doug McPhail, Betty Jaynes and the MGM Studio Chorus)
[0:37] Where or When (sung by Doug McPhail, Betty Jaynes, Judy Garland)
[1:00] I Cried for You (Now It's Your Turn to Cry Over Me) (sung by Judy Garland with spoken interlude)
[1:10] Minstrel Show, Part 1 (My Daddy Was a Minstrel Man) (sung by Judy Garland and the Crinoline Choir)
[1:11] De Camptown Races / Old Folks at Home / Oh! Susannah (sung by Judy Garland, Mickey Rooney and the Crinoline Choir)
[1:13] Minstrel Routine, Part 2 (Mr. Bones & Mr. Tambo) (sung by Doug McPhail, Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland)
[1:15] Minstrel Routine, Part 3 (performed by Doug McPhail and the Crinoline Choir)
[1:15] Ida, Sweet as Apple Cider / (On) Moonlight Bay (performed by Mickey Rooney and the Crinoline Choir)
[1:16] I'm Just Wild About Harry (sung by Judy Garland, Mickey Rooney, the Crinoline Choir and the MGM Studio Chorus)
[1:28] Finale, Part 1 / God's Country (performed by Judy Garland, Mickey Rooney, Doug McPhail, Betty Jaynes and the MGM Studio Chorus)
Finale, Part 2 / My Day (performed by Doug McPhail, Betty Jaynes, Mickey Rooney [as Franklin D. Roosevelt], Judy Garland [as Eleanor Roosevelt] and the MGM Studio Chorus)
Finale, Part 3 (performed by Mickey Rooney, Judy Garland, Sally Mueller, Helen Pacino, Betty Rome, Irene Crane, Albert Mahler, Bob Priester, Ralph Leon, N. Nielson, John Moss, Charles Schrouder, Allan Watson, J.D. Jewkes)
Finale, Part 4 / Good Morning (played by the MGM Studio Orchestra)
Finale, Part 5 / God's Country (performed by Judy Garland, Mickey Rooney, Doug McPhail, Betty Jaynes and the MGM Studio Chorus)


See sountrack CD collection review

Notes

Judy turned 17 during filming of this picture. She began work on Babes in Arms in April 1939, while still doing a few retakes for The Wizard of Oz.

Mickey received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor for his outstanding performance in Babes in Arms.

MGM sent Judy and Mickey to New York to appear between showings of the film at the Capitol Theater. Heralded as "the Garbo and Gable of Hollywood High," they opened on August 17 to record-breaking crowds. They did five 30-minute shows a day, interspersed with promotional appearances all over the city. After two weeks, Mickey returned to Hollywood, but Judy stayed on at the Capitol for a third week with Bert Lahr and Ray Bolger to promote The Wizard of Oz.

This was the first of the four Mickey/Judy "backyard musicals" directed by Busby Berkeley. Still to come were Strike Up the Band (1940), Babes on Broadway (1941), and Girl Crazy (1943).

The Hollywood premiere of Babes in Arms was held at Grauman's Chinese Theater on October 10, 1939, and Judy was honored that evening by placing her hand and footprints in the famous forecourt. Those prints are still there today. The Chinese Theater is one of the most-visited sites in the world.

In 1939, Judy first made the exhibitor's list of top ten stars. She and Bette Davis were the only two actresses to be so honored that year. Both Babes in Arms and The Wizard of Oz were on the top ten list as well.

In 1939, Judy's fan mail topped that of any other star at MGM.

Soundtrack released by Rhino Records as part of the 4-CD set, "Mickey and Judy," R2 71921 (1995).

See Judy Garland Movies on Video for information about the latest releases of home video and sountrack.

See Class Act for more information on this and other classic films.

Awards

Babes in Arms received Academy Award nominations for Best Actor (Mickey Rooney) and Best Score (Roger Edens). The year 1939 was one of the best ever for American film! Mickey lost to Rober Donat (Goodbye, Mr. Chips) and Roger Edens lost to Herbert Stothart for The Wizard of Oz.

Critical Response

"A brightly entertaining screen version of the Rodgers and Hart legit musical. Perked up by ... Mickey's mugging and undeniable song and dance talents, and by Judy's simply swell sense of swing ... Babes in Arms is quite a show. It moves fast with guaranteed laughs and lots of sure-fire tunes."

- Irene Thirer, The New York Post

"Despite the Rooney dominance throughout, there are several sterling performances by the younger talent. Judy Garland most effectively carries the adolescent romantic interest opposite him."

- Variety, September 20, 1939

"The irresistible team of Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland are currently displaying their varied talents from the Capitol screen in Babes in Arms. As an entertainment it has lost some of its original sophistication and the elastic snap with which it went over on the stage. But it has gained in comic interludes and serves to introduce several new screen personalities. Mickey performs with all the youthful vigor he is capable of throwing into a screen role.

- The New York Daily News

Memorable Lines

Patsy: (to Mickey, stomping her foot for emphasis) "Did you have to kiss Baby Rosalie today?"

Patsy: (throwing Mickey's music class pin on the ground) "I suppose you want this back, too. Indian giver!"

Patsy: "But in the future if we should meet again at the opera or at a ball, and I'm dazzling in my diamonds and pearls and ermine wraps and surrounded by lords and dukes and princes, you'll probably be sorry!"

Don: (to Mickey, after his impression of Clark Gable playing Antony) "Come on, Clark Antony, finish the scene."

Mickey: "Please folks, don't go! It's just a little shower!"

Mickey: "Oh, Pat, I do!"
Patsy: "You do what?"
Mickey: "I do, what you want me to say and I won't, very much!"

Music publisher: "It's a good thing I didn't give him the thousand, or he'd have dropped over dead!"

Supplemental Material

Supplement 1: Movie and Publicity Stills
Supplement 2: More Movie and Publicity Stills

Mick 'n' Joots Album




Mickey & Judy DVD Box Set
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Babes in Arms VHS
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Mickey & Judy Soundtrack CD Box Set
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Babes in Arms poster art
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Mickey Rooney, Judy Garland, Doug McPhail, Betty Jaynes




Original music sheet




Judy Garland sings "I Cried for You"




Original music sheet




Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland on the cover of "Modern Screen" Magazine, February 1939




Mickey and Judy sing "Good Morning"




Mickey plays and Judy sings "Figaro"

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